Review Date: March 7, 2006
 Last Updated: June 25, 2013

HDT52 Hitachi Plasma TV Series

2005 Hitachi Plasma HDTVs


The latest 'HDT52' series of Hitachi plasma TV sets includes an unusual 55-inch version, come with an interesting feature set, a motorized stand and an extremely attractive design. But...

How do they perform when it comes to picture quality?


Samsung 60-inch F5500 plasma TV  Samsung 60-inch PN60F5500 3D Plasma HDTV with Samsung Smart TV

The F5500 series shares a very similar feature set to that of the flagship for a much cheaper price tag. The reason is that it lacks the Real Black Pro panel of the F8500, and hence all of its picture performance benefits. But overall picture quality of the F5500 is very good - delivering the best value plasma TV option from Samsung for the inexpensive price.

Introducing the Hitachi HDT52 Plasma TVs

Released towards end 2005, the 'HDT52' range of Hitachi plasma televisions is among the latest, in a series of semi-affordable high definition plasma TVs that we have seen on stores shelves, from major manufactures in the field of direct-view video displays for home entertainment applications.

The Hitachi HDT52 range comprises two models: the 42HDT52, and the 55HDT52. Both models share the same feature set and come with similar characteristics but there are a few significant differences between the two, the most important being a different screen size and screen resolution. But there are a few other differences as well. For example, while the motorized table-top stand comes as standard with the 42HDT52, yet it comes as optional with the 55-inch model.

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The 42DHT52 HD Hitachi plasma television is a 'standard' 42-inch version that is presently selling online at around $2,700. It comes with a pixel count of 1024 x 1024; this means that while it still has to re-scale HDTV signals to fit in the available pixel count, yet it is capable of practically resolving all lines in a 1080i HDTV signal.

The 55HDT52 Hitachi plasma TV comes with a somewhat 'unusual' 55-inch screen-size plasma display and has a native display resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. It is selling at under $4,500.

This means that this 55-inch high definition plasma TV is accompanied by a price tag that is closer to that of the more affordable 50-inch models rather than to the substantially more expensive 60-inch plus plasma screens.

'Unusual' for the simple reason that semi-affordable high definition plasma televisions for home entertainment come in two standard sizes, 42 inches and 50 inches. With the 55HDT52 model, Hitachi is in reality filling the gap between the  semi-affordable 50-inch models and the ultra-expense 60-inch plus screens by splitting the difference in both size and price.

The 'HDT52' Hitachi Plasma TV Range: A Detailed Analysis

The 42HDT52 Hitachi Plasma TV setLook and Feel

Display Panel: Both the 42HDT52 and the 55HDT52 Hitachi plasma televisions share the same simple clean-look all-black finish. At the same time, it is this minimalist design approach that lends to the overall imposing look of these Hitachi plasma TVs.

But this all-black finish and in particular the black frame surrounding the image area, has an added benefit - it helps increase the perceived contrast ratio of the plasma display. The glass pane on the surface extends beyond the edge of the picture area straight out to the narrow black speakers that flank the screen on the left and right - adding to the panel overall width. Two thin strips of burnished black metal frame the glass pane along the top and bottom. The speakers curve back slightly into a friendlier, rounded-off design.

Table-Top Stand: The glossy black table-top stand matches perfectly with the display panel. It incorporates a motorized swivel arm that can turn these Hitachi plasma TV sets by up to 30° in either direction using buttons on the remote control. This means that you can move these Hitachi plasma TVs into position for the best viewing angle from your seat. A great feature ...but it only comes as standard with the 42-inch model. In the case of the 55HDT52 set, the motorized table stand is optional.

Click on image to enlargeRemote: The fully illuminated remote accompanying this series of Hitachi plasma TV sets is a feature within itself. It is a relatively oversized remote designed in a way to make all buttons easily accessible.

However, the real innovative feature here is a pair of scroll wheels that take the place of the volume and channel selection keys. These provide a quick way to zoom through tens of channels at a time or change the volume level between extremes.

