Hitachi 49HGT69U review

4K UHD TVs have now gone mainstream. What was once an indulgence for deep pocketed AV enthusiasts now hardly commands a price premium at all. Large-screen televisions are migrating from 1980x1080 pixels to 3840x2160 pixels, whether you like it or not, and the Hitachi 49HGT69U is a case in point. See also: Everything you need to know about 4K

Hitachi 49HGT69U review: price

This sizable UHD TV has a high street list price of £499, but is available for less from your local catalogue retailer: you can buy the Hitachi 49HGT69U for £469.99 from Argos. It looks something of a steal, but what sort of UHD telly do you really get for your cash?

See also: Best 4K TVs to buy in 2016

Hitachi 49HGT69U review: Features and design

Design wise, this 49-incher is perfectly civil. The screen has a thin black bezel, while the frame glints with a chrome trim. Two non-adjustable plastic feet keeps things upright, and are removable for wall mounting.

Hitachi 49HGT69U review

There are four HDMI inputs, all of which are HDCP 2.2 enabled. This is important as it means you can run 4K content sources into all four inputs, which in a year or so will seem a boon. There are also three USBs, PC VGA, component and composite inputs, plus SCART via an adaptor. An optical digital audio output is available for a soundbar or AV system, plus phono sub-woofer out, a CI slot and Ethernet LAN. Integrated Wi-Fi is dual band, and so will connect to your (compatible) router on either 2.4- or 5GHz.

The user interface is clean and simple. The main menu is a vertical bar featuring Picture, Sound, Settings, Installation, Channel List and Media Browser tabs. The tuner is a Freeview HD. Unhelpfully, the programme guide blocks the picture image and mutes live audio, rather than putting what you're watching in a small window in the corner like many TVs do.

Hitachi 49HGT69U review

The TV has a network Media player, but it’s a tad ineffectual. While it sees connected media servers (Plex, Twonky), it doesn’t play MKV and AVI files. Things improve when browsing a USB stick. From a USB drive the Hitachi plays ball with all of the main audio and video codecs and wrappers, including MKV, MOV, MPEG, WMV, MP3, WMA and AAC.

The set’s connected SmarTVue platform is somewhat dated in appearance, but does support 4K streams from Netflix, which is a big win. There’s also BBC iPlayer YouTube, BBC News and Sports, Flickr and Viewster, plus some social media apps and casual games. Both YouTube and Netflix can be accessed directly from the remote control. You'll note that there are no other UK catch-up services, such as All 4, Demand 5 or ITV Hub.

 Hitachi 49HGT69U review

Hitachi 49HGT69U review: Performance

Picture quality is consistently good with HD content, and looks great with 4K Netflix streams. There’s a reasonable black level, allied to decent shadow detail and a rich colour palette. Marco Polo (Netflix 4K) is full of sumptuous detail and texture, which the set makes good use of. The edge-lighting leads to some light blooming around the frame, but it’s not overly intrusive.

Image presets comprise Normal, Sports, Dynamic and Natural. They don’t perform exactly as you might expect though. Contrary to expectation, the Cinema mode is arguably the best saturated and dynamic of the lot (it’s usually the flattest). Dynamic is a surprisingly good watch too, if you ease back Dynamic Contrast. You won’t find any clever image smoothing processing onboard, but that’s fine, as it means there are no motion artefacts to contend with either. Motion handling is good, certainly better than we’ve seen on Hisense’s rival budget champ, the K321.

One key setting you’ll want to disable is the Energy Saving mode. This dims the image to an almost sludge like tonality. Given that the set barely sucks more than 100W from the mains anyway, this particular ‘green tax’ can be avoided.

Unsurprisingly, the set doesn’t support HDR (High Dynamic Range) content - it doesn't have an Ultra HD Premium badge - so you won’t benefit from the bright peak highlights or smoother, deeper colours available from a 4K Blu-ray player. But there’s no real shortage of visual pop.

Sound wise, the TV makes a fulsome enough noise, not least because DTS TruSurround DSP processing adds weight to the midrange, which is good for clear voices.

Hitachi 49HGT69U: Specs

  • Screen size/resolution: 49in, 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Contrast ratio: 1200:1
  • Brightness: 350cd/m2
  • Speakers: 20w (2 x 10W)
  • Built-in tuner: Freeview HD
  • EPG: 7-day
  • Inputs: 4 x HDMI v2.0, PC VGA, Component/composite (SCART via adaptor)
  • Outputs: Digital audio coaxial, headphone jack
  • Networking: 10/100 Ethernet, Dual band Wi-Fi built-in
  • Ports and slots: 1 x USB 2.0/ 2 x USB 3.0, CI slot
  • Physical dimensions (w/ feet): 1100 x 697 x 276mm (w/h/d)
  • Weight: 14.5kg
  • Average power consumption: 97W (100 per cent colour bars), A+ Energy rating
  • Warranty: 1 year return-to-base
  • Screen size/resolution: 49in, 3840 x 2160 pixels
  • Contrast ratio: 1200:1
  • Brightness: 350cd/m2
  • Speakers: 20w (2 x 10W)
  • Built-in tuner: Freeview HD
  • EPG: 7-day
  • Inputs: 4 x HDMI v2.0, PC VGA, Component/composite (SCART via adaptor)
  • Outputs: Digital audio coaxial, headphone jack
  • Networking: 10/100 Ethernet, Dual band Wi-Fi built-in
  • Ports and slots: 1 x USB 2.0/ 2 x USB 3.0, CI slot
  • Physical dimensions (w/ feet): 1100 x 697 x 276mm (w/h/d)
  • Weight: 14.5kg
  • Average power consumption: 97W (100 per cent colour bars), A+ Energy rating
  • Warranty: 1 year return-to-base

OUR VERDICT

For less than £500, it’s easy to recommend Hitachi’s 49HGT69U. We rate it a solid budget bet. It looks great with Netflix 4K, and the panel gives a good account of HD sources too. The TV’s biggest weakness is the connected platform, SmartVue. This looks pretty thin and clunky compared to the Android TV or LG webOS. Overall though, this Hitachi can be considered solid value.