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Hitachi Bows $2,500 50W" '1,080' Plasma

1/08/2007 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Hitachi makes its return to the main floor of International CES (Central Hall, 11906) this year by showcasing an under-$2,500 50W-inch plasma display with "1,080 resolution."

Hitachi is calling its P50H401 "the world's first 50W-inch 1,080 plasma TV for under $2,500." It will ship to retail at the end of February.

The high-definition set uses the newest iteration of Hitachi's Alternate Lighting of Surfaces (ALiS) technology, called "HD 1,080."

The system delivers full 1,080 lines of top to bottom resolution found in the 1,080p format, but 1,280 lines across the screen, short of the 1,080p format's 1,920 lines.

The panel produces 1.3 million pixels, compared with many competitive HD panels with 1 million total pixels.

"Technically speaking, the [ALiS] system uses interlacing techniques because we are sharing electrodes between the vertical pixels, and by addressing them very rapidly we are firing each cell from above, below and behind," said Bill Whalen, Hitachi's senior product marketing manager. "Because we have over 1,300 patents in plasma technology, we have kind of locked up the ability to share those electrodes."

Whalen said Hitachi chose to deliver a 1,080 format, because 38 networks have chosen the 1,080 [interlaced] high-definition format for their signals, said Whalen.

"Because we match up line-for-line vertically, that means we don't have to scale the image vertically, reducing the chance of image artifacts. 1,080 gives you 25 percent more resolution than a typical 768 panel and little bit more than that for a 720 panel," he said.

The set will include three HDMI inputs, each capable of accepting 1,080p signals. The set will scale down the 1,920 horizontal lines to 1,280, Whalen acknowledged, "but the trade-off is we get a brighter image when we do that."

Whalen said the set will be "broadly distributed" to retail chains with assisted selling floors.

The P50H401 will join a five-model H series that also includes a 55W-inch 768p plasma set, a new 42W-inch model employing the same 1,080 ALiS technology as the 50W-inch model.

The two remaining H series models use high-definition 1,366 by 768p LCD panels. The L37H201 offers a 37W-inch screen and L32H201 32W-inch screen. Pricing on other H series models will be announced closer to their second-quarter ship dates, Whalen said.

All H series models all share a new industrial design featuring a black bezel with a silver and gray trim. Speakers have been recessed into the cabinet and moved below the screen to minimize the width of the 16:9 frame, offering more flexible placement options, Whalen said.

Features include three Simplay HD certified HDMI inputs, and a fourth-generation 1,080p video processing engine called Picture Master IV that matches pixels precisely to the panel. The LCD models will employ IPS-Alpha 120Hz technology to minimize image blurring in fast-motion sequences.

The company is also introducing a pair of hybrid DVD/HDD camcorders that will let consumers burn videos captured on the hard drive to DVD right in the camcorder without a PC.

The DZ-HS300A has an 8GB HDD that records up to three hours in fine quality on the drive and consumers can make dupes directly to the built-in DVD drive. It features DVD-RAM, -R-/RW and +RW formats plus there's an SD slot for photos. It's due in January for a $599 suggested retail. The DZ-HS500 has a 30GB drive and is due in April at $799.

Other products to be shown include three 1,080p LCD rear-projection sets in the 50W-inch, 55W-inch and 62W-inch screen sizes. Availability is planned for the late second quarter at pricing to be announced.