As first reported by HDBeat via Engadget, Hitachi will release a 42-inch panel that bucks the company's trend of charging a lot of money for its plasmas. The 42HDS69 will cost a reasonable $2,499 at retail, yet it packs an unheard-of three HDMI along with three component-video inputs. It also offers CableCard (although no mention of a TV Guide EPG) to go with the ATSC tuner--again, pretty sweet for a panel in this price range. Although we initially indicated that the set has a motorized stand, Hitachi will actually reserve that feature for the step-up 42HDT79 ($2999, late June) along with TV Guide.
Hitachi's official page includes more mumbo jumbo about picture enhancements than usual, which can be confusing to novices. A quick primer: as with all 42-inch Hitachi panels the 42HDS69 will use ALiS technology, but according to Hitachi's rep it has a completely new panel. Older models had a native resolution of 1,024x1,024, but the new panels supposedly resolve all 1080 lines of a 1080i source's vertical resolution -- so Hitachi is calling is new panels' resolution 1,024x1080i. In past reviews, such as the 42HDT52, we found that Hitachi's ALiS-powered panels had problems mustering as convincing a depth of black as the best 1,024x768 plasmas. Of course, we haven't reviewed this model yet, so it may have improved in this regard. Feel free to ignore nomenclature such as Picture Master virtual 1080p processing and high aperture pixel design on the Web site as marketing bunk, but we are anxious to see how the antiglare screen works and how close the Pure HDTV Blue comes to hitting the HDTV standard. Only a full review will tell how the 42HDS69 performs, although with this price-to-feature ratio, we expect it should be pretty popular no matter what.
Note: This entry was updated to refect new information from Hitachi.