Hi-def looks awesome, but Freeview and DVDs fail to impress. One for HD gamers
Great HD performance
Poor Standard-def picture
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The flatscreen gospel according to Hitachi has always been dominated by one idea: plasma.
But the news that the manufacturer has finally abandoned gas technology at the key flatscreen size of 42in is indicative of how the market is going.
And on the strength of the Hitachi L42VP01, we're not sure just how much the brand believes in LCD technology.
Not that its L42VP01 isn't a decent debut. Hitachi has been largely responsible for bringing LCD technology up to speed by inventing IPS-Alpha – an idea that's finally made LCD TVs able to show deep, realistic blacks and has also helped extend the viewing angle.
IPS-Alpha panels can be found in 32in TVs from Hitachi, Panasonic and Toshiba, but, oddly, not at larger sizes – making the L42VP01 completely unrepresentative of Hitachi's LCD talent.
Available for just £640 online, we're not sure that it matters just yet. The L42VP01 clearly has a lot going for in terms of features without ever being cutting-edge.
Full HD badge
Supporting its 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution – which should immediately prick up the ears of anyone with a Xbox360, PlayStation 3 or Blu-ray player looking for a compatible bigscreen TV – are two HDMI inputs.
Its comrades include a set of component video inputs (another plus for gamers), a brace of RGB Scarts and a novel subwoofer output – as well as all the usual ins and outs for lesser video sources.
It even supports 24 frames-per-second material from Blu-ray discs, which is a little unexpected at this price.
Budget build LCD
What isn't a shock is the bare bones construction. Its shell may be gloss black, but that particular colour choice is starting to buckle under immense competition in our eyes. More impressive is the in-box inclusion of not only a desktop stand, but also a wall-mounting bracket – saving £200.
As it turns out, that particular sweetener comes at the cost of some eminently more useful picture processing technology. Missing from the L42VP01 is the well-reviewed Picture Master HD suite of technology, which is found on smaller sets in Hitachi's range of LCD TVs.
This omission is no great shakes, as high definition hardly needs a helping hand on the L42VP01. Put to the test with a Blu-ray disc of 3.10 to Yuma, a close-up of mean old Ben Wade is enough to make us run for the hills, while a jolt of vertigo ensues from a view from a rocky outcrop near the doomed mission's destination.
There's little in the way of motion blur and colour tones retain enough realism – by Jove, Hitachi might be onto something here.
Dark scenes have depth and are always involving, although the L42VP01 is best viewed with the lights on. In a blackout it's much easier to notice the brightness of the panel.
A blast of standard-def unfortunately reveals the L42VP01 to be a one trick pony. Noisy, soft, flat and downright blurry, pictures from both the built-in Freeview TV tuner and from DVDs just don't cut it.
Audio performance is certainly of high enough quality to please most of us. Just don't expect home cinema-style sound.
This is a fair debut by Hitachi at this screen size, but we're more excited about its imminent X-series, which promises more in the way of picture processing.
Maybe that will take the edge off Freeview and DVDs, which ruin a great value for money high definition performance.