It’s the start of the new TV and home theatre season, and that means that we’re about to get a flood of new products hoping to enter your living room and take over your media watching lives. Panasonic is the first major brand to show us its wares locally, and it has a lot to offer.
Let’s start with the TVs, because that’s really the gadget at the centre of our living room experience.
This year, Panasonic aims to offer the best image quality for 2D and 3D, with incredibly fast Plasma TVs ideal for sports – perfect for the Olympics, we bet – and new LED-backlit LCDs with improved viewing angles and performance.
Plasma TVs are up first, and while we don’t see many companies producing sets with this type of technology, Panasonic is focusing on a 2500Hz field drive technology for the clearest images in sports.
The company now offers a technology called “Infinite Black Ultra” which Panasonic says offers a more “intense viewing experience with blacker blacks”, but it’s only available on the VT50, which will also come with active shutter 3D technology, THX 3D certification, a web browser, WiFi, DLNA, and a $5,999 price tag for the 65 inch model.
Panasonic will be offering an inexpensive 3D plasma too, although at $1,199, the 50 inch XT50 looks to only be capable of 720p in both 2D and 3D.
If an LCD is more what you’re into, Panasonic will be offering quite a few of those this year, starting with the WT50, a Full HD 3D LED LCD that offers one of those In-Plane Switching panels that make the iPad so good. This screen will come with a web browser, WiFi, DLNA, support for Full HD 3D, and arrive in both 55 inch ($3,499) and 47 inch ($2,849) models.
Panasonic also plans on supporting the passive 3D technology we’re seeing coming out from other manufacturers, with a slightly less expensive screen with IPS screens, WiFi, DLNA, and less expensive polarised 3D glasses on a 720p HD 3D screen.
This screen, the ET5 series, will be available from May with the 55 inch ($2,399), 47 inch ($1,749), and 42 inch ($1,399) TVs.
Blu-ray is also getting a boost this year, with new set-top boxes that offer more than just the ability to play back high-def media.
Available in June, Panasonic’s new DMR-BWT820 ($1099) offers 1TB of PVR storage as well as the ability to record Blu-ray and DVDs in 1080p Full HD, while also being able to playback both 3D movies and provide 2D to 3D conversion. A smaller 500GB version (DMR-BWT720) will be available in May for $899, with a slightly lower model ditching the Blu-ray recorder but still offering playback for $599 (DMR-PWT520).
Blu-ray players have also been put on a diet, with Panasonic slimming the technology down so much that it afforded one of them, the DMP-BDT320, a “Best of Innovations” award at the Consumer Electronics Show Innovations Design and Engineering Awards earlier this year.
That model will set you back $299, but offer 3D Blu-ray playback, 2D to 3D conversion, WiFi, slot-load drive, SD card slot, DLNA, Skype, and a touchpad remote control.
A couple of other Blu-ray players are coming out, ranging in price from $219 to $399 and offering the ability to control the players with a smartphone, affording customers the ability to ditch the remote and control the movies from their handset.
Finally, Panasonic TVs will also receive access to Quickflix through the VIERA Connect platform, meaning customers can grab access to streaming movies for $14.99 per month.
You’ll find many of these products heading to stores now, although some may be arriving in stores from May.