While it's the UT42MX70's HD clarity that inevitably delivers the greatest impact, though, the screen also deserves major plaudits for the quality of its standard definition pictures. The screen is, of course, a Full HD affair, yet it upscales standard definition sources to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels without adding anywhere near as much video noise and softness as we're accustomed to seeing on Full HD screens.
There's seemingly no video noise of any sort visible with HD sources either - unless, that is, it's there in the source. And even source noise can be tackled with impressive finesse by the judicious application of the screen's various noise reduction circuits.
Another area where the UT42MX70 achieves genuine benchmark status is with its colour response. The slightly orange bias of many previous Hitachi screens has been completely abolished, leaving in its place a dizzying array of colours that are 100% believable 100% of the time. Even skin tones during dark scenes like the various on-stage performances in The Prestige always look just right. And to make things even better, the Full HD resolution and Picture Master processing get together to completely remove any trace of blockiness or striping in colour blends.
The net result of all the strengths we've just described is a picture that looks so pure and natural for the vast majority of the time that you actually forget you're watching a TV, instead just becoming engrossed in the subject matter of the programme being shown. And if that isn't the very definition of what you want from a premium TV, I don't know what is.
Moany old sod that I am, though, I did manage to find one aspect of the UT42MX70's pictures where there's room for improvement: black levels. For while dark scenes on the UT42MX70 actually look good by general LCD standards, there's a mite more greyness in areas that should be black than I've seen on, say, the latest big-screen Samsung LCD sets. And of course, the greyness is considerably greater than on Panasonic or especially Pioneer's latest plasma screens. But even in this area of supposed ‘weakness' the UT42MX70 can still produce a positive, in the form of much more shadow detail subtlety than most LCDs can muster.
I have to say that I still retain a healthy scepticism about the real importance of the present ‘skinny TV' infatuation - especially when that infatuation leads to the practical problems (no tuner, hardly any connections) that will have to be faced by a current UT42MX70 buyer.
But so sublime is this Hitachi's design and, best of all, so impressive are its pictures that I have to admit that for once it's managed to batter my innate cynicism into a bloody, defeated pulp.