Shed a tear for plasma's demise

Thu, 31 Oct 2013, 2:35pm

Panasonic TX-P60Zt60

As news stories go, Panasonic’s announcement today that it’s finally ending plasma TV production in December is one of the least surprising we’ve published recently.

The writing has been on the wall for some time, and despite repeated denials by the company, it was clear to industry observers that it was only a matter of time before the plug was pulled. It will be interesting to see if rival manufacturers follow suit, finally consigning plasma to the technology graveyard.

LG has said that plasma will remain an "important part" of its TV line-up while demand remains, although it tends to focus on the budget end of the market, unlike Panasonic. We're still waiting for a statement from Samsung to clarify its plasma plans.

MORE: Panasonic officially ends plasma TV business

Still, given Panasonic's reputation and heritage in the plasma business, it’s a sad day for home cinema enthusiasts. We've long been fans of plasma here at What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision, and I well remember the reverence in which Pioneer Kuro models were held before it withdrew from the TV market a few years ago. In fact, the story goes that Panasonic pinched some of those Kuro engineers to improve its own plasma screens.

And improve them they did. It’s no coincidence that four out of our six Award-winning TVs this year were plasmas. For ultimate picture quality – deep blacks, superb motion handling and a filmic quality that won legions of fans – they were hard to beat. If you still fancy one, you’d better move fast – Panasonic will officially stop selling them next March.

However, not even Panasonic could overcome the power of market forces and prevent the inevitable. “Due to rapid, drastic changes in the business environment and a declining demand for PDP in the flat panel display market, it was judged that continuing the business would be difficult and a decision was made to stop production,” it says. You can't get clearer than that.

MORE: Panasonic cuts plasma production

Read Panasonic’s statement more closely, and you’ll see that production at five of its six plasma factories has already ceased: the Amagasaki P5 and P3 factories suspended production in March 2012, along with closures at the Ibaraki P1 and P2 plants, and the end of production in Shanghai in September 2012. Only the Amagasaki P4 factory (below) continues in operation. The demand and economies of scale clearly just weren’t there.

Panasonic Amagasaki factory

It’s all a far cry from the company’s bullish pre-2008 expansion plans for plasma technology. But the rise in popularity of LCD/LED screens, and the arrival of OLED and 4K technology, has seen plasma’s share of the market decline dramatically.

MORE: Panasonic plans exit from plasma TV business

That shouldn’t detract though from the fact that plasma still offers superb performance. In fact, in our recent review of Samsung’s cutting-edge new KE55S9C curved OLED TV, we made the point that at £7000 it costs nearly three times as much as the Award-winning Panasonic TX-P55VT65B plasma (below), which offers comparable picture quality. Not bad for an 'old' technology.

Panasonic TX-P55VT65B

So shed a tear for plasma. And if you think your home cinema system deserves a great screen, snap up one of our Award winners sharpish. Panasonic says sales will end in March 2014. We suspect stock may run out well before then.

MORE: Awards 2013: Best TVs

By Andy Clough

 

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Comments

Pioneer 5090 / 6090 best of the best !

I bought a Panasonic professional plasma display panel back in 2006 for £1400 and had it ISF calibrated a year later. Despite having a resolution of only 1024x768 the picture quality is stunning. No tuner or speakers - just a top notch display.

I intend to keep it until either me or the screen stops working. I suspect it will be me since the display is built like a brick latrine!

One thing you never see in the press... " a luxury LED display". It was always a "luxury plasma display."

Glad to hear it, as a communications engineer, the amount of interference they cause is not good.

Panasonic know whats coming up next.  The announcement has to increase speculation about the company's future products at CES 2014. 

Sad day.

I joined the flat screen bandwagon back with Fujitsu, then it has been Pioneer all the way since then up till my current KRP600.

No other tech out there currently matches it for picture quality..... LCD.... meh!

OLED has potential but it's not quite there yet.

If my Kuro broke, I'd be all over a Panasonic ZT plasma.

If I miss that boat.... here's hoping my Kuro lasts long enough until OLED gets to a level I am happy with.

If it doesn't, I intend to buy ZT secondhand to tie me over.

