By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Hitachi unveiled an expanded assortment of widescreen HDTV rear-projection displays for the press, including three fully integrated HDTV sets, which marks the company's return to that market segment.
This time, Hitachi's integrated HDTV sets, which feature tuning circuitry developed by Hitachi, omit DirecTV reception but include ATSC and NTSC tuners and support for 64 and 256 QAM digital cable demodulation. The original Hitachi integrated set incorporated digital decoding circuitry developed by its then partner Thomson.
"We have developed in these models an HD display that is perfectly matched to the quality of the available DTV signals." Delaney said. "That is a little different than the approach some other manufacturers are taking. Industry wide there is an effort to reduce costs as much as possible to get more volume produced. But in so doing, product planners have to be cautious about mismatching the performance of their display with the quality of the available signal."
Delaney explained that Hitachi dropped its first integrated set after the first model run due to premature market timing. He said the expanded number of digital television (DTV) stations on the air and the growing number programs offered in high definition signaled Hitachi's re-emergence with integrated solutions.
Additionally, he said Hitachi feels integrated sets will quickly develop into the dominant form factor for HDTV purchases as the two-piece component approach is gradually replaced. As a result, Hitachi decided to focus its resources in developing HDTV sets for this model lineup to the exclusion of a new set-top DTV decoder box.
The three integrated sets will be offered in the UltraVision XWX series starting in September. The series includes the 51W-inch ($4,299.99 suggested retail price) 57W-inch ($4,799.99) and 65W-inch ($5,299.99) screen sizes.
All use Hitachi's top-of-the-line digital chassis, and include both a Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connection with HDCP content protection and an IEEE-1394 (iLINK) interface with DTCP content protection. The dual digital connections are also included in the company's SWX and UWX series of widescreen DTV monitors.
The digital connections will support a direct digital link to next-generation digital set-top boxes and digital recorders, although Hitachi has no immediate plans to deliver such products itself.
The sets also include new wide-neck CRTs with a five-element lens system using Hitachi optics to produce a 0.52 dot pitch. Also added is a deep black anti-reflective protective screen that is said to absorb 80 percent of reflected room light.
The company's VirtualHD signal processing and MagicFocus automatic convergence systems are included, and for the first time Hitachi is offering a 117-point manual digital convergence set-up for users who wish to tweak their sets.
Hitachi omitted HAVi interoperability control on the 1394 interface, but does include AVC basic level device recognition and operation.
Instead of offering more advanced support for wired networks at this time, Hitachi (a HAVi development committee member) has included in its XWX series HDTV sets and SWX HDTV monitors a more basic wireless system called IRNet AV network that uses infrared signals and a series of onscreen soft-key controls. The set up uses the digital television as a central control hub in a home theater room to command up to four connected components via a single, ultra-small 13-key remote control.
Delaney said Hitachi designed the onscreen menu to be as intuitively easy to operate as possible, omitting jargon and passive onscreen labels that intimidate some users. It also dispenses with multi-layered operational commands that make multi-component controls difficult to navigate.
The UltraVision SWX high-end HDTV rear projection monitor line will start to ship in July and also includes the 51W-inch ($2,999.99), 57W-inch ($3,499.99) and 65W-inch ($3,999.99) screen sizes. SWX models incorporate most of the features of the XWX line except for the integrated tuner.
The UWX series of widescreen HDTV rear projection monitors includes the 51W-inch ($2,499.99) and 57W-inch ($2,999.99) screen sizes. Both will ship in August. The series incorporates Magic Focus automatic convergence and 117-point manual convergence, VirtualHD video processing, new five-element lens system with 0.52 dot pitch, high brightness CRTs, and a high contrast shield.
The 43FWX20B ($2,399.99) is the lone table-top model in the series. The HDTV monitor, which ships in July, features VirtualHD circuitry, improved Magic Focus, 117-point manual fine-tuning and a high-brightness five-element lens system. Also included is a high-contrast 0.52mm fine-pitch screen, a first-surface mirror, a high-contrast shield, and a high-output CRT. Two sets of component video inputs are offered, but the DVI and 1394 digital connectors included in the other series are omitted.
As previously announced, Hitachi will also offer three 4:3 DTV monitors in the SDX and FDX series this year. The SDX line offers a 53-inch model ($2,699.99) with a super contrast five-element lens system. The FDX line offers two models in the 43-inch ($1,799.99) and 53-inch ($2,399.99) screen sizes.
Hitachi will also continue to offer its dealers three analog rear projection television sets — two 50-inch ($1,399.99 and $1,499.99) and a 60-inch ($1,799.99) — in the FX and DX series.
Additionally, Hitachi showed a pair of plasma display panels it recently began shipping to consumer electronics retailers. The panels include the 32W-inch ($5,999.99) and 42W-inch ($7,999.99) screen sizes. The panels were produced at the joint FHP (Fujitsu/Hitach Plasma), factory in Kyushu, Japan. The panels are shipped to Hitachi's factory in Northern Mexico for final assembly.
As previously announced, Hitachi will also offer four 4:3 DTV monitors this year (two models in each of the 43- and 53-inch screen sizes).
Hitachi will also continue to offer its deals three analog rear projection television sets — two 50-inch ($1,399.99 and $1,499.99) and a 60-inch ($1,799.99) —
The panels employ a two-piece modular approach. Analog NTSC tuning circuitry, video processing and scaling and a jack pack are housed in a separate control center, which connects to the panel with a single cable.
Delaney explained the 32W-inch screen size was developed initially for the Japanese market, where smaller living space requires more compact designs. But he said the screen size should also appeal to U.S. consumers in smaller homes and apartments.
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