This is one of the few HDTVs we've seen that includes not one but two HDMI inputs. The back panel also includes two broadband component-video inputs, but unfortunately you can't use them at the same time as the HDMI inputs. In short, you have to choose between component and HDMI (we recommend HDMI if available; see Performance for more). The rest of the input bay includes two A/V inputs with S-Video and composite video, two RF inputs, and a CableCard slot. A monitor A/V output with S-Video is also onboard along with an optical digital output for HDTV's surround-sound audio.
On the side panel, the set has A/V inputs with S-Video plus a USB port that's strictly for displaying digital photos onscreen. We tried it with a camera and a USB keychain drive, and the TV found and displayed the JPEG images without problem.The Hitachi 50VS810 offers similar performance to that of the from last year, although the new reflective screen does hamper image fidelity when the lights are on. The VS810's main strengths are excellent out-of the-box settings (its precalibration picture is much more accurate than that of the , for example) and plenty of control over the picture. Its weaknesses, especially compared to competing DLP-based sets such as the Samsung HL-P5085W, are lighter blacks and the screen-door effect. DLP technology, in particular, has improved since last year, so we gave the VS810 a lower performance mark than we did its predecessor.
Before we calibrated the set for color temperature, the Medium preset was extremely close to the standard of 6,500K. The Standard and Black And White color-temperature presets were quite red; in fact, for black-and-white movies, you should use the Standard preset, since it comes closest to the black-and-white standard of 5,400K. After calibration, the grayscale improved somewhat (see the geek box for more). The set's color decoding was extremely accurate out of the box, with just a bit of red push. Still, we couldn't resist using the excellent color-decoder controls to make it as close to dead-on as we could. The result was deep, rich colors and natural-looking skin tones.
When we watched the opening sequence of Alien, a torturous combination of very dark images, a couple of things immediately became clear. First, the black of space appeared deeper on Samsung's HL-P5085W DLP (which we viewed side by side with the Hitachi). But space also appeared slightly noisier on the DLP, with faint-green "snow" visible in the black from our seating distance of about eight feet. We also saw the rainbow effect on the Samsung. It showed up, for example, as flashes of red, green, and blue that followed the letters of the credits when we swept our eyes across the screen. We saw nothing of the sort on the Hitachi.
When sitting closer than about eight feet to the 50VS810, we noticed signs of a screen-door effect--the result of being able to discern the spaces between pixels. For example, when the crew was exploring the planet's surface, what looked like a very faint grid appeared over the flashlight-lit background behind Captain Dallas. We didn't notice the grid from further back, and neither the JVCnor the Samsung evinced this effect.
A couple of other differences emerged when we compared the Hitachi to the JVC and the Samsung. The 50VS810 displayed less color uniformity across the screen. For example, we saw very faint discolorations in shots of cloudy skies. And while the Hitachi's geometry and convergence were excellent, with straighter lines than the other sets' and none of the fringing that marred the JVC's picture--we noticed that the entire image shrank and expanded as the picture content changed from light to dark and back. Bright areas left curious afterimages; for example, the cloudy ball from the THX intro left a reddish spot against the black background after it exploded.
HDTV looked excellent overall, with great detail and color saturation. When we watched the montage of images from the Digital Video Essentials DVD via 720p, we enjoyed superb color in the garish clothes of some frolicking kids and could see every link in a chain on a ferry across New York Harbor. With both HDMI and component video, our Accupel signal generator indicated that the set resolved more detail than the Samsung at 720p and 1080i and about as much as the JVC. We did most of our tests via component video, but when we checked out the HDMI input, we definitely saw an improvement. With Sony'sDVD player displaying Alien at 720p resolution, the blackness of space appeared even cleaner, with very little visible noise.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6,259/6,438K||Good|
|After color temp (20/80)||6,487/6,495K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 144K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 111K||Average|
|Color decoder error: red||+5% (0%)||Good|
|Color decoder error: green||0%||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns visible||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|