Review: Hitachi 42-inch Ultravision HDTV – LE42S704

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Once upon a time HDTVs fascinated me. I loved the depth of the colors and amazing detail they produced. But that was 7 years ago when they were new and exciting. Now I walk into Best Buy and my eyes glaze over when staring at their wall o’ HDTVs. I just don’t care anymore. They all look the same. That is until the Hitachi LE42S704 came into my life. Now, watching HDTV is a sport again. It’s new, exciting and awesome all over.

Features:

  • 42-inch LED LCD panel
  • 120Hz
  • 4 HDMI inputs
  • Swivel base
  • $1199 MSRP
  • Product page

Pros:

  • Great color
  • Amazing contrast

Cons:

  • Horrible picture out of the box

Review:

I learned after selling TVs for six years that there are two types of HDTV shoppers: one the cares about the picture and one that doesn’t. This one is for the former because it doesn’t come cheap. At $1199 it’s not a Sunday special and doesn’t come with a whole range of fancy IPTV streaming apps like Netflix or YouTube built-in. No, this is a viewer’s HDTV. It’s for the person that will sit in his chair Sunday afternoon and flip between ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox not to watch the different football games, but to compare each network’s high definition quality (Fox won last week, by the way).

I must say that the TV is a mess out of the box. Its over-saturated picture will make you vomit. Most of the picture presets don’t help either. The Professional mode is the only one worth your time but even with this mode, the overall picture is almost too muted unless there’s zero ambient light.

Once the TV was calibrated by Datacolor’s Spyder3 tool, it was like watching narwhals gracefully performing a synchronized swimming routine underneath a double rainbow. I’m not certified for video calibration or anything like that, but I’ve seen my fair share of HDTVs and this one made me smile. The colors are just about right and the black hole that is the contrast ratio will suck you in — but only after it was calibrated.

Seeing how this set is backlit by LEDs, it’s rather thin at 1.5 inches. It would look beautiful hanging on the wall with the right low-profile mount. The glossy piano black finish is classy and simple. The TV isn’t gaudy in any way. Hitachi knows what they’re doing; this isn’t their first HDTV. The UltraVision line predates flat panels altogether and was once used on the company’s top of the line rear-projection sets. It’s a brand that still means something.

The TV does have some annoying quirks — for instance, the power cable is built-in and not removable. That could be a deal breaker for installations that require a short cable and simply lack the room to hide a 6-foot power cable. There was also initially an issue with the component inputs that was only resolved with an update installed from an USB drive. The inputs would randomly drop the signal. Again, it was resolved, but I’m curious if there are other flaws that I failed to notice. Remember the day when products were quality checked prior to shipping? Yeah, those days are gone. Now manufacturers rely on updates to fix issues.

Never mind the slight flaws, though. This TV is hands-down a winner. The picture is amazing. It lacks all the extras found in most other sets at the same $1199 price point like 3D and IPTV streaming apps. This will turn some consumers off, but their absence is fine by me. My eyes can’t see a lot of 3D content and my TiVo serves up all the Internet content I need. Recommended.

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