Having been a master of the plasma universe, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that Hitachi has finally decided to branch out into the seemingly alien world of LCD screen technology. However, assuming it can come even close to replicating the success that its plasma screens have enjoyed of late, its LCD screens should prove to be a genuinely enticing proposition.
The first thing it will have to work on is its cosmetic styling; the 28LD5200E is far from the ugliest screen to have darkened our doorstep, but it is only passably attractive when compared with some of the supermodel screens that are in its price range. Its plain grey finish fails to catch the eye, plus there's a slightly cobbled together feeling inspired by the clumsy detachable speakers.
The 28LD5200E follows the same generally likeable connections path as the bigger plasma screens in Hitachi's current 5200 range, including an HDCP-ready DVI jack and two sets of component video inputs. These inputs can be used to enjoy high-definition and/or progressive scan sources.
It's not all good news, though. Given that the 28LD5200E with its relatively small screen and seemingly affordable price tag could be bought by the sort of people that will be connecting it to a normal level of source equipment, it's a shame the set is so busy serving up esoteric connections that it only finds room for a single Scart socket - the good news is that it is RGB compatible.
Given that this is Hitachi's first tentative dip into the ultra-competitive world of LCD TV, the 28LD5200E is a very nifty performer indeed. Its black level response is good enough to avoid the greying over of black picture areas found on less capable sets. This also plays an important part in helping the screen serve up a prodigious depth of field, and display colours that are as vibrant as they are natural in tone.
The picture is also remarkably free from noise or interference of any sort, be it edge tizzing, grain, dot crawl or shimmering colours over fine details. In fact, this talent is so notable that it ensures that the 28LD5200E can take its place among some of the finest screens around when it comes to showing high-definition pictures.
Even analogue tuner footage looks clean. Although it has to be said that this source also causes the screen enough problems to make the colour vibrancy and sharpness levels drop.
The only serious clue that the 28LD5200E is Hitachi's first attempt at a producing an LCD TV comes from its slight susceptibility to that common LCD problem of smearing. Horizontal motion, especially subtle movement, tends to blur as the screen's response time sometimes struggles to keep up with what's happening.
While the 28LD5200E's speakers might not be the prettiest looking boom boxes on the market, they perform out of their skin. The soundstage they create is quite simply phenomenal - almost too big for the screen - with bags of distortion-free volume, an amazing amount of bass, a fulsome vocal tone, and even huge amounts of immaculately delivered treble details.
With its gobsmacking audio and better-than-expected pictures, the 28LD5200E does enough to make us look forward to the next generation of Hitachi's LCD TVs. Right now on the evidence of the 28LD5200E, Hitachi's LCD screens aren't quite up there with its plasmas, but this is a great debut and certainly a step in the right direction.