We were fans of Hitachi's 2002 sets, but its 2003 CRT-based RPTVs have significantly improved performance. The 57S500, third from the top among the company's 57-inch models, has better color, features, and connectivity than last year's versions, such as the . The only bad news is that the S500's video processing does some funky stuff to 480p progressive-scan DVD sources. Since you can always turn off your DVD player's prog-scan circuitry, this flaw is hardly a deal-breaker. Internet retailers are selling the S500 for a few hundred dollars more than the Toshiba 57HX83, but the Hitachi's superior performance is worth the extra dough.
While not unattractive for a large RPTV, the S500 doesn't exactly stand out from the crowd. Seen head-on, the big box looks like a 54-by-54-inch square. Its 25.5-inch depth is about twice that of like-size DLP- and LCD-based rear projectors.
The black remote is rather large, but it's intelligently 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. Using the set's logical and easy-to-understand text-based menu system, we were able to locate even esoteric functions easily.
Other TVs' picture modes, such as Sports and Movie, each have different presets for contrast, brightness, and so on. The S500 does away with that approach, instead equipping all its inputs with Day and Night modes. Hitachi is the first to implement this design, and we love it. It enables you to optimize the set for viewing in both the abundant ambient light of daytime and the dark environment of serious home theater. This feature is extremely convenient when you're dealing with numerous video sources that require different settings.
The S500 offers PIP (picture in picture) and POP (split screen) window options that also work with HDTV sources, color-decoder adjustments in the user menu, six aspect ratios including HD Zoom, and a video-processing scheme that converts regular incoming signals to either 540p or 1080i (see the section for details). A sophisticated 3D-YC comb filter helps reduce artifacts in video from VHS, cable TV, and other composite sources.