Hitachi's latest 42-inch plasma, the 42HDT50, has a high resolution of 1,024x1,024 pixels and a boatload of features, including an outboard A/V control center. Unfortunately, at a time when good 42-inch models are available for as little as $3,000, Hitachi is asking for $6,000. Budget-conscious buyers will steer clear, but those with deep pockets will get a beautifully designed panel that delivers on performance and convenience.
The simple yet elegant HDT50 is really eye-catching. It sits on a silver stand that swivels left and right--quite handy if you have multiple seating locations. The screen's frame is glossy black on all sides except the bottom, which is silver. The only connections on the panel itself are the AC power cord and the subwoofer output. All the A/V hookups are conveniently housed in a separate, VCR-size controller, which attaches to the main unit via a single cable. You can hang the pair of matching speakers to the sides of the display.
The silver remote is rather large, but it's logically arranged, and using the clickable thumb joystick was a cinch. Almost every key is backlit, and we really appreciated having direct access to all inputs. You can program the remote to control other gear. Navigation proved simple in the set's logical and easy-to-understand text-based menu system.
The HDT50's coolest feature is Hitachi's Day and Night picture modes, which replace traditional modes such as Sports and Movie. Instead, each input can store one set of parameters for the day and another for the night. For instance, you can increase contrast and brightness to successfully compete with ambient daylight. This system takes independent input memory to a new level, and we applaud Hitachi for its innovation.
Other conveniences include a split-screen mode that works with HDTV sources; a dual-tuner PIP/POP mode; six aspect ratios, including HD Zoom; and four color-temperature presets, among them Black & White. On the audio side, the HDT50 sports MTS/SAP with Dbx, TruBass by SRS, and 20 watts of amplification for the external speakers.