Panasonic has confirmed its 2008 line-up of flatscreen TVs - 9 new LCDs, and 15 new plasmas, some in shops as early as next week [EDIT: Review of first new set - TX32LZD80 - now online, here]. All claim to offer enhanced colour reproduction, superior contrast and improved motion handling - as well as being more environmentally friendly.

Surprises include the LCD range featuring only 32- and 37in models, while the plasma range will now include 37-, 42-, 46- and 50in sets.

As we reported from CES, all the TVs will carry the Viera brand-name.

The new Vieras will come in 8-, 80-, 81-, 85- and 800-series varieties, and as previously, Panasonic drops handy hint in the model name as to its spec. Hence all 12 Full HD models - all of which fully support 24fps - carry a 'Z', while HD Ready TVs feature an 'X'. Plasma are denoted by the 'TH' prefix and LCDs by 'TX'.

Hence the TX32LZD80 is a 32in Full HD LCD set (and one we're going to be exclusively reviewing in our May issue, out April 3rd).

But now the sets in more details. The flagship ‘Z800’ series – four HDMI sockets, enhanced sound system and claimed contrast ratio of 30,000:1 – includes 42- and 50in PZ800 plasmas and a 37in LZ800 LCD.

Child-proof plasmas?

 

The Z800 plasmas (pictured) also feature toughened front-panel glass, designed to withstand the onslaught of up to 4 joules of impact. Panasonic added this feature after many reports of broken screens thanks to flying Nintendo remote controls during energetic Wii Sports sessions!

We saw the sets repeatedly bashed at their weakest, centre point by a hefty steel ball - as well as on video being assailed by children's toys - and were impressed by their durability. Their parent appeal is further boosted by a new easy-clean surface...

All Viera sets claim to be have been given a sonic boost via Panasonic's V Audio upgrade, despite boasting 40 percent slimmer speakers. The 800 series sets featuring an additional V Audio Surround bass module.

First Full HD sets due from March

You'll have to wait until July for the 800 series, but Full HD Vieras will be in the shops sooner - in the form of the Z85 and Z80 lines.

The new Z85 line features 42- and 46-in PZ85 plasmas and 32- and 37in LCDs. The sets feature three HDMI sockets to the 800s' four, but otherwise share many of the high-end features - including Intelligent Frame Creation, intended to produce the very smoothest, picture with 24fps video.

Completing the Full HD line-up are Z80 models, offering 15,000:1 contrast ratios and three HDMI sockets. They include 42-, 46- and 50in PZ80 plasmas and 32- and 37in LZ80 LCDs.

Freesat and HD Ready sets

Moving on, we've already reported here on the Freesat-ready 81-series, which come out in the summer - we'll update you when more details arrive on these intriguing models.

The 2008 range is completed by seven HD Ready ‘X’ models, including entry-level PX8 plasmas (37-, 42- and 50in), better-specified PX80 plasmas (37- and 42in) plus 32- and 37in LXD85 LCDs.

The TH37PX80 and TH42PX80 sets are already being advertised for £699 and £799 respectively - indicating that this year's sets are coming in at similar prices to the outgoing models.

Want a smaller or larger set? Panasonic's existing '7' series sets carry on at the 26- and 65in sizes – in fact we'll be testing the latest 65in model in our May issue, out April 3rd.

Viera styling update

As mentioned, Panasonic's new range includes no less than four different cabinet designs. The entry-level '8' models have a more basic look:

More after the break

While the '85 and '800 series sets have a new silver-flash styling:

And the intermediate '80 sets have a unique base design:

Finally, the flagship LCD design - the TH-37LZD800 - features sound-mounted speakers, just as its 'LZD700 predecessor currently does. Here is a detail shot:

 

Eco features

Panasonic is also claiming the 2008 Vieras are its most environmentally friendly yet: all its plasmas are now lead-free; the use of recycled and recyclable materials has increased, and all but the entry-level '8' series feature an energy-saving Eco mode to reduce power use.

The company has also previewed three next-gen plasma TV designs that will go into production from 2009 - super-thin, super-large and energy-saving sets.

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