Hitachi P42T01 review: Hitachi P42T01

If you're looking for a good-size TV with excellent Freeview and high-definition performance, the 42-inch Hitachi P42T01 plasma may well be of serious interest to you. It has some curious connectivity and below-par sound, but it's excellent value

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If you're looking for a good-size TV with excellent Freeview and high-definition performance, the 42-inch Hitachi P42T01 plasma may well be of serious interest to you.


Hitachi P42T01

The Good

Picture quality; motorised base; attractive design; sturdy build quality.

The Bad

Sound quality; connectivity.

The Bottom Line

The Hitachi P42T01 is a well-styled TV with good picture quality, but it's let down by poor sound and annoying connectivity choices. It's still worthy of attention, however, especially for its above-average Freeview performance

This screen is something of a departure for Hitachi -- generally speaking, its TVs aren't that exciting to look at, but this screen is much more funky than usual. There's plenty on offer here features-wise, and performance that should keep most people happy. The P42T01 is available now for around £800.

We rather like the styling. The P42T01 isn't finished in the now common piano black, which will suit some people -- not everyone likes shiny black plastic in their front room.

At the bottom of the screen there's what looks like a long speaker, but in fact the speakers are at either end of this. The middle section conceals a lift-up flap under which there are buttons for controlling the TV.

Also under this flap is a single HDMI socket, a USB connector for hooking up a digital camera and a memory-card reader. All of these features are welcome additions to a TV. The idea of a front-mounted HDMI socket is a novel one, and will appeal to owners of the PlayStation 3, although you wouldn't want an HDMI cable hanging from the front of your TV for long.

The flip side to the front-mounted HDMI connector is that there's only one HDMI at the rear. This is a disappointment really, and these days we would expect large televisions to have three HDMI sockets. We can forgive two, but not when one of them is front-mounted, a location that won't suit everyone.

We like the remote control -- it's sturdy and well-built. The buttons are a decent size, which is great if you don't have chopsticks for fingers, and the controls are also well placed. At the top there are numbered buttons for changing channels, then beneath them are volume and the programme controls for channel hopping. Towards the bottom of the remote is a four-direction pad with a middle 'OK' button, which is used in all the TV's menu systems.

The remote control also gives you access to the television's rotating stand, which enables you to adjust the direction the TV points in. This is a pretty handy feature, and if you have a large living room, it might be quite useful for pointing the TV towards where you happen to be.

We're less impressed with the connectivity on the P42T01. Apart from the restrictive front HDMI input, we were also a little disappointed to see there's no VGA socket for connecting a PC. While it's possible to get a DVI-to-HDMI adaptor, with only one rear HDMI socket, this is going to leave you in need of a costly HDMI switching box if you have an HD DVD or Blu-ray player.

The P42TP01 has a 1,080 horizontal lines, but not the full 1,920x1,080 pixels -- the panel has a 1,024x1,080-pixel resolution. This strange figure is a result of the pixels being rectangular rather than square. The TV is still a widescreen display, and will handle 1080p signals, but these images will be internally downscaled to fit the screen properly.

Our first experience using the P42TP01 was with our trusty Toshiba HD-E1 HD DVD player. Firstly we checked out cult sci-fi hit Serenity, which always gives us a good idea of how a TV handles black levels and motion.

The Hitachi produced a very attractive picture. There was plenty of detail and pictures looked natural. We don't think this set has the deepest black we've ever seen, however. Certainly, watching in our pitch-black test room we could see the black was a little grey, and even with the brightness reduced we still didn't think the blacks were as good as they could have been.

The P42T01 also exhibited quite a bit of noise, especially around bright objects on a dark background. At the start of Serenity, we see planets set against the blackness of space, and where the planets met space there was considerable noise. This looks like faint sparkles. From a reasonable distance this is barely noticeable, but close up it is quite apparent and is possibly one of the reasons the picture wasn't as black as it could have been.

Sound quality was decent overall. We could easily distinguish speech, even when there was background music or special effects. The downside is that the Hitachi doesn't offer very much in the way of low-frequency sound. Bass is severely lacking and this does leave action movies feeling a little unimpressive. If this is going to be your movie-watching screen, you'll need to hook it up to a hi-fi or AV receiver to really enjoy proper sound.

We looked at some standard-definition material recorded onto our Humax 9200T PVR, and we were pretty impressed. We did feel the Freeview images lacked detail at times, but this isn't really the Hitachi's fault. Given the low bit rate they're transmitted at, and the fact we were using a Scart lead, overall it still did a decent job in these sub-optimal conditions.

When we used the TV's built-in Freeview decoder, we were very pleased to see a sharp, colourful image that looked far better than we've seen on most 42-inch LCDs. Plasma is generally a strong performer on standard-definition material, but we were still pleased to see such good image quality.

Hitachi has made some odd choices here. We love the picture quality of the TV, but we're severely disappointed by the sound quality and the daft connectivity. That said, if you're buying a TV to fit into a home cinema where you'll be using a proper Dolby Surround decoder, then this TV would make a great centre piece to that setup. If you're after an all-in-one solution, the Panasonic Viera TH42PX600 offers excellent sound, and can be found for around £900.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide