‘Connected,’ ‘3D’ are Bywords of Panasonic’s 2011 LinesMarch 1, 2011 By Nancy Klosek
The company provided a more detailed delineation of the VIERA Connect platform it announced at CES, explaining it as a cloud-based infrastructure of IPTV services it will make available to set-buyers that add interactivity – in the form of gaming, health/fitness and even out-of-market sports content streaming – to the earlier-established VIERA Cast connectivity platform. Many of the higher-end TVs are or will be VIERA Connect-capable, while some leader models will feature Easy IPTV – a limited basket of services from which viewers can access content, including Netflix, CinemaNow, Amazon Video On Demand, Pandora, Napster and Facebook. Skype capability also looms large in the product lineups.
Here are some highlights from the many introductions.
• Several new 3D plasma sets are due out in spring and summer that feature Neo Plasma technology, an improved version of Panasonic’s Neo PDP picture-enhancing technology.
The flagship VIERA Connect VT30 and GT30 series carry it, as well as a new fast-switching phosphor technology that the company says greatly minimizes crosstalk.
Also featured on all 3D sets is 2D-to-3D conversion capability allowing the viewer to either flatten or deepen the dimensionality of the image. In development for spring release are iPhone/iPad apps that will allow remote control of the sets.
VT30 models range downward in size from the 65-inch TC-P65VT30, due in May at $4,299.95. GT30 models range upward from 65 to 50 inches. Both series, as well as the VIERA Connect ST30 series, include 55- and 60-inch screen sizes, the new standard replacing earlier lines’ 54- and 58-inch sizes. The step-down S30 series of 42-, 50- and 60-inch screen sizes features Easy IPTV instead of VIERA Connect, and is not 3D.
• 3D has been introduced only in 32- and 37-inch models in the 240Hz gamer-oriented DT30 LED LCD series with VIERA Connect (April delivery) – 3D’s first-ever appearance for Panasonic in the LCD format.
Panasonic’s new crosstalk-reducing IPS Alpha LCD panel are being used on 2D models in the LED LCD and LCD series. The company says the new panel yields “close-to-plasma” performance.
The D30 series, which replaced the D2 series, will see the addition of a 1080p 42-inch 120Hz LED set with VIERA Connect in April ($1,149.95).
The 42-inch LED TC-L42 E30 (120Hz) and the three-model LED E3 (60Hz) series both feature Easy IPTV instead of VIERA Connect.
In LCD, Panasonic is offering the 120 Hz U30 and 60 Hz U3 series. And it is also supplying a 720p 60Hz SKU, the TC-L32X30 ($499.95), with Easy IPTV.
• Accompanying the model introductions are two-week retail promotions starting April 3 and offering a free bonus wireless USB adapter to purchasers of Easy IPTV models and a free Skype connection camera to VIERA Connect TV buyers.
• Panasonic’s three standalone 3D Blu-ray players – which also feature 2D-to-3D conversion and will be iPhone/iPad remote controllable when the app becomes available – also carry a “video voicemail” feature that works with Skype and makes the recipient aware of the message via a blinking light on the front of the player. The top-line DMP-BDT310 ($249) and the step-down 210 offer built-in Wi-Fi and a touch-free sensor for hands-free opening and closing of the unit.
The models feature a 35 percent smaller chassis size, 50 percent smaller packaging and a 48 percent reduction in power usage.
• In audio home theater in a box (HTiB) offerings, the 3D BTT770 flagship was introduced ($599.99). It offers 2D-to-3D conversion and Skype capability.
A new, mirror-finish soundbar/wireless subwoofer system with 3D pass-through, the SC-HTB520, also debuted and will ship in April.