Study and research by European Commission have found that plasma TV's consume far more power than LCD or LED TV's, and some plasma TV's have a higher lead content. Surveys such as IFA's (Berlin) suggest that customers are getting more and more green-conscious.

sure, if I left my Plasma on 24x365 then my electricity bill would be about £200 instead of less than £100 for an LCD. But It's only on at most 2 hours a day. I'd happily pay £100 a year for the great picture quality, but pro rata the difference is tiny.

 

RIP, plasma. Sadly the people who appreciate quality were not enough to sustain the market. 3D might have been your saviour, if only 3D hadn't been overhyped, with insufficient high quality 3D movies to make it worthwhile.

Globality wrote:

Surveys such as IFA's (Berlin) suggest that customers are getting more and more green-conscious.

Wouldn't argue with that.

I can't say it's particularly high on the agenda when I'm shopping. When buying a television I generally look at picture quality, sound quality, connectivity maybe price, green credentials don't get a look in.

I am with you Andy I have one of panasonics latest plasmas the TXP50GT60
And what a lovely set it is ok it won't win in the design steaks but the picture is beautiful Blacks are as deep as you could wish for with plenty of detail and I haven't even had it calibrated yet.

Yep Sad day for Plasma enthusiasts .

Nope, I wouldn't be shedding a tear....but I applaud Panasonic in making a sound business decision in shutting down its plama production.

The future was was aways going to be LED, 4k UHD and OLED.

So buckle up Panasonic and move on! 

given the fact most people don't have a big enough TV or don't sit close enough to their TV to even appreciate 1080p, then I think 4K is mostly pointless. Sure, when you see it in the shop up close it's amazing, but if I can buy a top spec 1080p TV for a third of the price, I really won't be spending the extra!

 

Change the record. You are clearly not an AV enthusiast.

@Dazmb I agree with the previous poster - I'd never have a plasma (friends who have had them have suffered unreliability, screen burns, easy damage, higher power bills) and I much prefer LED, especially for use with high res sources. Calling someone "not an av enthusiast", just because they don't agree with your view that the older technology is the better one, is just offensive and not a productive comment. Arguably you are not an av enthusiast because you are less inclined to embrace new and future technologies.

 

 

 

 

 

@Iain Graham "I agree with the previous poster "

Good for you!

"I'd never have a plasma"

So you are impartial then Smile

"who have had them have suffered unreliability, screen burns, easy damage, higher power bills"

HIgher power bills - nobody cares about this except tree huggers. The difference in cost over an average amount of TV hours in one year is about the same as a meal for 2 in a restaurant. As for reliability, well I've had two and not had a single issue. But I did have 2 LCD's with screen bleed though that had to be returned. So what's your point? Millions of plasma's have been sold without issue, but you never hear about them. Of course people with faulty ones moan and whinge, that's true of everything. Try looking at comments from people with faulty Aston Martin's - you'd think no Aston that ever left the factory was fault free. Yet most of them are.

LED at the moment is not mature technology and mostly sucks - fact. Your LED gives a worse picture than the top of the range plasma's this year. Did you not see the WHF 2013 awards. Notice how most winners were plasma's? Not coincidence. And as for not embracing future technologies, well I am happy to embrace anything that is 'better' than what I have currently. That means not an (O)LED set at the moment.

Some vinyl lovers would argue that there is no point in embracing new tech as it's not always a progression, but I'll leave that one alone.

As for my comment that the original poster (who FYI is ALWAYS having a dig at plasma TV's on every thread..) is not an AV enthusiast I stand by it. Plasma TV's have been more revered over the last 5 - 8 years for PQ than ANY other display technology by a huge margin. It's demise IS sad for AV fans all over the world which you would see if you looked around other international forums. As someone else said on this thread, when quality dies the public is left to be force fed a diet of cheap cr*p. A diet of £300 42" supermarket tellies... no thankyou. Everytime something like Pioneer's plasma tv's (or now Panny's) disappear it marks a bad day for AV fans as you are never sure you will see the same natural colours and deep blacks again (as we have not with LCD). 

"just offensive"

Don't be so silly. Nobody except the most delicate of humans would be offended by my comment. 

Oh, and one last thing for the 4k brigade. Just like the dismal failure of public interest in 3D (a dead in the water bandwagon that has caused almost catastrophic financial damage to the Japanese giants), there is not going to be much content floating around in the near future. In fact only this week the BBC have said they are not going to be bothering with it for the time being. Let's hope plasma did not die out for no reason, as other than 4k there is really not much to justify it's existence being ended for.