Glancing at the front of the Hitachi, one could be forgiven for thinking that the unit itself has no controls, other than the master power switch. In reality, there are seven buttons hidden at the rear of the bezel on the lower left hand side. These include volume and channel selectors, as well as on screen menu controls. The rather silly side of this though, is that the legends for the controls are actually located at the rear of the unit, completely out of sight in a wall mount. We challenge anyone not familiar with the Hitachi to find the controls without a manual.
The Hitachi remote control is a largish unit (the Samsung remote is slightly larger), with good-sized buttons and quite wide spacing. The remote can directly control a wealth of features without the need to dive into the in screen menu system. In addition, the unit has dedicated buttons to control the basic functions of a DVD player and it can be configured to control common DVD players from one of 16 different vendors.
The menu system is very bland when compared with the other units tested, simply because Hitachi does not use icons to identify functions. But the flip side of this we have to admit, is a clean and businesslike display that is quite easy to navigate. The user can tweak typical picture aspects such as colour, tint, colour temperature and the like, but unlike some of the other vendor's products, there are quite a limited number of presets - although to be honest they should be more than adequate.
We were not at all happy with the default colour settings of the Hitachi and considerably more tweaking was required when compared to the other products before we were satisfied. However once over this hurdle, we were very pleased with the image quality. The display is quite sharp, second only to the Fujitsu when viewing movies from a comfortable distance, but the Hitachi is better at handling still images than the Fujitsu.
The Hitachi and LG were the only units that shipped with speakers; in Hitachi's case they are 'bolt-on' speakers that sit either side of the display. There is no doubt that the Hitachi speakers were superior to the integrated speakers of the LG. The sound was rich with surprisingly good bass and in simulated surround mode, the audio definitely took on extra depth.