"Excellent Picture, Great Features, Best Bang for $$$"4.0 starson by techie18
Pros: Great HD Picture, Stylish Look, QAM Tuner, PiP, Good Picture for SD/Analog Channels, Hitachi Customer Service Was Very Helpful
Cons: PiP Requires Alternative Source, Remote Needs Some Refining
Summary: I just picked this puppy up at BB for $1499. Been eyeing this Hitachi since it came out at the end of summer. Did all the reseach and compared it to the Panny, LG, etc... Was close to getting it at $1700 a few weeks ago at CC but held off. Glad that I did since at $1499, it's a no brainer!! If you are looking for a good quality 42" plasma TV with great connectivity and features that have been stripped out by other makers, this is the one to get.
I've had a 37" Panny EDTV for a few years and it has served me well. Held off on getting an HD plasma till now since I knew the technology would get better while prices came down.
I would say this Hitachi has almost the exact same features that my Panny has. Only real feature missing that my old Panny has is dual tuners for PiP. But Since I have an HD-DVR, this serves as my other tuner. PiP and the QAM tuner are features that most of the other makers have stripped out of their newer sets. Yes, they have the ASTC tuner for "Off Air" HD signals, so they can claim "Built-in HD." But I live in the hills where I don't have a straight shot to the TV tower. Plus with the ASTC tuner, you only get local channels in HD.
For those of you out there who are not familar with the QAM tuner, it allows you to get unscrambled digital channels from your cable provider WITHOUT using the Set Top Box. Just plug in the coax cable and do an auto scan, you'll get all the unscrambled digital channels. I have gotten the local ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC & PBS stations in HD with the QAM tuner. I used to get ESPN-HD, ESPN2-HD, Discovery-HD from the QAM tuner too, but Comcast started scrambling these channels.
Overall the picture quality is excellent and comparable to a Pioneer at an afforable price. I know that is a bold comparison but that is my opinion.
I haven't seen any of the "flicker" that others have noted. Yes, the blacks are not a good as some others. I have not see the issues with yellows and greens when I watched the NFL games in HD over the weekend. The HD programing from the networks have been excellent. (CSI Miami in HD is usually a good show for vivid colors)
I did call Hitachi Customer Service to inquire about the firmware upgrade. They were very helpful, no long hold time and the reps were in the US vs being outsourced. They are sending me the firmware upgrade so I'll update the review once I install the new firmware.
BTW: Latest firmware version is 115.001Updated
Ok, I got the software upgrade from Hitachi and installed it last night. It took several weeks to get me the upgrade but the support folks had indicated it might be a few weeks.
The software upgrade comes on a SD card so it's all in flash memory. The included instructions were step by step and easy to understand so no "technical" knowledge is needed. It took no more than 5 minutes to install the upgrade and I was ready to see what the difference would be with the new software version.
Overall, I saw improvement in color contrast. I tweaked my settings a bit and in general the picture quality is slightly better. I felt the PQ was excellent already so the improvement is noticable but not like "wow". The black levels are now better. I never saw any "flicker" that others had reported so I can't say if the upgrade did anything for that.
In closing, I think Hitachi has done a great job with their design and allowing customers to self upgrade software via a memory card is awesome. As I stated in my original review, their support folks were very helpful and friendly. I'm really happy with my purchase and would definitely recommend this plasma.