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HITACHI CL32PD2100 £2500



Whereas a lot of plasma panels manufacturers have come to the home entertainment market via the corporate and commercial display sectors Hitachi’s long history in building televisions for the home is clearly evident on the CL32PD2100. You don’t have to learn any new tricks, buy any extras, just plug it in and go. It even looks a like a regular TV – from the front at least -- the speakers are part of the casework, the instructions are just like a normal TV manual and it even comes with a smart-looking rotating table stand attached so just about anyone should be able to get it up and running without expert help.



A tuner box or AVC unit (audio-video control) is included, which is just as well as the panel only has one proprietary socket to handle all of the audio, video and control signals, plus a connector for a mains cable and sub-woofer output, so installation is very quick On the box there’s three SCART connectors, variously configured for composite, S-Video and RGB inputs. There’s also a set of AV inputs on the front of the AVC unit, behind a drop down flap. Everything is controlled from a very simple on-screen menu display which makes it easy to set up and use.  



In addition to the multiband TV tuner you also get a NICAM stereo sound and teletext functions thrown in for good measure. There’s also a built in 10 + 10 watt stereo amp, to drive the built-in speakers and it is ViewLink compatible, which means it can communicate with suitably equipped VCRs for downloading tuner information and make use of facilities like one-touch ‘what you see is what you record’.  The 32-inch panel is a silent, fan-less design with a native resolution of 852 x 480 pixels and a good brightness figure of 650cd/m2 but the contrast ratio is on the low side, at just 300:1 which basically means a great looking picture on brightly-lit interiors and outdoor scenes but it struggles to render detail in dark or gloomy sequences, and at the point it gives up darker areas of the picture descend into a murky mush.


The speakers deliver a crisp and detailed sound but with very little bass content (it’s worth investing in a sub-woofer); it is fine for watching TV programmes but you will want to fire up the AV amp for DVD and serious satellite or tape viewing.



Hitachi has got the teccy side of things and the presentation well sorted, it’s no more difficult to use than an ordinary TV, in fact the only significant difference is the separate tuner box but even that’s a doddle to set up. Picture quality can be very good but like a lot of first and second generation panels it’s let down by a narrow contrast range, it only shows up now and again – more so if you watch a lot of gloomy movies – but it’s liveable, especially in view of the currently low price, though you might want to check out Hitachi’s new range of plasmas – due out first quarter 2003 -- which have a noticeably crisper picture!


HITACHI CL32PD2100    

Price                 £2500

Screen size            32-inches

Resolution            852 x 480 pixels

Contr. ratio             300:1

Brightness             650cd/m2

Features            PAL/SECAM/NTSC operation, tuner box (NICAM & teletext decoders, owner ID) supplied, VGA, composite, S-Video & RGB video inputs, 3D sound, built in 10 watt stereo amp & speakers

Dimensions            974 x 256 x 578mm

Weight  26kg

Contact             Hitachi 0345 581455, www.hitachitv.com




SONY KZ-42TS1 £5,700



With so much time and effort invested in the development of the Trinitron picture tube, resulting in some truly classic CRT-based televisions, it’s not too surprising that Sony has only recently got around to new-fangled plasma screen technology. It’s been worth the wait though, and Sony has clearly learned a lot of lessons sitting on the sidelines. One that will be welcomed by everyone is putting everything into the one box, including the tuner and giving this very imposing 42-incher a most impressive array of input and display options.


The elegant eye-catching styling is also very typical of Sony and the narrow brushed silver surround, with a set of controls on the top and a row of speakers mounted below the screen, should fit in easily with most types of contemporary décor. It comes with a tabletop stand; an imposing (and enormously heavy) matching stand with thick glass shelves is also available.



Having the tuner built-in makes life very easy indeed, just plug in an aerial, select the auto setup from the on-screen menu and it’s ready to go in just a couple of minutes. Connection with a very wide range of AV source components couldn’t be simpler. It has three SCART sockets that can handle a mixture of composite video, S-Video and RGB signals; there are also separate AV, composite and S-Video sockets plus a bank of component video inputs for RGB, progressive scan and high definition video. Sockets are also provided for a sub-woofer output and Sony’s Proprietary Control S wired remote control system. The only omission is a PC/VGA input, which probably won’t concern most home users but may limit its appeal in other display markets.  



The screen is based on a 1024 x 1024 pixel display, which is a big step up from the near-standard 852 x 480 pixel panels used by most other manufacturers. Contrast ratio is an unremarkable 500:1 and whilst Sony hasn’t published brightness figures our early sample suggests that it’s in the higher than average 500 to 700cd/m2 range. The tuner has a teletext decoder, a NICAM stereo sound, there’s also pseudo surround plus a very comprehensive set of picture settings and adjustments.


Picture performance is good, very good in fact for a plasma screen but not, perhaps, the smack-between-the-eyes quality we’ve come to expect from other Sony video display devices. Colours can look a bit muddy in dimly-lit scenes and you are occasionally aware of the heavy-duty ‘Real Digital’ processing going on in the background, especially when watching DVD sequences containing a lot of rapid movement or sudden changes in brightness. Nevertheless it is a great looking picture. It is bright, detailed, colours are mostly lifelike and there’s negligible noise or artefacts. Sound quality is as good as can be expected from small, close-set speakers; you will want to make other audio arrangements but they’re okay for monitoring or watching sonically undemanding TV programmes.



This is what we’ve been waiting for! As promised the KZ-42 is a genuine ‘plug-and-play’ plasma, with the ‘feel’ of a proper TV. Picture quality is a definite notch up on most of its rivals and it looks stunning, all of which is reflected in the price, but if you can afford it, check it out.



Price                 £5,700

Screen size            42-inches

Resolution            1024 x 1024 pixels

Contr. ratio             500:1

Brightness             TBC

Features            PAL/SECAM/NTSC operation, VGA, RGB, component (480i, 480p, 720p & 1080i) & composite video inputs, Real Digital processing, built in speakers, 3D sound, 100Hz flicker free, built-in tuner, teletext, smart zoom, timer functions, 2 x 9 watt amplification

Dimensions            1056 x 764 x 124mm

Weight  37.5kg

Contact             Sony 08705 111999, www.sony.co.uk




Ó R. Maybury 2002, 2711




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