Hitachi has an excellent reputation when it comes to large plasma TVs, but the Japanese company also caters for the smaller end of the flat-screen market with a range of LCD televisions. This 37-inch model sits at the top of this range, and totes a dizzying number of features, but is nonetheless available to the eagle-eyed Internet shopper for as little as £900.
This is a reassuringly well built television with a weighty metal base, which sets it a class above the rather plasticky TVs in the current Samsung, Toshiba and LG ranges. The frame around the screen is narrow, and the speakers are placed underneath, which helps keep the size down. Obviously the quality of the styling is a subjective point, but we think Hitachi has succeeded in making it look reasonably elegant.
The stand is motorised, which means you can swivel it from the comfort of your sofa by using the remote control. To be honest, it isn't a feature most people will get much use out of, but we did manage to wow several of our simpler friends by 'magically' moving the screen from afar -- so it gets a partial thumbs-up for that.
Hitachi has included a decent range of connections, including two HDMIs, a component video input, three Scarts (two of which are RGB capable) and a VGA connector for PCs. A cable management loop at the back lets you rein in the spaghetti and keep things tidy.
The TV's side panel includes a USB port and SD card slot, which can only be used to view photos. You can plug in a camera or card reader to the USB and view photos from that, but memory devices such as keys and external hard drives will not work.
Setting up is a breeze. The built-in digital tuner will automatically search for and store all channel info at the touch of a button (just make sure you plug your aerial in first), and while the menu system is fairly extensive and detailed, getting to grips with it is simpler than beating a professional footballer at Scrabble.
There's a wealth of picture settings on offer. You get the usual stuff like contrast, brightness and colour, but you can also adjust the strength of the backlight, the contrast mode, picture and colour sharpness, picture and colour noise reduction and indulge in some ultra-precise tweaking of the colour temperature and balance.
Sound can also be adjusted in several ways, and features include an SRS 3D surround mode, SRS TruBass and a 'perfect volume' feature that adjusts the volume automatically when you flip channels.
Hitachi claims this TV has the widest viewing angle of any LCD on the market, and while we haven't lined them all up to check, it's certainly impressive. Unlike many LCDs, you can sit way off to the side of the screen and still see a well defined, high-contrast picture with convincing blacks -- you don't have to be sat in a narrow 'sweet spot' directly in front of the screen.