The Hitachi 50PD960DTA features a narrow matte-black bezel surrounding its large 50-inch viewing area. Below this is the speaker grille that runs across the entire length of the panel, leading to the silver motorised stand that can swivel up to 30 degrees from left to right. The screen is perfectly suited to a large room or home cinema, and its slim 105 mm depth makes it easy to find a suitable location for it. Most of the connections are located on the back of the screen making it tough to wall mount, but there are several ports on the front of the panel including both video and audio connectors.
Hitachi markets the 50PD960DTA as a 1080p capable panel, but the maximum resolution of the screen is 1280 x 1080 pixels and not the full 1920 x 1080 HD standard. Like many high-end TVs now on the market, the 50PD960DTA has both high-definition and analog tuners, cutting down on the expense and clutter of buying an external box.
The TV also comes with one touch input switching from the remote control, which can directly select a single input from multiple settings, meaning users don't have to scroll through unnecessary menus. Another handy feature of the remote is compatibility with DVD players from other manufacturers including Sony and Panasonic as well as Hitachi.
Hitachi's latest range of plasma TVs now feature built-in HD tuners, which means there's no need to purchase an additional digital set-top box to enjoy crystal clear viewing. One highlight of the 50PD960DTA is picture-in-picture mode that allows multiple viewing thanks to the dual tuners.
The screen comes with twin HDMI digital inputs as well as a USB and SD memory card slot to easily display images taken with your digital camera. There is even a slideshow function that allows the images to be rotated just like on a PC. Other connections include the usual S-video and component ports. Finally, there's a single D-Sub PC connector, but we found that the 50PD960DTA is not particularly suited for connection to a PC because of some overscan. For the audio ports, there's a subwoofer output, headphone jack and RCA stereo output.
The built-in speakers are only rated at 20W but they feature SRS WOW technology as well as several different modes suited for movies, music or speech. The pseudo surround-sound effects work amazingly well, but the quality of audio from the low-rated speakers is disappointing, especially the bass.
Automatic scanning of the free-to-air TV spectrum took several minutes but it turned up almost all of the available channels. Programs looked great using the onboard digital tuner, images were sharp and vibrant and switching though channels was very quick. Fast moving images and dark scenes were good, although skin tones did seem slightly orange even after we adjusted the colour settings. It's important to adjust the settings, especially the brightness, colour and contrast levels. Out of the box settings for the 50PD960DTA were set low, with images that were too dark and discoloured.
We watched a high-definition program using the in-built tuner, but the results weren't as good as we were expecting. Some pixilation was detected, with the most likely culprit being the 1280 x 1080 native resolution. Once again dark scenes looked great, but there was definitely some blurring on the outline of characters.
The menu system was easy to use along with the remote control, while the speakers only achieved average results. This set definitely needs a dedicated home theatre to truly get the sound a screen this big deserves.
The increasing number of LCD screens on the market has left plasma TVs outside of the spotlight for while, but displays like Hitachi's 50PD960DTA show there's still plenty of life in the technology.