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Innovation

CES 2009: Panasonic refreshes plasma, LCD line-ups, introduces 3D plasma TV

As with Internet-connected TVs, everyone seems to be jumping on the 3D bandwagon, with Panasonic leading the way. Along with the usual upgrades to its HDTV lines, it's also showing off its 3D Full HD Plasma Home Theater System, which consists of a 103-inch set and Blu-ray player that can display separate images for the left and right eyes.
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Written by Sean Portnoy, Contributor on

As with Internet-connected TVs, everyone seems to be jumping on the 3D bandwagon, with Panasonic leading the way. Along with the usual upgrades to its HDTV lines, it's also showing off its 3D Full HD Plasma Home Theater System, which consists of a 103-inch set and Blu-ray player that can display separate images for the left and right eyes. And yes, those goofy glasses.

The 3D system was shown in Japan last fall, and Panasonic is demoing it at its booth. I hope to squeeze in a few minutes tomorrow to check it out and see if it deserves the hype. I was told by a Panasonic media representative that the system will be released in the spring, though one can only imagine how much one of these things would cost.

In the meantime, here's some info on the new two-dimensional sets the company is introducing. Panasonic has simplified its naming conventions a bit with its plasmas, which now are now broken out by the X1, S1, G10, V10, and Z1 series names. A new size is being added to the mix this year, with a few series sporting a 54-inch model in addition to the usual sizes Panasonic offers. The X1 series is the only one to still cling to 720p resolution, in the typical mainstream 42-inch and 50-inch varieties. The Z1 series is a mere 1-inch thick, though Panasonic is working on making that look tubby in the near future (see below). It also uses WirelessHD technology to stream 1080p high-def content from a base station to the set. The 54-inch TC-P54Z1 (pictured) will be the first of these available this summer.

The Z1, V10, and G10 plasmas are THX Certified, which means the sets can automatically adjust the picture settings depending on the source material. They also feature Viera Cast, Panasonic version of an Internet-connected service to stream info and content to your set. New to Viera Cast this year is movie streaming courtesy of Amazon's on-demand service, though unlike some other new TVs, most of Panasonic's models only come with an Ethernet port instead of wireless capabilities.

Panasonic broke into the LCD market last year, and it uses some of the same naming conventions from the new plasmas for its latest LCDs. The G1 series are the only ones with 120Hz refresh rates, and none of the sets are larger than 37 inches; the X1 series drops as low as 26-inch and 19-inch models. Only three of the new LCDs are 1080p sets, though at those screen sizes, the bump-up in resolution may not even be notable.

The company is also displaying a couple of new prototypes that it eventually expects to bring to market, probably in the next 18 months according to the rep with whom I spoke. One is an LED-backlit LCD panel that offers superior brightness while using substantial less energy; Samsung, of course, already has LED-backlit LCDs on the market and has just announced more. Sexier is the NeoPDP 50-inch that's a mere 8.8 millimeters (roughly one third of an inch) in thickness.

Panasonic has also announced a new range of Blu-ray players and home theater systems&#including a couple of unique ones—that I'll discuss in a separate post.

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