Hitachi is a company famed for its plasmas, so this LCD TV is a new venture. At 22in, the 22LD4500 also takes the brand from the living room and into the kitchen or bedroom. As such, the inclusion of a Freeview tuner is a logical step, as it will no doubt be used mostly for TV rather than big-budget movie-viewing.
The 22LD4500 certainly looks the part. It boasts an attractive silver surround around its screen, nicely finished with a concave grid over the bottom-mounted speakers. The detachable oval-shaped desktop stand, meanwhile, gives it a weighty feel (the set also comes with a wall-mount).
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However, a glance around the back reveals this to be anything but a heavyweight contender, with both digital video (either DVI or HDMI) and component video sockets missing. This means that, although the 22LD4500 can be used for watching DVDs or as a PC monitor, neither source can be viewed at its optimum quality. It's a shame, because the 1,280 x 720 resolution screen would otherwise be capable of showing both unscaled high-definition footage and progressive scan pictures from a DVD player.
Still, the sockets on offer should satisfy most users of what is essentially a desktop TV. Alongside two RGB-enabled Scarts there's a 15-pin D-Sub for connecting to PC, an RF aerial input and a socket adaptable for Pay TV services, while on the top right side of the screen there are S-video, phono inputs and a jack for PC audio input. So, at least the 22LD4500 can double-up as a luxury PC monitor and TV.
Of course, it is the latter function that we're most interested in here - and happily the Hitachi's integrated analogue and digital tuners both work simply and quickly. What's more, pictures look good and clear during regular studio footage. Smearing during horizontal motion does spoil things a little - but that's a problem inherent to many LCDs. The simple to navigate electronic programme guide (EPG) is fairly responsive, and the basic menus are just that. Other features include a sleep timer, child lock and simple brightness and contrast settings.
Largely down to its limited inputs, the 22LD4500 doesn't excel with DVDs. After we'd chosen between 16:9, 4:3, panorama, cinema or zoom pictures modes, the screen struggled with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, making the dream sequences when Joel and Clementine are on the deserted beach look soft. Contrast was a bit low, too, with inevitable consequences for detail, and there was a good deal of edge tizzing, dot crawl and grain on show. We blame the Scarts. Finally, smearing over motion was detectable as the camera pans across passengers waiting on the platform with Joel early on - probably due to the set's relatively slow response time of 23ms.
Still, it's not all bad. The 22LD4500 boasts an impressively wide and natural-looking colour palette, and the black level response isn't bad - as demonstrated during our test disc's night scenes set outside Joel's house.
A mixed DVD performance, then, but things are unexpectedly livened up by the Hitachi's tiny speakers. While audio sounded a little flat in its default mode, an 'effect' mode and Dual-I and Dual II options brought everything forward, resulting in a bolstered Nicam Stereo performance that approaches a mini-surround sound feel - although there's obviously little bass.
While the 22LD4500 doesn't excel with DVD, its Freeview pictures - probably the main diet of a 22in set - are enjoyable. Hitachi produces better plasmas, but as a kitchen or bedroom set for the undemanding TV viewer this would do nicely.