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Hitachi Launches Flat-Panel Lines

5/30/2006 08:54:00 AM Eastern

New York — Hitachi is introducing a new 16-bit video processing system across its flat-panel plasma, LCD and microdisplay rear-projection lines this year, while reducing SKUs and prices in CRT rear-projection models.

The company used a line review for the press to introduce its proprietary PictureMaster HD III 16-bit 1,080p video processing system, which is receiving a name change from the VirtualHD 1,080p system used in last year’s models.

Flat-panel plasma sets will be offered in four product series while LCD TVs are offered in two product series. LCD- and CRT-based rear-projection HDTV sets have been scaled back to single lines with three models, each.

LCD-based rear-projection models are offered in the 62W-inch, 55W-inch and 50W-inch screen sizes, while CRT-based models come in 65W-inch, 57W-inch and 51W-inch sizes.

Although the company has shown prototype 1,080p plasma displays since last year, it will not deliver that technology until next year, said Bill Whalen, senior product marketing manager in the consumer products group of Hitachi’s ubiquitous platforms systems division. He said the company is striving to increase pixel density and reduce power consumption levels to make 1,080p practical, adding that “you will see a variety of resolution levels from us next year, including 1,080p.”

Also in 2007, the company expects to ship a 50W-inch plasma model, which didn’t make it this year “because we couldn’t get the walls up on the factory fast enough,” Whalen said. The company’s first 50W-inch models will likely ship in Japan by the end of this year, he added.

Highlighting the line is Hitachi’s UltraVision Director’s series flat-panel TVs. The four-model line offering consists of 55W-inch and 42W-inch HD plasma sets and 37W-inch and 32W-inch HD LCD TV sets.

All Director’s Series models, which continue to have limited distribution to A/V specialty dealers and installers, feature three HDMI inputs, three component video inputs, ATSC/NTSC tuning, CableCARD slot and TV Guide On Screen electronic program guide. The plasma models will add IEEE-1394 inputs.

One of the highlights of the line is the 42W-inch 42HDX99 (shipping in August at a $3,499 suggested retail) high-definition plasma set, which is billed as “the highest resolution 42W-inch plasma TV in the market,” with 1,080i resolution.

Panel pixel count is said to be 1,024 by 1,080, and Hitachi employs its Alternate Lighting of Surfaces (ALiS) technology to achieve the performance level.

Whalen said the panel offers the smallest pixel pitch in the industry for plasma, and is able to maintain power efficiency through the ALiS pixel-addressing technology that uses one addressed electrode in between each pixel.

“All other manufacturers use two,” Whalen said. “This has a lot of advantages over the 1,080i that you see in CRTs because we are firing the entire panel at one time, so there are no visible artifacts from the 1,080 interlacing.”

The panel is said to be 17 percent brighter than last year and consumes 16 percent less electricity.

The 55W-inch 55HDX99 model (shipping in August at a $5,299 suggested retail) offers 1,365 by 768 resolution and another version of ALiS pixel-addressing technology.

“A lot of manufacturers take the 540 field (in a 1,080i signal) and up-convert it to 768. That requires a lot of interpolation, a lot of guessing, and you can guess wrong. We take the 768 signal, de-interlace it up to 1,080p and then we can scale it to 768 for maximum detail,” said Whalen.

All of the Hitachi’s new plasma models also have extended color reproduction capabilities.

The Director’s Series LCD models will begin shipping in October, first with the 37W-inch 37HLX99 ($2,999), and in November with the 32W-inch 32HLX99 ($2,499).

All panels for the LCD TVs this year are produced at Hitachi’s joint venture IPS-Alpha factory and feature 120Hz panels. Hitachi declined to quote response time and view-angle specifications, saying that competitors play with numbers and fail to conform to a true standard for realistic comparison.

“Our LCD response time is as close to plasma without being plasma,” Whalen said.

Hitachi will also feature 32W-inch ($2,199) and 37W-inch ($2,699) LCD TV models in its UltraVision T Series. Both feature 120Hz (120 frames per second) refresh rates, which Whalen said is twice as fast a previous models, and improves response time and motion clarity.

T-Series LCD models are distinguished by their black-finish trim frames with titanium gray lower speaker panels and matching swivel stands.

Features include side-panel menu controls, a preprogrammed illuminated remote control, day and night memory by input with timer, new day dynamic picture memory, three-language onscreen display, parental locks, on/sleep timers, auto link input sensor, discrete IR codes and three HDMI and component inputs each.

Plasma models in the series include the 55W-inch 55HDT79 ($4,799) and 42W-inch 42HDT79 ($2,999) and include black frame styling with black side-mounted speakers.

Hitachi will also offer 42W-inch ($2,499) and 55W-inch ($4,299) HD plasma models in its broadly distributed UltraVision S Series.

Both are framed by slim aluminum trim and silver side speakers and include histogram processing, maximum 16-bit/281 trillion color capability, automatic 3:2 film processing, four HD aspect modes, six SD aspect modes and split screen/picture in picture.

Other features include ATSC/NTSC tuning CableCARD slots; day/night picture memory modes; six-speaker, 36-watt audio systems; and manual tabletop swivel stand (optional for 55W-inch).

Also in the line is a broadly distributed 42W-inch 42HDF39 ($2,299 estimated street price) with 1,024 by 1,024 resolution, one HDMI input, and ATSC and NTSC tuning. The product is carried by Wal-Mart and is available to all dealers, Whalen said.

In LCD-based rear-projection TV, the company reduced cabinet width and depth, and introduced charcoal cabinet styling with silver accents. Models include the new up-to-16-bit 1,080p processing, ATSC/NTSC tuning and increased brightness levels. The company also adds a new 62W-inch (shipping now at a $2,699 street retail) screen size to the category. The entry 50W-inch model will ship in July at a $1,799, and the 55W-inch model is currently shipping at a $2,299 street price.

In CRT-based rear-projection TVs, the company will offer a three-model line. Whalen said demand this year has exceeded expectations causing the company to take “a wait-and-see” approach for the future participation. The entry 51W-inch model will carry a new low $999 expected street price.

This year’s CRT rear-projection TVs drop Hitachi’s 1,080p processing circuitry in favor of a lower-cost outsourced solution combined with the tuner, Whalen said.