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Hitachi 60VX915 Review

Highs

  • Excellent picture; attractive looking cabinet; plenty of inputs ensuring it will not be out-dated

Rating

Our Score 9
User Score 7

Lows

  • Glare in bright rooms; erratic thumb wheels for changing volume and channels
The images reproduced on the 60VX915 were quite spectacular...

Summary

Going into this review, I had not been a fan of rear projection LCD.  In fact, I think that for the most part it is inferior to other Micro-Display technologies.  The examples from other manufacturers are dim at best with poor contrast and terrible brightness levels.  So, to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Hitachi’s achievement is an understatement.  Clearly, Hitachi knows how to exploit this technology to its utmost, and I applaud them for it.  I am happy to report that the images displayed were among the best presently available from any HDTV manufacturer.

So, if you want to experience true High Definition television and watch DVD movies featuring sharp and crisp color images, look no further than the Hitachi 60VX915.  Hitachi’s HDTV sets offer the consumer “state-of-the-art” technology with a terrific feature package in a very stylish and handsome cabinetry giving the look and feel of plasma, but without any of its detractors.  It’s a set for today and tomorrow featuring an integrated HDTV tuner, QAM HD cable tuner, and CableCARD.  By including both HDMI and 1394, this set won’t become obsolete for many years to come.   If a 60-in. wide HDTV is not right for you, the 60VX915 has two siblings in the 915 Director’s CineForm series.  There’s a larger 70-in. wide model (70VX915), and a smaller 50-in. wide sibling (50VX915) with identical features and performance characteristics.

The 60VX915 may not be in retail stores as of this review date, keep a look out for it.

Introduction

Hitachi has long been considered a progressive and innovative television company.  It now looks to embrace the future of high definition television by offering widescreen TVs designed to take full advantage of the burgeoning HD signals.  While other companies are embracing Texas Instruments’ new Micro-Display DLP (Digital Light Processing) technology, Hitachi has gone down a different path pioneering rear projection LCD technology.  The company now offers a complete line of 2nd generation models (11) designed to take full advantage of this technology.  Unlike its leading brand-name competitors, who also features rear projection LCD TVs, Hitachi has produced a stunning example of this technology that can compete with the best HDTV models currently available in all types of display technologies.

Unique Features

Hitachi’s new UltraVision CineForm Director’s Series television is the 60VX915, which is a 60-in. widescreen integrated rear projection LCD HDTV model.  While including twin NTSC tuners and an integrated ATSC tuner (for over-the-air HD broadcasts), this model also includes a QAM HD cable tuner that allows it to receive unscrambled HD signals from your local cable provider (without using a set-top box).  As an industry innovator, Hitachi was also the first manufacturer to integrate Cable HD QAM tuners into their integrated HDTV sets allowing for the reception of “in-the-clear” high definition signals.  As well, it is a DCR (Digital Cable Ready) model featuring the new CableCARD slot.  As you may be aware, CableCARD eliminates the need for a digital cable set-top box to receive premium HDTV channels from your local cable company.

This impressive HDTV set utilizes LCD technology and Hitachi’s Dual Focus Light Engine, which uses proprietary technology to get the most out of its rear projection design.  Capable of producing more than 1 billion colors accurately, the Dual Focus Light Engine has been engineered with 10-bit color performance and a whopping 25-Element Lens for image accuracy.  Unlike other rear projection LCD sets from market-leading brands, Hitachi has improved the entire light engine so that there is brighter picture performance overall.  This is because of a sharp focusing technique employed that improves the stream of illumination along the complete light path with very little light loss.  Hitachi has also included special filters and polarizers that produce even brighter whites and considerably darker blacks (sounds like a laundry detergent commercial doesn’t’ it, but its true).   As well, there is no screen-door effect that is found on other rear projection LCD sets.

Hitachi 60VX915
Image courtesy of Hitachi

Installation/Ease of Use

One of the best parts of the 60VX915 is its ATSC/QAM tuner.   Simply plug in your incoming signal cable (from your off-air antenna or cable company) into Antenna A, which feeds the signals directly into the high definition tuner.  Within the set-up menu’s Channel Manager, simply tell it how you receive your signals — via antenna or cable.  Then, at the touch of a button on your remote, it automatically programs all receivable HD and standard definition channels in your area both over-the-air and in-the-clear cable

As we mentioned, the 60VX915 is CableCARD-enabled.  You should be aware, however, that you cannot do pay-per-view (PPPV) and video on demand (VOD) via your remote on a CableCARD-enabled television.   It took CableVision (my cable company in Westchester County, NY) two weeks to send a technician to the house to bring the CableCARD.  For some reason (my guess is so that they can charge an extra fee), CableCARD must be professionally-installed by the Cable Company.  It looks a lot like a satellite access card.  Even though it looks similar, it has additional circuitry built-in to it.  Installation of a CableCARD can take between one and four hours (according to the installer).  While it’s a simple matter of slipping the CableCARD into the set, it takes several minutes for the TV to recognize the CableCARD.  Once recognized by the TV, a screen pops up giving the model number and serial number of the CableCARD.  Then, the technician had to call CableVision headquarters on Long Island, NY to activate the card.  Since the cable company doesn’t’ seem enthused about DCR TVs, this part of the installation can take awhile.  It seems that they only have two people (in the entire company) who can activate CableCARD.  So, this person had to call the installer back.

