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Hitachi UT42-XV700 review: Hitachi UT42-XV700

Finding a flat panel TV without a built-in TV tuner is something of a rarity these days, but Hitachi has done its best to provide one with the UT42-XV700. A beautiful screen that's only 35mm thick, it's a surprisingly impressive performer when hooked up to an external source

Ian Morris

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5 min read

When flat panel TVs first went on sale, it was pretty common to find them without TV tuners built in, and sometimes even without speakers. As time went on and flat panels became marketed as TV sets, we saw them start to incorporate tuners. These days, it's pretty rare to find a screen that's missing this vital component.

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8.3

Hitachi UT42-XV700

The Good

Stunning HD picture quality; decent sound; simple to use.

The Bad

Freeview via a separate machine was only decent; high price.

The Bottom Line

It's a very expensive screen, and there isn't any doubt that it's out of the reach of most people. That said, we can't mark it down for being expensive. In terms of picture quality, we think it's one of the best LCDs we've seen for a long time. If you play football professionally or recently won the lottery, this is the screen for you

Well, you've found one. The Hitachi UT42-XV700 lacks a TV tuner and the reason is simple: it's been removed to save space. Because this TV is just 35mm thick, there isn't room for 'extras' -- or as some might argue, 'essentials'. So, with no tuner, this TV is more of a screen than a TV, designed to work with an external source.

At the launch event, Hitachi told us the UT42 will be available in June or July, priced around £2,000.

Design
Quite simply, the Hitachi UT42 -- the 'UT' standing for 'ultra-thin', of course -- really is quite a remarkable sight, when viewed in profile, especially. From the front, it sports a bog-standard, shiny black bezel and no real disruptions to the sleek facia. There's a small and unobtrusive speaker on the front, which is hardly even noticeable. On the right hand side of the screen, sitting on the bottom of the bezel, is a power switch and that's your lot.


Simple doesn't even begin to describe the Hitachi remote; it really just takes care of the basic functions of the screen

At the back, there is similar level of sparseness: you get just two inputs in the form of a single HDMI and a lone VGA port with an accompanying audio input. Apart from a power socket, that really is it. 

The remote control reflects this lack of inputs and built-in features. It's a simple little thing with just 19 buttons -- four of those are the directional controls for the menu.

Features
At this point, we start to run into some problems. It's not so much the TV, but with what to say about it. Because it's such a simple device, there isn't a great deal to mention. The LCD panel is a 100Hz, 1080p (24p compatible) using IPS-alpha technology to improve viewing angles and with a new backlight diffuser to improve the distribution of light across the screen.

If you want to watch Freeview on this TV, you'll need an external decoder; it will also need to be one with HDMI out on it. In the future, Hitachi will sell a media box that will feature a built-in tuner and a host of connections for hooking up other equipment. Of course, if you have a Freeview PVR with HDMI out, then you could simply buy an HDMI splitter box to connect all your HD gear.

A lack of component is likely to annoy Xbox 360 owners who didn't buy an Elite, but there is always the option to buy an AV receiver or the Hitachi media system to go along with the TV.

Setting up the TV is dead simple, as you might imagine. There is no tuning to be done, so all you really need to worry about is the picture settings, balancing the brightness and other controls, which didn't take us very long at all.


Performance
To test Freeview performance, we hooked the Hitachi UT42 up to a Philips DVDR5520H DVD recorder and PVR and found the quality to be decent if not spectacular. We'd suggest you consider something like freesat or SkyHD: both offer HD programming that's preferable for a TV like this. You'll need some external equipment anyway -- it might as well be a step up from digital terrestrial.

The great news is that upscaled DVDs from the same Philips DVD recorder looked very good. We used X-Men to test the quality: it's a film that has a clean transfer and offers different material to show any potential problems. We felt that the Hitachi did a superb job with it. There was a ridiculous amount of detail, and colour was bright and vivid too.

It's fair to assume that a TV like this might potentially be popular with gamers, so we hooked up our PS3 and loaded up Burnout Paradise, a good measure of how a TV handles motion and detail. Once again, we were really impressed by the Hitachi. Everything looked great, with good colour, fantastic detail levels and smooth motion.

Loading up a Blu-ray movie, Casino Royale, we had high hopes and we were thrilled when the TV didn't let us down. Colours are brilliant and picture detail was nothing short of phenomenal. We even noticed a slight flaw with Daniel Craig: in one of the hospital scenes after he's recovered from his earlier beating, he kisses Vesper Lynd and we were able to tell that he had flaky skin in his ear. It sounds weird, but the definition on this screen is quite remarkable.

Speech was crystal clear and there was no distortion in sound. Such a small TV will have trouble with deep bass, but that didn't really spoil the audio quality too much. The best thing would be to hook it up to an AV receiver, which will add extra HDMI sockets as well as nearly every other type of input. That would solve all the issues, and you'll be left with a remarkable screen.

On the downside, we did notice that the screen had quite a shallow practical viewing angle. Although the picture was visible at angles off dead centre, it looked quite washed out.

Conclusion
It seems redundant to point out that this TV won't suit most people. Hitachi is going to have to be very careful about marketing it; the lack of tuner means that it's likely to get a lot of returns from people who don't understand why they can't watch Big Brother.

We were genuinely impressed by the performance of this TV. Apart from Freeview, everything looked amazing, and even Freeview wasn't beyond hope. A positive aspect of the lack of features is that the TV is incredibly simple to use. All you need to do is set up the picture as you like it, and you're off.

If the price remains at the figure quoted at launch, this TV will probably be out of the reach of most individuals. The smaller models are cheaper, and available in 32 and 37 inches. Cheaper alternatives include Pioneer's brilliant 'Kuro' plasma TV, the PDP-428XD, or a more recent 1080p LCD TV offering from Toshiba, like the Regza 40ZF355D.

Edited by Shannon Doubleday

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