Hitachi has done some classic plasma TVs in its time, thanks to a combination of top quality images and aggressive prices. So we're excited by the brand's latest 50in model, especially as it's just £1,500.

It's sophisticated and slender in either of its matt or gloss black finishes. It's functional too, as it can be rotated on its stand via the remote. Connections are on the money. Two HDMIs (for PC and video) can take 1080p in its 50 or 60Hz form (though not the 24fps version possible from some high-end Blu-ray decks).

Also you get a component video input, three Scarts, a digital audio output for digital soundtracks received via the HDMIs, as well as SD card and USB slots for viewing digital photographs. There's no PC input, though.

It has an unusual native resolution of 1280 x 1080, a built-in digital tuner, and Hitachi's Picture Master image processing, which is designed to improve colours, sharpness and clarity.

Only, it doesn't. For by Hitachi's standards the P50T01's pictures are really quite disappointing. The biggest single problem is the black level. Dark scenes in Mission: Impossible III, like the assault on the Berlin factory, look greyed over and flat.

Spotty skin

As Hunt thrashes around in his chair, while Owen aims a gun at his fiancée's head, his skin is spotted with the kind of noise we used to find on plasmas but no longer expect to see.

Our final performance gripe concerns colours, which look drab compared to much of the competition. And it's no great star with standard definition, which looks noisy.

Hitachi hasn't lost the plot overnight. Colours aren't vibrant but they're subtle in tone and blend; moving objects look crisp and smooth; and the fine detailing visible during ultra sharp scenes is up to scratch. Audio is solid, too, given how slender the built-in speakers are.

But with the P50T01, Hitachi will have to step up its game to get back among the leaders.