There’s no shortage of affordable HDTVs these days, but you have to shop carefully to find a model that balances performance, features, and value. Hitachi’s LES606 series ($899 list for the 46-inch LE46S606) is certainly affordable, but it suffers from performance issues and misses the mark when it comes to features. Its LED-backlit screen is bright and looks good from most angles, and its brushed metal accents and slim profile are aesthetically pleasing, but there are better deals to be had in this price range.
Editor’s Note: This review is based on tests performed on the LE46S606, the 46-inch version of the series. Besides the screen size difference, the $699 42-inch LE42S606 is identical in features, and while we didn’t perform lab tests on this specific model, we expect similar performance.
Design and Features
With its thin brushed aluminum bezels and slender 1.4-inch-thick black cabinet, the LE46S606 is one fine-looking HDTV. A strip of black trim beneath the bottom bezel bears an UltraVision badge on the left and a silver Hitachi logo in the center. The black and brushed metal stand provides plenty of support for the 32-pound cabinet, but it does not swivel.
On the right edge of the cabinet are Menu, Channel, Volume, Input, and Power buttons. On the back, four HDMI ports, an RGB/DVI audio input, an audio output, and a USB port face left. Component and PC inputs, a coaxial cable connection, and an optical audio output face down on the back of the screen. One of the HDMI ports doubles as an MHL (Mobile High Definition Link) port that allows you to stream HD content directly from a smartphone or tablet, and makes the HDTV “Roku Ready” and capable of supporting the Roku Stick, to add connected features.
There’s no denying this is a bare-bones HDTV. It’s not 3D capable, nor does it have a LAN port or wireless networking capabilities. As such, there aren’t any Web apps either. However, since it’s Roku Ready, you can purchase a Roku Stick for around $100, plug it into the HDMI/MHL port, and get the full catalog of Roku streaming services, including Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, and HBO Go. This bumps the price up to $1,000, which is enough to get the larger 60-inch Vizio E601I-A3, which offers plenty of connectivity features in the HDTV itself without needing to plug anything else in.
The set comes with a glossy black remote that is 9 inches long and tapered on the bottom. It has 44 buttons and a 4-way rocker switch, none of which are backlit. The wand fits nicely in your hand, but its response time felt a bit sluggish in my tests.
The on-screen menu system is easy to navigate, since there aren’t any online features to manage. The Video menu offers six preset picture modes (Standard, Dynamic, Pro-Day, Pro-Night, Game, and Custom), which are optimized for viewing specific content in various lighting environments. The Pro-Night mode comes closest to the Cinema Mode found on most HDTVs but if you use this setting be sure to turn off the Reel 120 Motion setting that makes your movies to look like they were shot on a home camcorder.
Other basic settings include Brightness, Contrast, and Color. In the Advanced Settings menu you can adjust color temperature, enable 120Hz processing and noise reduction, and tweak tint, sharpness, white balance, and dynamic gamma. The audio menu offers six sound modes (Standard, Movie, Music, News, Custom, Equalizer), bass and treble controls, and a Perfect Volume option that automatically adjusts the volume level for each channel and video source.
Performance was mixed. The LE46S606 delivered a sharp, highly detailed 1080p picture with wide viewing angles, but its color accuracy was slightly skewed. As shown in the CIE chart below, the panel’s red, green, and blue color reproduction all miss the mark, with greens appearing significantly skewed. The oversaturated green levels and under-saturated reds were apparent while watching The Bourne Legacy on Blu-ray; skin tones were a bit drab, and although they weren’t tinted green, they were not quite as warm as they should be. To be fair, poor color accuracy can usually be corrected via calibration, but the majority of the HDTVs we test are accurate out of the box.
We test HDTVs using a Konica Minolta CS-200 Chroma Meter, images from the DisplayMate HDTV diagnostic suite, and SpectraCal’s CalMAN software. After a basic darkroom calibration the set produced an impressive peak brightness of 258.75 cd/m2 (candelas per square meter), but its black level reading was a bit high at 0.06 cd/m2. That gives the LE46S606 a measured contrast ratio of 4,312:1, which is low, but not uncommon for a budget HDTV. To compare, the aforementioned Vizio E601I-A3 produced a contrast ratio of 5,017:1.
You don’t get any Power Saving settings other than an Energy option that lets you choose between home and retail modes (retail mode is also known as torch mode as nearly every setting is cranked up). It used 79 watts of power during testing in home mode, which is about average for an LED backlit screen of this size. The 55-inch LG 55LM6700, on the other hand, uses only 67 watts and it has a much larger screen.
With the Hitachi LE46S606 you get a highly detailed 1080p picture that’s bright and looks good from any angle. Its metallic trim and thin cabinet design will add a touch of style to any room, too. That said, the LE46S606 has color accuracy issues, and its contrast ratio is mediocre at best. And, while it is reasonably priced, it lacks many of the features found on similarly priced budget HDTVs, including Vizio’s E601I-A3, which has a much larger screen and Internet connectivity. For the best bang for your buck, check out our current Editors’ Choice for budget plasma HDTVs, the 51-inch Samsung PN51E490B4F, which comes with 3D glasses, and costs just $689.99.
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|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, USB|
|Diagonal Screen Size||42 inches|
|Pixel Refresh Rate Speed||120Hz|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc