This fall is shaping up to be a big-screen battleground between LCD and plasma HDTVs, as LCD models sport ever-larger (45- to 57-inch) screens and more plasma TVs have 1080p (1920x1080) resolution, sometimes called Full HD. Based on our preliminary tests, it looks like three new 1080p TVs--a Hitachi plasma and LCDs from JVC and Toshiba--will ratchet up the competition another notch.
Related information from Consumer Reports:
- Buying advice: LCD vs. plasma TVs
- Why buy a plasma TV?
- Why buy an LCD TV?
- Ratings: Plasma TVs
- Ratings: LCD TVs
- More on HDTV at ConsumerReports.org
Hitachi Ultravision P50S601, $2,800
This 50-inch plasma (Click on image above for a larger view) has full 1920x1080 resolution, unlike some earlier Hitachi models that had an unusual 1080x1024 pixel structure. However, while this TV can accept 1080p signals from a Blu-ray or HD DVD player via its HDMI inputs, it actually converts them to interlaced 1080i. The impact on image quality is subtle for most HD programming, but discerning viewers may see slightly jagged edges on moving objects.
That said, our initial tests showed that this Hitachi had commendable picture quality, continuing in the footsteps of Hitachi plasma TVs we’ve tested previously. Colors were rich and vibrant, and horizontal resolution was excellent (vertical resolution was decent). The TV’s high-gloss black finish and bottom flip-open door, which hides a front-mounted HDMI connections and several control buttons, gives the TV a sleek, stylish appearance, and bottom-mount speakers reduce the overall cabinet width. The set comes with a remote-controlled powered swivel stand that can be rotated to deliver the best viewing angle. Like most plasma TVs, the Hitachi has a fairly reflective screen, which can produce mirror-like reflections when viewed in a bright room. But its viewing angle is virtually unlimited, a plus not offered by the LCD sets reviewed here.
Toshiba Regza Cinema Series 52LX177, $4,000
Toshiba’s Regza-series LCD TVs have done very well in our Ratings of LCD TVs, and the 52LX177 (Click on the image at right for a larger view), a 52-inch 1080p model in the company’s flagship Cinema Series, appears to continue that trend. Based on our preliminary tests, this TV is capable of bright images with rich, saturated colors. Its fine resolution produced top-notch picture detail from HD sources, and its internal film-mode deinterlacing did a great job converting 1080i HD movies, such as those sent via cable or satellite, to the TV’s full 1080p native resolution. We did notice that subtle shades in near-black details were a bit coarse, which added to some visible noise during dark scenes. Like most LCD TVs, its nonreflective screen would be a good choice for brightly lit rooms, but the viewing angle is somewhat limited; you’ll need to view the screen pretty much head on to get an optimal picture.
This Toshiba has a few notable features, including the ability to connect the TV to a home network (via an RJ45 connector), enabling you to view JPEG photos or listen to MP3s from a networked PC. For those who love to tweak their set’s images, a “Color Palette Adjustment” lets you fine-tune hue, saturation, and brightness settings for six individual colors. Like other feature-rich Cinema Series models, this set has Toshiba’s 120Hz ClearFrame technology, which doubles the TV’s frame rate. Our tests showed that this technology did help reduce motion blur. A slim bezel, which is glossy black, makes the set’s overall size seem less imposing.
JVC LT-47X788, $2,100
JVC has been an up-and-comer in our Ratings of LCD TVs over the past few years, although a few models we tested recently didn’t do as well as some earlier ones. Based on our preliminary review, the LT-47X788—a 47-inch 1080p model (Click on the image at left for a closer look)—should put the brand back on track when our full review is completed. The set, attractively styled with a high-gloss mirror-black finish and slim-bezel design (do we sense a trend here?), combines top-level picture detail with good-looking color and contrast to produce impressive overall picture quality. Like the Toshiba, above, its internal video processing did an excellent job converting 1080i film-based content to the set’s 1080p native resolution, and the nonreflective screen makes it a good choice for brightly lit rooms.
However, we did find that the image wasn’t quite as bright as on other LCD models that we recommend for use in bright rooms. And like the Toshiba—and many other LCD models—the JVC has a somewhat narrow viewing angle, so those sitting directly in front of the TV will enjoy the best image. Extras include a USB port, which lets you display high-def slide shows of photos stored on USB flash drives, and a universal remote that can control up to five components.