Pros: Beautiful cabinet. Good analog cable pictures. Two HDMI inputs.
Cons: Small viewing angle even for LCD projection TV.
I bought this 50" ULTRAVISION 50VS810 on 12/7/2005. I have dreamed of plasma TV but I made practical choice. I have used it for one and a half month now.
Here are basic specifications for whom is not familiar with this model;
Assembled in: MEXICO
Type: LCD projection TV
Size: as the model number implies, 50". There are 60" and 70" models too.
Native resolution: 1280 X 768
HDTV tuner: On-board
Hitachi is a well-known company for its heavy industrial product, such as elevators, escalators. Also Hitachi has been strong in consumer electronics. I have asked my Japanese co-worker whether Hitachi is a company and he answered it is decent company, though the top in Japan is Panasonic. Panasonic has a Japanese domestic brand, National. The National brand is said to be better product than Panasonic, the export brand. Therefore Panasonic in U.S. may not be the top electronics brand here.
My family have had a Hitachi fridge and a washing machine. We bought it as used and we sold it as used after 15 years of use. Because of the experience, I have a favor to Hitachi.
Let's take a look of each aspect of this black TV.
1. The design
The design was the hot button when I decided to buy this. There are very few black projection TV on the market. This 50VS810 has flat acrylic glass in front. It looks more like a plasma TV from head on. The speakers on the side make this TV look wider. In fact, HITACHI sells plasma TV which looks very like this projection TV. Even the series name is the same, "ULTRAVISION".
The control buttons and the fifth video input is located on right side face. So front face is very clean. If you have a chance to see it, you will fall in love with it. That's what I did. I shopped a big TV for two months and the day I saw a 50VS810, I came back in the evening and bought one.
The cabinet depth is 15", which is typical for this size projection TV. I can leave only 1" clearance to the wall behind to plug in connections. To be honest, when you shop a projection TV, depth is not a problem because many generic big TV stands are way deeper than the TV itself. The most shallow (with enough width) TV stand I found is 60"X24". If you are not going to buy a matching stand from the same TV brand(which are expensive and impractical), your TV stand will end up being deep enough to place any projection TV on it.
I bought a TV stand from Circuit City. The Bush TV stand at $210 is a bargain for its good quality. Though it took 3 hours for me to assemble, the result was rewarding. I strongly recommend the TV stand.
For me, TV should look good when they are off because a TV serve as a key interior feature of the family room. That's why I did not by SONY 42" or 50" LCD projection (SONY KDF-50WE655.) The price of SONY was good and features were good too but the design was too bland.
The front glazing of the Hitachi is not real glass. As I said, it is acrylic glass, which is treated with anti-glare coating. The coating works and the glazing doesn't glare. Anyway, I have to be careful so that my kids doesn't gouge the plastic.
2. The picture
It is a LCD projection TV. The drawback of LCD projection is that black is not true black. Yes, it is noticeable. When the scene changes with fade-out, I see the screen glows with dark gray instead of true black. It is clear in a pitch black dark room.
The untrue black is unavoidable with LCD projection TV. But the good news is that people rarely watch TV in totally black room. When there is ambient light the LCD's drawback is not noticeable.
There is DLP technology which yields better black. But I am the kind of people who sees the "rainbow effect" with a DLP. The rainbow effect is noticeable when you don't stare the screen. It is found as a red and blue trail following moving objects on a DLP TV screen. I saw the rainbow effect on a new Samsung DLP TV when I checked the picture quality of a TV next to the Samsung. Then I realized I can see the rainbow effect and it may annoy me as long as I have a DLP TV. I erased all DLP TVs from my shopping list at that day.
Pictures from analog signal are very good. My family often watches standard analog cable TV and VHS tapes. Unlike many plasma TV, the picture is not noise flooded nor unnecessarily sharply edged. One of the reason I did not buy a plasma EDTV(720 X 480 resolution screen) is that I found EDTVs have very grainy picture when fed with analog TV signal. The picture was overly digitized and they look like shouting "I am digital screen. Can you see the clearly divided pixels?" High resolution plasma HDTVs are improved in this aspect than EDTV but plasma HDTVs were too expensive for me by the end of year 2004. The least expensive was $4300 at Circuit City...
