Hitachi formally unveiled here a full line of "1080" HD flat-panel sets, highlighted by three plasma models that will employ the company's "Reel 60" 60Hz frame-rate technology.
At the same time, the company has elected to drop the rear-projection TV category that has been its trademark for over a decade to focus solely on the growing flat-panel business. The company will continue to carry front projectors, but only as a business-to-business offering at this time.
Bill Whalen, Hitachi's product development director, told TWICE that the company will use Reel60 as one of its chief product differentiators this season. He said the system uses motion vector interpolation to convert 24 fps source material, which represents the bulk of film-originated content, into two interlaced fields of 60 fps material.
In side-by-side demonstrations with competitors' 24 fps technology, the system shows the removal of common judder effects found in sets using 3:2 pull-down techniques, for more fluid natural motion, particularly in camera pans, Whalen said.
Hitachi's Daniel Lee and Bill Whalen unveil a 60-inch 1080p plasma set that will be part of the company's Reel60 60Hz TV offerings this fall.
Combined with the natural advantages of plasma technology, the system also provides a strong story against LCD 1080p systems with 120Hz refresh rates, Whalen said.
In total, Hitachi is offering 14 flat-panel models across five product series this year. This breaks down to 10 plasma sets and four LCD TVs. The latter category will consist of 42-inch and 47-inch 1080p sets in two series.
Daniel Lee, Hitachi's marketing VP, said the company has opted to continue offering 42- and 47-inch LCD TV sets as a service to dealers who have requested them.
Hitachi executives said that all models this year will have 1080 resolution, although by this they refer only to vertical lines of resolution and not necessarily to interlaced or progressive display techniques. Only one plasma model — a 60-inch Reel60 set — will use a 1920 by 1080p panel this year.
Whalen, however, said Hitachi is downplaying the 1080p story in that model in favor of the 60Hz refresh rate message, which the company believes is more meaningful since the most widely available HD source material is in the 1080i format or can be readily converted to 1080i from 720p using Hitachi's video processing technologies.
Additionally, Hitachi's Alternate Lighting of Surfaces (ALiS) fixed-pixel 1080 interlacing technology, which is found in many of the company's plasma models this year, offers a line-for-line match with live 1080i video, Whalen said.
At the high-end of the line, the Reel60 technology will be found in three plasma models including a pair of X series or "Director's Series" models in the 60-inch P60X901 ($7,999 suggested retail) and the 50-inch P50X901 ($4,299). Both will be limited to specialty A/V distribution and will ship in August.
Director's Series models include an adjustable color decoder, digital color management, simple remote and learning AV Net system and a two year in-home warranty.
For more open distribution, Hitachi will offer another 50-inch Reel60 model in the V series 50-inch P50V701, ($3,999). All Reel60 models include CableCARD slots, TV Guide On-Screen, SD Card Photo viewers, split screen and a glowing multifunction remotes.
Other regionally distributed "Full1080" V series models include a pair of 1080p LCD TVs in the 42-inch L42V651 and L47V651. Both ship in September at suggested retails of $2,499 and $3,199, respectively. Key step features over the S series include split screen, SD Card photo viewer and glowing multi-function remotes.
The openly distributed "Full1080" S series, will feature three models including 42- ($2,299) and 47-inch ($2,999) 1080p LCD TVs, and a 50-inch 1080i plasma set in the P50S601 (shipping in July at $3,499) with 1920 by 1080i resolution. Key step features over the entry H series include full 1920 by 1080 resolution, power swivel stands, multifunction remote, three HDMI inputs, Picture Master HD IV video processing, 20-watt speaker system and ClearWindow plasma technology for smoother image reproduction and higher brightness output with less visible grid structure.
The regionally distributed T series models will feature three plasma models in the 42-inch P42T501 (1024 by 1080i), 50-inch P50T501 (1280 by 1080i) and 55-inch P55T501 (1280 by 1080i). The 55-inch model ships in September at a $3,299 suggested retail and the other two are in stores now. Models feature all black cosmetics, SD Card photo viewers, split screen, anti-reflective screens and multifunction remotes.
The nationally distributed entry H series includes three models in the 42-inch (1024 by 1080i), 50-inch (1,280 by 1080i) and 55-inch (1,280 by 1080i) screen sizes. The 42- and 50-inch models are in stores now, and the 55-inch ($2,999) ships in September.
Key features include ClearWindow plasma technology, 3 HDMI v1.2 inputs, PictureMaster HD IV video processing, fixed stand, 20-watt audio system and anti-reflective screens.
To get the Reel60 message and other Hitachi product benefits across to dealers, the company has hired David Berman as the national training manager to head a new sales training team and educate retail sales people about the new technology story. He is also developing a Web-based training program to help keep the message fresh in dealers' minds.
For in-store demonstrations, Hitachi has developed a Blu-ray disc that will present a split-screen comparison of 60Hz and non-60Hz systems.
To get the message out to the public, Lee said Hitachi will be using a coordinated media strategy, including the use of TV ads with FOX Sports during Big 12 football games this year.
Hitachi is also placing greater emphasis on Web-based outreach to consumers doing online pre-purchase research, and will launch a "virtual showroom" beginning Aug. 1.
Lee said Hitachi is using the results of its consumer surveys to develop lines that appeal to the growing trends. This year that includes a greater emphasis on women purchasers and on consumers in lower income brackets. In this effort, the lines feature new cosmetic designs stressing all-black cosmetics with narrower bezel trimming and below screen, recessed speaker placement.
The look is designed to have special appeal to women looking to fit a new TV into their room décor.
At the same time, Hitachi's 1080i (ALiS) approach to the "Full1080" story is offering more aggressive pricing for the broader range of consumers looking to enter the flat-panel market this year, he said.
"We are looking to ensure the right quality at the right price for all Hitachi products this year," Lee said.