Hitachi’s internal ATSC tuner handled reception in my difficult area pretty well. Only an LG set with next-generation ATSC tuner technology has done significantly better. Channel surfing was relatively fast. Over-the-air HD varied from good to great (depending on program), with low-rez stations sometimes looking quite good as well. Oddly enough, edge enhancement with the built-in tuner never seemed to be excessive. Darker programs (particularly non-HD) were still far from stunning, however, and darker, poorer-quality standard TV looked significantly worse than CRT-based RPTVs.
Sitting very close to the screen (closer than six feet) produced a very distinct “screen-door effect” and made other screen-related artifacts visible. I’d recommend a minimum viewing distance of eight-to-ten feet if you’ve got sharp vision. (CRT and DLP sets can be watched from closer distances.) While I was never bothered by blurring during scenes of fast motion (a common LCD problem in the past), I did often notice motion artifacts on aerial pans, although that may well be a problem inherent in 1080i itself.
While it’s not as thin or bright as some plasmas, Hitachi’s 50VX915 is still way thinner, lighter, sharper, brighter, and potentially more trouble-free than CRT rear-projection sets. And while it’s not as bright and vivid as its closest direct competitor, it makes up for that with slightly better dark scene detail and a decent factory setup. Its price is fairly high at $4899, but its styling is superb and the list of features leaves little to be desired.
LCD technology has many advantages (particularly the replaceable lamp and resistance to screen burn), but until now it’s been excellent only for bright program material. While the 50VX915 still can’t match trusty old CRT sets for dark programs and home theater, it definitely closes the gap a bit and almost always looks better than CRT with brighter stuff when the lights are on. The comparison to the Sony really never produced an overall handsdown winner—only differences that would favor one sort of viewing over another. For my own typical viewing (brighter, more vivid programs— sports, news, often with lights on), I usually preferred the Sony, and that preference held on darker programs from regular cable or satellite as well. Some of this undoubtedly was because of my personal dislike for Hitachi’s purplish color of “black.” (This may not annoy you.)
So, are LCD projection TVs unsuitable as high-performance video displays? I don’t think so. In fact, this Hitachi set will fit many home decors, budgets, and viewing habits very well in this price and size range. It’s not perfect, yet neither are the other technologies. The 50VX915 has more strengths than weaknesses and should support a wide range of TV viewers. Just so you don’t get the wrong idea, I’ll finish by saying again that this set often looks very, very good. Now that I’ve told you what to look for, go make your own comparisons based on what you watch, and then decide for yourself.