Fortunately, it didn’t take very long for her to return his call.  Then, the technician had to give her model numbers for the TV and CableCARD as well as serial numbers and other numbers that appeared on-screen.  This information had to be keyed into CableVision’s central computer for it to ‘activate’ the card.  Presumably, a specific signal can be sent via fiber optic to the individualized CableCARD.  Fortunately for me, the activation took about an hour allowing me to receive all of the HD programming available (as long as I pay for the packages).   So, the CableCARD costs an additional $1.25/mo. along with Digital I/O service (required) @ $9.95/mo.  With the CableCARD in place it allows me to receive CBS-HD, NBC-HD, FOX-HD, ABC-HD, UPN-HD, WB-HD, and two PBS-HD (Channels 13 and 21 in NYC) as well as premium stations like HBO-HD, ShowtimeHD, DiscoveryHD, ESPN-HD and etc..  If a particular local station also offers multicasting as do the PBS and ABC channels in NY, for example, you will also receive them.

Housed in a finely crafted high gloss black cabinet featuring black trim around the screen, the 60VX915 gives the appearance of a plasma TV from the front.  This was done on purpose by Hitachi to give the set a familial look and feel to its Micro-Display HDTVs.  And with a reduced depth of under 20 inches, this set can be placed into your own cabinet or onto its optional two-shelf base that is big enough to store all of your gear including a center channel speaker.

NTSC images are enhanced through the use of a digital 4MB 3D-Y/C comb filter, which helps reduce artifacts and dot crawl that are found in the NTSC signal.  Other key video enhancement features include: a Virtual HD 1080p Video Processor, video noise reduction, Digital Color Management II, Adjustable Color Decoder, and adjustable color temperature control.  All of these video enhancement features can be turned off or on as needed (via the supplied remotes).  Combined together, this stunning example of HDTV prowess is capable of processing 480i/480p/540p/ 720p/1080i signals by using its 3:2 progressive scan film correction, 26-point motion adaptive video processing; while displaying those images to an upconverted 1080i (by its Virtual HD mode for non-HD sources) resolution.  HD sources broadcast at 720p are displayed at their native 720p resolution.  Overall, the set is capable of displaying 1280 lines of horizontal resolution, and features several widescreen fill modes.

The 60VX915 features an internal 40-watt 3-way Bass Reflex speaker system along with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround decoder.  Other aural processing includes SRS Surround Sound and BBE Sound Enhancement designed to improve aural quality from source components attached to the television or non-HD programming (not broadcast in Dolby Digital).  Of course, the entire speaker and amplification can be turned into one center channel speaker if desired, which may be appealing to some folks.  Internal audio quality was better than average.

Convenience features include dual tuner Picture-in-Picture, simple to use and intuitive on-screen menus and displays in three languages (English, French & Spanish).  To make life easier, the set comes with two remotes – one is full-featured and the other is a smaller simpler remote that fits into the palm of your hand for ease-of-use.  The newly-designed full-featured illuminated ergonomic universal remote will completely control a total of 5 separate components.  Cool!

Connections include twin antenna RF inputs (Ant. A is dedicated for over-the-air ATSC signals and cable QAM).  Other rear connectors include:  2 A/V/S-Video along with 2 HD-grade Component Video inputs, and 1 A/V/S-Video output.  There is also 1 front (right side-mounted) A/V/S-Video input along with 1 USB port for the easy attachment of a digital camera.   As mentioned above, there is also a digital audio (optical) output so that you can separately pass Dolby Digital 5.1 surround or digital audio to a separate A/V Receiver or Processor.   Also included are two auto-sensing HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) connectors with HDCP copy protection that takes priority – if connected.  There are also twin two-way 4-pin IEEE1394 connectors as well so that you can also attach a DVHS VCR or HD PVR to record high definition images from this set.  This makes the 60VX915 a set for today and tomorrow.

Hitachi 60VX915 inputs
The 60VX915 has plenty of inputs

Testing

The best way to evaluate a High Definition TV is to watch HD programming, and the Hitachi 60VX915 allows for easy toggling between NTSC and ATSC signals handling all HD signals quite well from broadcast to cable to satellite and beyond.  Displayed images were clean, smooth, and quite natural looking with excellent contrast and brightness levels.  Consistently, colors were very vibrant and similar from all signal sources (off-air, cable, satellite, and progressive scan DVD player).  I’ve said it before, but it’s worth noting again that watching HDTV is like looking out of a window at action unfolding right on the other side of the glass.  In other words, the bottom line – the HD signals viewed from the 60VX915 were very realistic and life-like.

