CES 2012: Panasonic TVs focus on picture quality and slicker controls

Fri, 13 Jan 2012, 12:57am

Panasonic VT50

Slimmer, premium plasmas, larger LCDs and 3D sets in both active and passive formats join Panasonic's 2012 TV line-up. Users get fresh control options in the shape of an innovative smartphone/tablet app plus a touch-pad remote control handset.

We don't yet have any exact details of UK model numbers, specifications or pricing - that will all be revealed next month at Panasonic's European Convention, from which we'll report live - but the US launches are a good indication of the core technologies and developments.

Refreshingly, Panasonic is one of the few TV manufacturers here at CES to be talking about better picture quality as well as how slim its screens are and what apps they run.

OLED to follow

Maybe it's because - unlike some rivals - Panasonic did not have its own consumer OLED TV ready to launch (though it is showing a stunning 20in 4K monitor, and will have a bigger OLED set later this year), plus the Viera Connect content offering remains relatively sparse compared to some Smart TVs.

Anyway, it's great to see picture quality - alongside Eco concerns, connectivity, ease-of-use and design - being the first of the five components of Panasonic's new "Smart Viera" strategy. Even if that strategy was delivered in such a confusing manner at the press conference that many thought Smart Viera was a rebranding of Viera Connect!

Panasonic seems confident its 2012 sets are a signficant step forward in all those five areas - so much so that its new model numbers skip a decade from 2011's '30 line-up to this year's '50 series.

Despite previous protestations that LCD was best kept for smaller sets and plasma for larger TVs, Panasonic has extended its LCD line-up to include larger models, including 3D designs. The US gets 47- and 55in screen sizes, as well as smaller options, plus a new WT50 flagship range.

Another change of heart comes with 3D, where passive plasmas sets join the active-shutter line-up. Why the U-turn? Giving customers the choice of a cheaper option, says Panasonic, while stressing that active 3D remains the 'quality' choice.

Premium plasma

The VT50 (shown at top of page) becomes Panasonic's flagship plasma model. A slimmer, sleeker TV than last year's VT30, with a new style of stand, the VT50 has won a CES Design and Engineering Award.

Panasonic says its picture quality upgrades include "an advanced pre-discharge technology that enables higher contrast in dark areas.. In addition, the TV’s Infinite Black Pro Panel consists of a new cell structure and phosphors, resulting in improved luminous efficiency and higher brightness and contrast levels."

The company declined to comment on whether these improvements would tackle some of the reported picture issues with previous models.

Panasonic may have slightly less smart TV content than some rivals, but it wants to make what it's got a better experience. So its engineers have done a lot of work on enhancing the picture quality of streamed/web content - such as BBC iPlayer. We look forward to testing that in action.

3D performance - for both the active-shutter sets and the new entry-level passive models - claims to have been improved, too, and some models also now include 2D to 3D conversion.

Fewer TV models in 2012

Panasonic declined to comment on the screen sizes coming to the UK - or indeed which TV ranges - but did note that there has been some 'rationalisation' of the line-up; there will be fewer different models on sale this year.

In keeping with the 'eco' element of Smart Viera, all the new sets - LCD and plasma - will use less power than previous generations of TV.Panasonic touchpad remote

Ease of use

Another element that sets Panasonic apart from some of its rivals here at CES is the lack of gesture or voice controls for its new generation of TVs.

The company claims it did look into it, but following a lot of customer research it decided not to implement it. It firmly believes TV is a 'sit back' experience that shouldn't have to require too much input.

However, Panasonic has developed a few new ways that users of its 2012 products can more easily interact with their entertainment.

Firstly, some of its TVs and Blu-ray players/systems will have touchpad remote controls (see the Blu-ray remote pictured right). 

These can both display a keypad with the usual buttons, or be used just like a laptop's trackpad, making it easier to navigate Viera Connect's online content and web access.

Secondly, users can choose to control their new Panasonic product via a app, which will be available for both Apple and Android mobiles and tablets.

Finally, Panasonic's 2012 Blu-ray products (see the news story here on the audio-boosted player line-up) get a neat control app  - best viewed on a tablet - with some interesting features.

Panasonic app

The apps have a range of looks and feel, including this lovely retro 'valve' audio interface including several EQ modes and six levels of 'Digital Tube Sound' DSP, should you desire.

We'll bring you more on the full Panasonic line-up - including expected pricing and availability - from the European launch next month.

UPDATE - THAT BLOG NOW ONLINE HERE

 

Comments

all appliances i own are panasonic and have had NO problems ever. they are by far and away the best manufacturer out there. i think that people who have problem either have a rare but serious problem or are not using them properly as they werent taught how to by the supplier. 

SORRY for my off, but I would like to know how and where can I access your archive reviews?

thanks,

Zsolt

konczy wrote:
SORRY for my off, but I would like to know how and where can I access your archive reviews?

Reviews from the past couple of years are on the site in the reviews section; deep archive reviews are not currently available online, for which apologies.

Panasonic winning a design award? Wow! Who would have thought this a couple of years ago Wink

Be WARNED Panasonic has the worst customer service I have ever came across. I have a full Panasonic set up of TV, Home Cinema & BluRay Recorder, together they are fine but add a satellite receiver and the whole system goes crazy.  The remote control for the TV will stop working with the Home Cinema and when it comes to shutting down the system I need each remote to turn of its own unit.  The five year warranty is a total waste of time as Panasonic does not even have a clue as to what causes the problem.  I have phoned them, at great cost, and written endless letters - the best they could advise me was to upgrade my HDMI cables which were the ones recommended in their manuals.  I upgraded the cables to V4 rating and guess what? I wasted yet more money.  The local authorised dealers recommended by Panasonic spoke to me over the phone and that was it, when I explained the problems they said they would come out to visit and months later I am now wandering if they have a Panasonic satnav as they must be lost out near Rotherham.  The only way I can get my system to work is to disconnect the HDMI from the sat receiver and only connect via scart - so much for hi defination TV.  I will never go near Panasonic equipment again.  PS if any one out there could do Panasonic a favour and sort this problem out for me I will pass it on to them.

And I agree with StanleyAV too.

I have pretty much made up my mind NEVER to buy another Panasonic product again, thanks to their useless CS.

 

VT50 is certainly a product to watch for, as long as the issues above have been sorted. I'm assuming this will come with active shutter technology, & not passive. 

"Refreshingly, Panasonic is one of the few TV manufacturers here at CES to be talking about better picture quality as well as how slim its screens are and what apps they run"

I'm glad someone here agrees with me: When I made a similar comment about the new Samsung TVs seeming to be all about aesthetics I got slammed...

Do these slimmer TVs come with a much slimmer level of Panasonic

customer support?Wink

I think many UK customers would like to know if 'green blobs'/panel uniformity,

50hz motion (think red/green posterisation : IFC/OFF), and fluctuating

brightness issues have been eliminated.

Each time Panasonic changes its TVs, customers the world over

get itchy teeth!Yell How about sorting out their existing aggrieved

customer base? (NO not just me Clare!)

Completely agree with that post.