By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
LAS VEGAS – Panasonic showed International CES audiences that it won’t be casting off its plasma TV business any time soon, although it will continue to expand its assortment of big-screen LCD TV models in 2013.
Panasonic — which was the subject of persistent press rumors throughout 2012 that it was planning to ditch the plasma TV business on which it has hung its shingle for the past decade —introduced five different plasma TV model series and seven LED LCD TV series. Both technology categories will have 16 SKUs apiece.
Screen sizes in plasma cover 42, 50, 55, 60 and 65 inches, and in LCD cover 32, 39, 42, 50, 55, 58, 60 and 65 inches. New this year is the 58-inch screen size for LCD — a screen size it had carried for several years in plasma before dropping it last year.
Michelle Redmond, Panasonic TV display division product planning manager, said the company will position 58-inch LCD TV as an affordable step up from 55 inches.
In 2013, smart TV will again be emphasized in both plasma and LCD models, while 3D will be positioned as a feature and no longer the next dimension in television broadcasting.
Still, Panasonic will continue offering active-shutter 3D glasses for its plasma models and passive 3D glasses with select LCD models.
In a change from last year, most plasma 3D models will ship with two pairs of glasses in the box, while many LCD 3D models will ship with four pairs.
Most 3D models will also incorporate 2D-to-3D conversion onboard this year.
All model series in both plasma and LCD with the letter “T” in the number will feature 3D capability and plasma “T” models will also incorporate Panasonic’s Focus Field Drive technology, which expands from a few top-end SKUs last year to enable up to 3,000 focus fields for even smoother images of fast moving subjects, surpassing even 480Hz LCD frame rate technologies.
Also this year, select plasma and LCD TVs will incorporate built-in cameras and microphones to assist with video calling for applications such as Skype.
Also Panasonic is introducing in some models a My Home Screen feature, which brings more accessibility controls and personalization to the TV. Every member of the house can create a different home screen. Viera models with built-in cameras and facial recognition or voice command will automatically call up the viewer’s personalized home screen.
Panasonic voice recognition capability will be found in top-end 2013 models (ZT60, VT60 and ST60 plasmas, and WT60, DT60, ET60 and E60 LCD TV series) and will also include voice-control of basic on/off, channel/volume up/down commands. A voice guidance system can even audibly read out loud text messages from the screen.
Entry-level plasma and LCD will continue to be offered as basic models with 720p resolution, to cover a wide range of feature sets and price points.
Plasma TVs will be found in the ZT60 series with 65- and 60-inch screen sizes; the VT60 series with 65-, 60- and 55-inch screen sizes; ST60 with 65-, 60-, 55- and 50-inch screen sizes; S60 with 65-, 60-, 55-, 50- and 42-inch screen sizes; and the X60 series in 42- and 50-inch screen sizes.
The entry X60 models will feature 720p HD resolution.
Pricing on all sets will be announced later, Panasonic said.
Meanwhile, the flagship ZT60 series will build upon the VT60 series by adding a Master Studio Panel with better black and white levels, offering greater shading gradations than have been realized before. The sets are also able to capture 98 percent of the red color spectrum, which has been a challenge in general for all TV technologies to date.
Also, the ZT60 series models eliminate the pocket of air between the cover glass and the panel that has existed in prior plasma models to further enhance picture quality while making for a thinner overall panel appearance.
In LCD TV, the WT60 series will feature the 55- and 47-inch screen sizes; the DT60 series will include the 60- and 55-inch screen sizes; the ET60 series will include the 55- and 50-inch screen sizes; the E60 series will include the 65-, 58-, 50- and 42-inch screen sizes; the EM60 series will include the 50- and 39- inch screen sizes; the XM6 series will include 32-inch screen size; and the B6 series will include the 50-, 39- and 32-inch screen sizes.
The 32-inch models in the XM6 and B6 series will offer 720p HD resolution.
Models in both the WT60 and DT60 series will feature Super-In Plain Switching (S-IPS) panels with ultra-wide viewing angles.
In 2013, all Panasonic LCD TV models will feature either Direct LED backlighting in entry models or LED edge lighting in step-up thin frame models. Gone from the lineup are models based on less-efficient CCFL backlighting technology.
All LCD models conform to the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnergyStar 6.0 energy consumption guidelines, Panasonic said.
The top two series in both plasma (ZT60 and VT60) and LCD TVs (WT60 and DT60) will incorporate dualcore processors for advanced on-screen graphics, second-screen linking and IP connectivity capabilities.
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