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Hitachi's "1080" plasma: simple price, confusing name

Hitachi introduced a 50-inch plasma at CES Monday, but its "1080" resolution name is confusing.

Hitachi's 50-inch '1080' HDTV, the P50H401

Hitachi's main television-related introduction at CES 2007 might engender a certain amount of confusion about an already-confusing topic to many HDTV buyers. The company is marketing its new plasma TV, the P50H401 (February, $2,500), as the world's first "50-inch 1080 HDTV flat panel for under $2,500." If you're paying close attention (and really, who is?), you'll notice "p" is a big deal, however--the panel's pixel array is 1,280x1,080, not the 1,920x1,080 that qualifies for 1080p native resolution. But the price is definitely better than that of true 1080p, 50-inch plasma TVs, such as the Panasonic TH-50PF9UK and the Pioneer PRO-FHD1.

The P50H401 utilizes "a new method of energizing pixels on a panel," a method the company's rep told me is no longer being called ALiS. We reviewed a 42-inch set last year, the Hitachi 42HDS69, that also had a vertical resolution of 1080 lines, and we found the picture plenty sharp although without the same depth of black as the best plasma sets we've tested. Needless to say, we're anxious to check out the 50-inch model, especially for that price.

Hitachi's booth also contained a few other new televisions, none of which the company is willing to price at the moment. Along with the 50-inch model, the company showed the 42-inch P42H401 (April, 1,024x1,080 resolution) and the 55-inch P55H401 (July, 1,366x768 resolution). All three are glossy black with hidden speakers, three SimplayHD-certified HDMI inputs, and Hitachi's characteristically excellent range of picture adjustments with three independent memories per input. A second lineup dubbed "CineForm T501" offers the same three sizes, all-black styling, and a few stepped-up features such as card slots and a swivel stand. Finally, the booth did have a range of "full 1080" (aka true 1080p) plasmas on display, from 50 inches and up, but the company rep told me Hitachi wouldn't have any details on those models until its April line show.