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Hitachi Introduces Cable-Ready HDTVs

Hitachi will be among the first vendors to ship fully integrated HDTV sets equipped with built-in smart card slots for uni-directional reception of scrambled and basic cable TV services.

The company met with the press here to unveil its 2003-04 TV line, which is now entirely digital. Highlights included an expanded lineup of fully integrated CRT-based rear-projection HDTVs, including two with built-in cable plug-and-play systems that include slots for Point of Deployment (POD) security access cards that will be supplied by cable operators.

The company also announced a pair of HDTV rear-projection monitors based on a three-chip LCD light engine, replacing earlier aborted attempts at LCD and DLP rear-projection TV technology.

Still not in the lineup are LCoS-based systems, despite the fact that LCoS panels are one of the parent company’s core technologies. Hitachi executives said the company plans to enter the LCoS waters when the market and pricing are ready.

As for fully integrated CRT sets, Hitachi marketing VP Leo Delaney said the company is tentatively planning to ship the uni-directional “digital cable-ready” models in October. Those plans could change, he added, if the Federal Communications Commission continues to delay its approval of a cable plug-and-play system and/or POD cards remain unavailable through cable operators.

Delaney said Hitachi is about to begin field trials of the cable ready sets, and may have to structure distribution and promotion around cable territories that have cable providers who are prepared to support the POD smart-card feature.

The POD capability adds roughly a $700 premium over similarly featured integrated sets that omit cable plug-and-play compatibility.

Thus far only Hitachi and Panasonic have announced their intentions to offer POD-enabled digital television sets this year. Panasonic first discussed POD TVs at CES and showed prototype cable-ready models at the recent NCTA Show. Panasonic affirmed plans to introduce two cable-ready CRT rear-projection HDTVs in September, with) four cable-ready models — two CRT-based and two LCD-based rear-projection HD sets — in October.

Hitachi’s digital cable-ready fully integrated models include the 65W-inch 65T750 ($3,999.99 suggested retail) and the 57T750 ($4,499.99), which are both part of the Ultravision Digital series. All integrated models this year include both IEEE-1394 with DTCP and DVI with HDCP digital interfaces and two HD component video inputs.

All Ultravision Digital series models (integrated and monitors) this year will include Hitachi’s new VirtualHD 1080p digital video processor. The processor up-converts all incoming non-1,080i signals to 1,080p format and then scales down the signal to either a user-selectable 1,080i or 540p format for display on CRT screens. In the case of LCD rear-projection models and flat-panel displays, the image is scaled down from 1080p to meet the native display capability of the TV.

The VirtualHD 1,080p system reduces artifacts and adds 3:2 pull-down film correction, 26-point video processing, six new aspect ratio modes, HD zoom and pure digital color management.

Hitachi will also offer in the third quarter three fully integrated HDTV rear-projection sets without POD digital cable-TV capability in its Ultravision Digital S700 series. Also included are ATSC over-the-air tuner decoders and QAM digital cable demodulation for receiving non-scrambled programming.

Integrated models include the 65W-inch 65S700 ($4,199.99), the 57W-inch 57S700 ($3,699.99) and 51W-inch 51S700 ($3,399.99). All will ship in the third quarter.

Three models with 65W-inch, 57W-inch and 51W-inch screen sizes represent the S500 series of Ultravision Digital HDTV CRT rear-projection monitors. Shipping in the third quarter, the HDTV displays will be priced at $3,799.99, $3,299.99 and $2,999.99, respectively. All have VirtualHD 1,080p video processing, five-element CRT lenses and DVI-HDCP digital video inputs.

The tabletop 46W500 CRT rear-projection HD monitor also includes the VirtualHD 1,080p processor, and includes a built-in DVD player. It features DVI-HDCP input and will ship in the third quarter at a $2,399.99 suggested retail.

Three models in the “affordable” F500 CRT rear projection series are shipping now and incorporate Hitachi’s VirtualHD 1,080i video processing and DVI-HDCP inputs. Screen sizes include 57W inches ($2,999.99), 51 inches ($2,499.99) and 46 inches ($2,099.99).

Hitachi will continue to carry two 4:3 CRT rear-projection HDTV monitors in the new F300 Series. Both use VirtualHD 1,080i processing and omit any digital input terminals. Both will ship in the third quarter at suggested retails of $2,099.99 and $1,799.99, respectively.

Hitachi’s new LCD-based rear projection HDTV monitors include the 60W-inch 60V500 ($4,499.99) and the 50W-inch 50V500 ($3,799). Both models are part of the Ultravision Digital Series and offer new VirtualHD 1080p system, DVI-HDCP inputs and an improved lens system that was said to out perform Sony’s Grand Wega models in contrast. Models feature a sleek, silver metallic cabinet design.

The company will continue to offer three plasma-display panels including the 32W-inch 32HDT50 (ships in the third quarter at $5,999.99), the 42W-inch 42HDT50 (ships in the third quarter at $7,999) and the 50W-inch 50HDT50 (ships in the second quarter at $10,999.99). All use VirtualHD 1,080p processing. The two smaller models employ the ALiS display system.

The 50W-inch model produces 1,280 by 768 resolution, while the 32W-inch model is listed at 1,024 by 852, and the 42W-inch is listed at 1,024 by 1,024 resolution.