If you're looking for a good-size TV with excellent Freeview and high-definition performance, the 42-inch Hitachi P42T01 plasma may well be of serious interest to you.
This screen is something of a departure for Hitachi -- generally speaking, its TVs aren't that exciting to look at, but this screen is much more funky than usual. There's plenty on offer here features-wise, and performance that should keep most people happy. The P42T01 is available now for around £800.
We rather like the styling. The P42T01 isn't finished in the now common piano black, which will suit some people -- not everyone likes shiny black plastic in their front room.
At the bottom of the screen there's what looks like a long speaker, but in fact the speakers are at either end of this. The middle section conceals a lift-up flap under which there are buttons for controlling the TV.
Also under this flap is a single HDMI socket, a USB connector for hooking up a digital camera and a memory-card reader. All of these features are welcome additions to a TV. The idea of a front-mounted HDMI socket is a novel one, and will appeal to owners of the PlayStation 3, although you wouldn't want an HDMI cable hanging from the front of your TV for long.
The flip side to the front-mounted HDMI connector is that there's only one HDMI at the rear. This is a disappointment really, and these days we would expect large televisions to have three HDMI sockets. We can forgive two, but not when one of them is front-mounted, a location that won't suit everyone.
We like the remote control -- it's sturdy and well-built. The buttons are a decent size, which is great if you don't have chopsticks for fingers, and the controls are also well placed. At the top there are numbered buttons for changing channels, then beneath them are volume and the programme controls for channel hopping. Towards the bottom of the remote is a four-direction pad with a middle 'OK' button, which is used in all the TV's menu systems.
The remote control also gives you access to the television's rotating stand, which enables you to adjust the direction the TV points in. This is a pretty handy feature, and if you have a large living room, it might be quite useful for pointing the TV towards where you happen to be.
We're less impressed with the connectivity on the P42T01. Apart from the restrictive front HDMI input, we were also a little disappointed to see there's no VGA socket for connecting a PC. While it's possible to get a DVI-to-HDMI adaptor, with only one rear HDMI socket, this is going to leave you in need of a costly HDMI switching box if you have an HD DVD or Blu-ray player.
The P42TP01 has a 1,080 horizontal lines, but not the full 1,920x1,080 pixels -- the panel has a 1,024x1,080-pixel resolution. This strange figure is a result of the pixels being rectangular rather than square. The TV is still a widescreen display, and will handle 1080p signals, but these images will be internally downscaled to fit the screen properly.
Our first experience using the P42TP01 was with our trusty Toshiba HD-E1 HD DVD player. Firstly we checked out cult sci-fi hit Serenity, which always gives us a good idea of how a TV handles black levels and motion.