Since my satellite box also has an ATSC tuner included, I was able to toggle back and forth between Cable HD and Over-the-Air HD signals.  Unfortunately, over-the-air signals in NY are fairly hard to receive in Westchester County (30 miles north of Manhattan), and I can only receive CBS-HD, FOX-HD, and ABC-HD.  So, I was able to easily compare ATSC vs. QAM signals.  Personally, I thought that the ASTC signals looked slightly cleaner and robust from my roof antenna than did the Cable HD signals.  That said however, cable provided me with all of my local channels.  So, it’s a tradeoff.  In each case however, the Hitachi 60VX915 produced sparkling HD signals.

Certainly, the 60VX915 produced high definition images from one of my Satellite HD set-top boxes (the LG LS-3200A using DVI to HDMI connections via Tributaries HDMIDVI-20B cables) viewing DirecTV’s HDNet, DiscoveryHD Theater, HBO-HD, and Showtime-HD.  Colors were vibrant, life-like and quite natural looking.  Watching original programming like Huff (shot in HD), for example, on Showtime makes it very apparent that you are watching HD as the program source as it has a more film-like appearance in HD than SD.  While noise and digital artifacts are somewhat visible in SD even on satellite, it’s non-existent in HD; and, as you toggle back and forth, it really becomes apparent.  In HD, the images truly come to life, as they appear somewhat flat in SD.  Think of it as comparing images that are 2-Dimentional to those that are 3-Dimentional.  In HD, the images “pop” right off the screen.

Of course, premium movie channels also broadcasts the audio portion of the program in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround, which further enhances the viewing experience. Programming like Lost allows you to become part of the island with its myriad of different sounds on ABC-HD.  On HBO-HD, The Wire looked absolutely stunning!  Maybe a bit too realistic for some tastes!  Of course, the same could be said of the various C.S.I.-type shows on both CBS-HD and NBC-HD.

Of course in the evaluation of any next-generation television, you need to attach a progressive scan DVD player to display the best possible visual images from a video source component.  For this evaluation, I used the Marantz DV-8400 (using DVI to HDMI connections with Tributaries HDMIDVI-20B cables) with various types of program material from animation to action special effects-laden films.  The images reproduced on the 60VX915 were quite spectacular as well, especially with recent “blockbuster” movies like Shrek 2, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – Special Edition, or I, Robot.  Animated classics like Beauty & the Beast – Special Edition, or Mary Poppins – 40th Anniversary Ed. looked simply stunning; and musicals like the That’s Entertainment Collection are also very telling.  Other films like Van Helsing and The Chronicles of Riddick for example, are perfect films to not put on a Micro-Display HDTV because these types of displays have trouble with black and dark scenes, unlike the 60VX915. The images were very, very film-like in their presentation looking almost as good as those films broadcast on either HBO-HD or Showtime-HD channels from DirecTV.  The bottom line was that the displayed DVD images were especially compelling and life-like with dark areas of the screen not washed out or looking gray.

I’ve become fond of the Aquaria disk (from Pioneer Digital World) recently that offers different views of aquariums plus offers Gray Scale, Color Bar charts and Test Patterns as a change of pace.  It more clearly showed me, and reinforced my “gut” feeling that all of the colors (as displayed on the Color Bar chart) were true with no bleeding from one color to another. Here again, with the 60VX915 the charts were right on target without any jittery motion, artifacts, or herringbone effect that can sometimes be present in static images.   On the Color Bar chart, for example, the separation line between colors sometimes can be jagged on many interlaced sets, or ones with inferior comb filters.  This was not the case with the 60VX915 thanks to its 4MB 3D-Y/C comb filter.

As well, I put on the new Silicon Optix’s HQV Benchmark Ver.1.2 test disc, which adds various tests including those for “jaggies.”  Essentially, “jaggies” are produced if a display cannot properly lock onto an image, and the image blurs slightly.  Good examples are how the viewing stands look as a speeding race car drives by or the American flag blows in the breeze.  I am happy to report that the Hitachi 60VX915 performed much better than average here also.

Conclusion

Lastly, I have to say that the images were amazing.  Going into this review, I had not been a fan of rear projection LCD.  In fact, I think that for the most part it is inferior to other Micro-Display technologies.  The examples from other manufacturers are dim at best with poor contrast and terrible brightness levels.  So, to say that I was pleasantly surprised by Hitachi’s achievement is an understatement.  Clearly, Hitachi knows how to exploit this technology to its utmost, and I applaud them for it.  I am happy to report that the images displayed were among the best presently available from any HDTV manufacturer.

So, if you want to experience true High Definition television and watch DVD movies featuring sharp and crisp color images, look no further than the Hitachi 60VX915.  Hitachi’s HDTV sets offer the consumer “state-of-the-art” technology with a terrific feature package in a very stylish and handsome cabinetry giving the look and feel of plasma, but without any of its detractors.  It’s a set for today and tomorrow featuring an integrated HDTV tuner, QAM HD cable tuner, and CableCARD.  By including both HDMI and 1394, this set won’t become obsolete for many years to come.   If a 60-in. wide HDTV is not right for you, the 60VX915 has two siblings in the 915 Director’s CineForm series.  There’s a larger 70-in. wide model (70VX915), and a smaller 50-in. wide sibling (50VX915) with identical features and performance characteristics.

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