Time for you all to put on a big hat called ‘perspective’. Hitachi’s P42T01 is far from cutting-edge, and it’s not the best plasma we’ve seen, not by a long chalk. It is, however, good enough to satisfy a lot of people, a lot of the time – and it’s also incredibly cheap. £800 is just the suggested selling price – you’ll find it for less once you start digging around.
But should you? It depends on your needs and budget. We’d certainly recommend putting in the hours if you’re after a bargain, because put simply, the Hitachi is a perfectly decent telly at a silly price. It’s a big screen, it looks fine with TV signals, and it can be very impressive with Blu-ray HD.
ALIS through the looking glass
The P42T01 sports an unusual resolution: 1024 x 1080. That’s a legacy of its distinctive ALIS layout (alternate lighting of surfaces) which helps cram more lines of resolution onto a given panel space using a space-efficient but less purist approach to pixel construction.
What does that mean in practice? Essentially, it means the Hitachi can display Full HD (1920 x 1080) content using every pixel of the height of the image, scaling only the width of the picture to suit its resolution. It’s a shame, however, that it can’t handle 24fps video.
Still, that all sounds promising enough in theory – or at least more promising than the 1024 x 768 resolution offered by rival sets, such as Panasonic’s TH-42PX70 – but in practice, it doesn’t necessarily endow the Hitachi with a significant performance advantage over similar sets. With Blu-ray, this is a good performer in most regards, but it can be susceptible to colour banding and digital noise ‘blocking’ with DVD content.
Contrast can be an issue
Black depth is also a weakness on the P42T01. Not when compared to many same-priced LCDs, mind: here, it’s a solid and occasionally impressive companion. But compared to Panasonic plasmas (to say nothing of Pioneers), the Hitachi lacks insight into black areas of screen, and its contrast could be bettered.
However, motion across its screen is impressively smooth and consistent, and the digital TV tuner is crisp enough. You also get a motorised TV plinth to pivot the TV on its axis and a front-mounted PS3-friendly HDMI.