Included are direct access keys for aspect-ratio control and the Day and Night picture modes. This is a real example of a remote designed with convenience in mind.

Menu System: Overall, the HDT52 series of Hitachi plasma TVs is extremely easy to set up and use - thanks to a well designed menu system. Moving between items and making selections is simple, logical, and completely intuitive.

Feature Set

Except for a different screen size and pixel resolution, both models in the HDT52 series of Hitachi plasma televisions share practically the same feature set. Peculiar about the HDT52 series is that these plasmas' imposing look and feel is equally complemented by an abundance of 'convenience' features.

HDTV Tuner and CableCard slot: To start with, these Hitachi plasma TV sets incorporate advanced HDTV tuner technology that leads to a new level of convenience and performance. Conventional HDTV tuners need extended start-up time to scan for channels and require switching between antenna inputs when selecting analog or digital programming. The new Hitachi HDTV tuner technology delivers the picture quickly with seamless access to all available channels.

In addition, the included CableCARD slot lets you receive digital and high-def cable without the cable box. The TV Guide onscreen Interactive Program Guide is available for use with the CableCard to help make up for the loss of your cable company's Electronic Program Guide. It is accessible through the Guide button on the remote control and provides a most convenient way to manage all programming options.

The two-tuner PIP (picture-in-picture) feature will especially appeal to sports fans. Interesting here is that the PIP also has a surf mode and several freeze modes.

Aspect Ratio Management: These Hitachi plasma televisions come with a good selection of aspect-ratio choices - six for standard definition video sources and three for HDTV material. Some of the aspect ratio modes let you adjust the position of the image on the screen. In addition, there is also an auto-mode setting that will try to select for you the best aspect ratio setting in accordance with the video source.

Plasma Technology: This is one of the few areas where the two models in this series of Hitachi plasma TVs differ. On the 42HDT52 model, Hitachi is making use of the so-called ALiS (Alternate Lighting of Surfaces) technology. ALiS minimizes the barriers between picture elements or pixels to deliver a smoother, more film-like picture. ALiS is also unique in that it is designed to match closely to the 1080i HDTV system for a sharp, smooth and seamless image.

Instead, on the 55HDT52 55-inch model, Hitachi is making use of what it refers to as 'Hitachi Wide aperture technology'. This is applicable to large-scale plasma televisions; it combines brighter pixels with a black matrix between pixels to deliver a brilliant picture with deeper, more natural colors and improved contrast.

Other Picture-Enhancement features: The HDT52 series of Hitachi plasma TVs comes with a never ending list of picture-enhancing features. Among these, there is the 'auto-movie mode', more commonly referred to as 2:3 pull-down detection and reversal; this is a handy feature for watching progressive-scan movie programs in their native 24-frame format.

These Hitachi plasma TV sets also include four user-selectable 'color temperatures' - Standard, Black and White, Medium, and Cool.

Hitachi VirtualHD™ technology aims at reducing noise resulting from video processing and compression techniques to a minimum, to maintain as faithful an image as possible to original film source. Dynamic histogram processing is also used to digitally maps the incoming signal to optimize on screen contrast, color and sharpness.

An interesting feature worth mentioning here is the use of two 'independent input memories' - named Day and Night, per input slot. This enables the user to set different picture settings for improved picture performance under different ambient light conditions. These day and night settings can be engaged either automatically through the use of a built-in 24hr-timer, or toggled between by simply pressing a button on the remote.

Connectivity: The HDT52 series has a wide range of connectivity options; these include two HDMI inputs for access to high definition content, two component-video inputs, two A/V inputs with S-Video and composite-video ins, two RF inputs (one for cable and one for antenna sources), and a set of monitor outs with S-Video and composite-video connectors.

A FireWire  (IEEE-1394) port with DTVLinkand a CableCard slot are also onboard, as is an RS-232 control port for programming touch-panel remotes. A subwoofer output and an optical digital audio output are also included.

For added convenience, on the left side of the panel, there is also another set of A/V inputs with S-Video; you will also find a FireWire port for connecting your digital video recorder, and a USB input to display content from digital cameras and USB pen-drives.

