The 53UDX10B is a pretty basic-looking big-screen RPTV. It's mostly screen, with a small base covered in grille cloth, which hides the stereo left and right speakers. Aesthetically, this is nothing to write home about, but then again, few big-screen sets are superstylish.
As far as the remote goes, it's long and slender, with fairly well-laid-out buttons. We found it intuitive to use, and we applaud Hitachi for backlighting the key function buttons, making them easy to find in the dark.
The 53UDX10B has a total of five aspect-ratio settings, including the all-important anamorphic aspect ratio for anamorphically transferred DVDs, and the internal line doubler does have 3:2 pull-down, which aids in getting rid of the jaggy artifacts that are typically generated with film-based material on DVD. Both of these features, which we consider must-haves on any big-screen HD-capable TV, significantly enhance the set's picture quality. To our surprise, Aspect 1 doubles as both the 4:3 and the anamorphic aspect ratios. The set also sports the best-of-breed 3D-YC comb filter, which helps eliminate moirÃ© and other artifacts with S-Video and composite-video sources, such as satellite and cable TV.
The convenience features include a universal remote control that's something of a genius. It's capable of controlling a slew of other A/V equipment, Multi-Picture-in-Picture with a freeze function, Magic Focus automatic convergence, and selectable color temperatures. Unfortunately, like that of most sets on the market, the Hitachi's autoconvergence doesn't perform very well, particularly at the edges of the picture. The Perfect Picture feature automatically adjusts both the contrast, depending on the amount of light in the room, and the color, in an attempt to keep flesh tones natural. We highly recommend that you don't use this feature, though, as it will adversely affect both black level (the detail you see in dimly lit scenes) and the color accuracy.
The audio features include both Sound Retrieval System (SRS)--a faux surround mode that simulates the surround-sound experience using the set's two stereo speakers--and the built-in BBE circuitry, which helps re-create midrange and high-range sound channels through the TVs speakers.
Connectivity options are plentiful on the 53UDX10B. For starters, there are four A/V inputs, two S-Video jacks, two RF inputs, and two component-video inputs with stereo audio that accept 480i, 480p (progressive-scan DVD), and 1080i HDTV signals. On the other end, the front panel is adorned with a set of A/V inputs with S-Video and an unusual--but welcome--monitor output. The result: very comprehensive connectivity, which represents a level of flexibility that is unusual at this price point.
The 53UDX10B produces sharp, highly defined images, and the set's video processing, with 3:2 pull-down, exhibits few if any jaggy or motion artifacts. However, the set's color decoder is not very accurate, and reds appear a little on the orange side. After a full ISF calibration, including a service convergence, we sat back and watched some scenes from the new Planet of the Apes, using Yamaha's progressive-scan DVD player. The picture was very crisp, with lots of detail. But since this TV set outputs at 540p as opposed to straight line-doubling (480p), we recommend that you set progressive-scan DVD players to interlaced output and let the TV's internal line doubler do all the work. Otherwise, you'll wind up with clearly visible up-conversion artifacts (going from a progressive-scan DVD player's 480p to the TV's 540p picture), even when using a reference-level deck such as the Yamaha's DVD-S1200. Unfortunately, we didn't have any HDTV sources in our New York offices to test the 53UDX10B, but there's little doubt that HDTV would look quite good on this RPTV.
The 53UDX10B is a decent performer, particularly if you have it professionally calibrated. But when you put this $2,500 (list price) set up against Toshiba's wide-screen , which sells for $300 less (at its list price), the Hitachi's value is somewhat questionable. However, if a 4:3, big-screen, HDTV-compatible RPTV is what you're after, compared to some similarly priced 4:3 direct-view sets, such as Sony's KV-36XBR450, this Hitachi begins to look like a bargain. And if you want to step up to a 61-inch screen, the 61UDX10B lists for $3,000.