You’ve got to hand it Hitachi: while the company doesn’t enjoy the street cred or the sales success of brands like Pioneer or Sony, it’s consistently innovative and always trying to find new ways to make you sit up and take notice.
Hence the P50XR01, a 50in Hitachi plasma complete with 1920x1080 Full HD resolution, more inputs than most rivals, and the easy-life convenience of a built-in 250GB hard disk.
Socket to us
Supported by two Freeview tuners, the hard-disk is intended to make TV recording child’s play, and it also gives all the usual PVR refinements, such as pause live TV, watch one channel while recording another, and instant fast-forward/rewind. It’s no Sky+, mind – the user interface is passable, but nothing more.
At least the Hitachi’s styling is elegant enough, and its motorised swivel stand is a nice touch. The rest of the spec? Socket-rich, like we said: you get a USB input, an SD card-reader and an optical digital output for easy connection to a home cinema system, plus all the usual PC, component and HDMI stuff you’d expect. Gamers will appreciate the presence of a front-mounted HDMI input for their PS3s or Xbox Elites, too.
Smooth and stable picture
As you’d hope, that Full HD resolution is backed by support for 1080p/24fps video from Blu-ray discs, and it’s this content that shows the P50XR01 at its best. Images are smooth and stable, with natural colours and convincing, natural motion across the screen.
We’d like a shade more crispness at times – a trait exacerbated by non-HD sources like DVD – but, overall, this is a convincing, involving picture, its black levels even handling murky movies well.
Friend of Freeview
Off-air picture performance is up to scratch, too. The Hitachi’s Freeview tuners do a decent job of masking the digital noise and blocking so often found on digital TV signals (here, perhaps, the set’s innate smoothness is a benefit, not a drawback), and recordings are faithful to the original. Sound quality, incidentally, mimics the picture, being smooth and controlled, but not necessarily open or energetic.
There are certainly better flatscreens than the P50XR01 out there from the likes of Sony and Panasonic. But when it comes to recording convenience, few are as neat and tidy as this Hitachi.