The only connection missing is a PC connection. There is no dedicated computer input on these Hitachi plasma TVs. What's more, the manual warns against connecting PCs to the HDMI inputs - however, this warning should be qualified in that it is the displaying of static images for an extended period of time that can harm your expensive plasma display - not the PC connection 'per se'.

Sound: These Hitachi plasma TV sets include a 40-Watt 2-way integrated speaker system with a number of sound enhancing features. These include MTS Stereo/SAP with dbx, SRS WOW Sound Enhancement for improved three-dimensional sound using the set two-channel stereo speakers, and BBE® Sound Enhancement to improve the presence and clarity in dialog and music tracks. Though debatable by the purist in audio design, yet you also have the option to use the plasma TV speakers as the center speaker in a multi-channel speaker set-up. 

HDT52 Hitachi Plasma TV Performance

Overall, both models under review in the HDT52 series of Hitachi plasma TVs shared the same performance when put under test. Surely, these Hitachi plasma televisions have their strengths when it comes to convinces and look - conveniences abound and their look is more than impressive, but...

Picture performance doesn't quite measure up to that of the tough competition. There are a couple of image-quality issues that may render these Hitachi plasma displays less suitable for home theater use; here the ability to properly render deep blacks while still showing detail in dimly lit scenes is a major requirement for a most pleasing movie experience. This is most commonly referred to as the set black-level performance. Both the 42HDT52 and the 55HDT52 sets fail in this respect; dark content appears more of a muddy dark gray than black. Sets like the  Panasonic 50-inch TH-50PX50U Flat-Panel HD Plasma TVPanasonic TH-50PX50U or the 42-inch TH-42PX50U Plasma HDTV reviewed on our site (review available here) are surely capable of doing a much better job in this respect.

Further more, there is a considerable amount of low-level video-noise in dark scenes especially when the source material is via one of the component-video inputs; this appears as annoying tiny moving specks on dark areas of the image. High-definition content via the HDMI inputs delivered better picture performance with less low-level noise than the component-video inputs exhibited.

Another annoying issue is the considerable amount of 'red push' in the color decoding - with your only option to correct it being to bring the color control down from where it should be to get improved results. If you want color management features to properly fix this problem, you will have to move a step further up the ladder in the Hitachi lineup, namely to the HDX62 Director's Series.

On the upside, the grayscale performance of these Hitachi plasma TVs turned out to be extremely linear and close to the 6,500K standard. In other words, while they suffered to produce deep blacks, yet the variation from black to white is practically linear all the way and without the intrusion of unwanted colors.

Further more, contrary to the rendering of dark scenes detailed above, these Hitachi plasma TVs are capable of doing a great job when it comes to displaying bright content - scenes are bright and impressive.

Also, the HDT52 video processing is quite good; the Auto Movie mode engages the 2:3 pull-down to eliminate all motion artifacts from film-based material while processing of 1080i de-interlacing is very good.

Product Dimensions and Weight
  Model

Width

(Inches)

Height*

(Inches)

Depth*

(Inches)

Weight

(Pounds)

  42HDT52 42" High Def. Hitachi Plasma TV 44.6" 25.5" 4.2" 98.1
  55HDT52 55" High Def. Hitachi Plasma TV 59.5" 33.7" 4.2" 139

* Dimensions without stand.

   Depth of units complete with stand is 14.2"; overall height increases by 3.5"

Concluding Remarks

The HDT52 series of Hitachi plasma TVs is one of the most feature-packed product lines available on the market. These plasma televisions look beautiful on the outside; in particular, the 55-inch Hitachi plasma TV set in this series is a most impressive product that comes at a semi-affordable price for the screen size.

Image quality leaves a bit to be desired. Blacks could be blacker. Black-level performance is this series weakest point; the performance of the Hitachi HDT52 plasma panels is not exactly what one would desire for true home-theater applications.

At the same time, these beautifully looking Hitachi plasma TVs are capable of doing a great job in brightly lit environments e.g. a family living room - delivering bright impressive high definition pictures that would surely excite the eye.


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