The 50VS810 has separate picture adjustment for each inputs. Having separate picture settings is very useful to compensate different characteristics of each video source. For example, I reduced sharpness for analog cable TV but left it sharp for DVD from HDMI cable.
There is Day/Night button on the remote. It switches between two picture setting within a input setting. By default the Night setting provides softer picture with less contrast. The Day and Night setting can be adjusted separately for each input. The Day/Night setting can be manually changed using the button on the remote or can be automatically switched by the timer.
There is a thing I cannot skip to mention, the viewing angle. The viewing angle of this 50VS810 is not a strong point. The viewing angle is narrower than any DLPs and SONY LCD. The viewing angle is my only one complaint to this TV. For practical watching, the viewing angle is enough. But the viewing angle get narrower as I stand up(the viewing angle is narrower when my eye is above the center plane than below. I think that's why electronics stores put projection TV higher than customer's eye level to maximize horizontal viewing angle.) When I walk away from my sofa, I am always reminded that what I bought is a projection TV. Well...how happy I would be if it is a plasma TV?(but it's expensive...isn't it?)
3. The sound
There are two speakers on each side. They are tweeter(high frequency speaker) and woofer(low frequency speaker). Thanks to its deep(?) cabinet, the woofer is base reflected. It means there is a port opening which extends the woofer's low frequency limit. The frequency characteristics is fairly flat and comfortable. It is definitely not up to a home theater system but is very good for a speaker system in TV.
The speakers are on side of the screen and as a result stereo separation is very good. The 50VS810 has SRS ambiance expander and BBE bass booster circuit. These circuits work very naturally. It is not like a cheap boombox which radiates overly exaggerated bass. The SRS and BBE can be set in three steps, respectively.
Unfortunately the sound setting is not input-specific. There is only one sound setting which is universal for all sources.
4. The inputs
There are two antennas, five video inputs and a USB photo input. The antenna input is capable to work with internal CableCARD slot. I didn't try it but the CableCARD was one of the key features I sought after when I choose a HDTV. With enough digital inputs and integral HDTV tuner, this TV is future-proof.
Among five video inputs, two are HDMI/component inputs. These inputs are HDMI or component. The rest are S-video or composite(the yellow jacket connector.) Video 5 is on the right side of the TV. There are power switch, 4 menu navigation swtich and some other switches on the right side of the TV too.
The USB photo input is an interesting feature. This 50VS810 has it instead of a memory card slot(SD or Memory Stick.) When a DCF compatible digital picture file is available through the USB port (from a digital camera), the TV can access the camera memory. Almost all digital camera is DCF compatible.
The digital picture is very clear and shown at native screen resolution. The color saturation and resolution is not comparable to the picture from the camera's composite video output.
The TV can show thumbnail list, rotate pictures and run a slideshow.
But, everything is not perfect and this clever connection is not an exception. The data stream over the USB is not as fast as the direct memory card access of some TVs with the card slot. It takes 3~4 seconds to show a 800kB picture. And the DCF connection cannot handle video clips.
5. The remote control
It is a masterpiece. The key stroke is right. The size and spacing of buttons are good too. All buttons are useful.
The channel and volume control is rotating wheel like a computer mouse wheel. It enables fast channel access. These wheels too, give very good clicks and feels rigidly made.
The lower grade 50" HITACHI projection TV (which is not ULTRAVISION) has old design remote. This good remote comes with only Over 50VS810, 60- and 70-.
The range of the remote was not good when I used the supplied HITACHI brand manganese batteries. When I replaced them with DURACEL alkalines the range became good.
6. Fan noise
All projection TV has cooling fan to cool the light source. The fan noise of 50VS810 is not objectionable. I can hear it if I pay attention to the fan. But I become to completely forget the fan when I watch a TV show.
The fan noise is stable and subdue. One bad news is that my fan started to make a little bearing growl noise after a month's household use. I will keep an eye on the fan noise during the warranty period.
I put more emphasis on future-proof and image quality(no pixelized picture) than wide viewing angle of EDTV plasma. I know the technical progress is very fast and that I would not be able to buy any if I wait for the newest technology to be affordable.
I don't like to strongly recommend this 50VS810 to anyone. I would have been happy if I bought a 42" EDTV plasma because of its wide viewing angle. So I don't think I have made absolute choice. But this 50VS810 is a good one, worth considering if you shop for a big TV.