Speak to Hitachi representatives and they'll tell you that everybody is going crazy nuts bananas over 1080p. Sure it's nice, but there is a definite lack of content at the present. Yet that hasn't stopped Hitachi from building its first 50-inch plasma with full HD support* -- the P50X01, which also has a few extra nifty features up its sleeve.
The hero feature of this AU$5,999 TV is the Frame Rate Conversion (FRC) system, which is designed to remove the judder from movies and even TV programming. Film is recorded in 24 fps, and converting this to a PAL friendly 50 Hz has resulted in some inelegant hacking of the signal -- and this causes judder, or "jerky" movement in sideways motion. The Hitachi system -- similar to those announced by Philips (Pixel Plus 2 HD) and Toshiba (Meta Brain Pro) -- interpolates extra frames to "smooth out" this motion. And from what we saw during the launch it works very well.
Other features of this TV include an integrated digital tuner, a motorised base, and one-touch control. The three HDMI inputs on the Hitachi are version 1.3 compliant for better compatibility with Blu-ray and HD DVD -- though we highly doubt this means it can decode Dolby True HD.
Plasma pictures may have superior contrast, but where they can struggle against LCD is in the reproduction of colour, and from an overall softness. The P50X01 certainly has some of this lack of crispness to its image -- especially when compared side-by-side against its 42-inch LCD companion, the Hitachi L42X01.
There is also a AU$2000 premium on other 50-inch models by Panasonic and Samsung, but of course the important distinction is that it supports full 1080p and features enhanced processing capabilities.
Despite being pricier than some other plasmas of the same size, the Hitachi P50X01 comes in at a good amount for a 1080p-capable screen -- especially when you consider that the 12 month old is almost twice as much. Until Pioneer can come up with a rebuttal, this Hitachi looks to have all the features and performance you could ask for. The Hitachi P50X01 will be available in mid-August 2007.
Editor's note: Hitachi has clarified that their initial definition of the P50X01 as a "Full HD 1920 x 1080" panel means this is a 1080i screen, and not 1080p. The P50X01 has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels and will replay 1080p content.