Please forgive our excitement at the arrival of Hitachi's 42PD7500 - essentially this is a TV promising the same quality as its brilliant predecessor, but with the extra of a built-in digital tuner.
As with its cheaper sibling, the 42PD7200, the 42PD7500 looks sumptuous.The glass-fronted, smoky grey screen frame is pure class. Connectivity is outstanding for a £2,700 (£2,500 by October, so rumour has it) screen, too.The biggest hit is an HDMI jack,guaranteeing compatibility with tomorrow's digital sources. But there is also a DVI jack for PC use, a trio of Scarts, a VGA PC input, a CAM slot for adding digital TV services, and component video inputs.
The HDMI and component connections immediately give us a warm HD-ready glow - thankfully fully backed by the necessary level of resolution and compatibility with all the key HD formats.
Aside from the HD readiness and digital tuner, the 42PD7500's most key feature is its Picture Master processing. Key tricks of this sophisticated system include full digital image scaling; automatic brightness and gamma levels adjustment; brightness and contrast boosting; noise suppression; sharper edges; new,improved 1024-line progressive processing; faster processing speeds for improved motion handling; and 12-bit colour processing, offering 4093 graduations per colour.
Out of the box, however, the 42PD7500's pictures don't look that special. But after a careful tweaking of the TV's massive list of adjustable options, they start to look seriously tasty.
The sharpness is particularly striking. Even with some of the noise reduction systems switched in, the amount of texture and detail from all video sources - even the Freeview tuner - is outstanding.
Brightness levels are impressive too, yet this hasn't compromised the screen's black levels. We've seen deeper darks, but the Hitachi's unusual greyscale subtlety and colour gradation finesse really helps dark areas look three-dimensional and fully integrated.
Provided you're careful with your settings, the 42PD7500's pictures are also pleasingly noiseless. Grain, normal dot crawl, colour banding, detail moiring, even the MPEG noise in digital broadcasts - all these can be removed. Traces remain of the common plasma issues of greenish dot crawl and fizzing over moving objects, but at tolerable levels given the 42PD7500's low price.
In fact, for the money there's only one serious problem with the 42PD7500's picture: the colour tone. Compared with the new levels of accuracy introduced by Panasonic's PV500 sets, the Hitachi's reds look a touch orange, and low-lit fleshtones can look a little green around the gills.
Sonically the 42PD7200 again performs well above its price point. The detachable speakers give ample bass, breathing room at mid-range and trebles that never sound harsh.
There's room for improvement with the 42PD7500. But Hitachi didn't make it to be perfect. It's made it to be as good as possible at a very aggressive price point. And in that, it succeeds superbly. John Archer