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Panasonic Adds BD Players, Internet PDPs

Panasonic will formally unveil at CEDIA Expo a pair of Blu-ray Disc players offering a new color processor and improved audio capability as well as a continuation of previously introduced BD Live and Bonus View interactivity.

The models, DMP-BD35 and DMP-BD55, are slated to ship to dealers this month. Panasonic had not determined final pricing on either model as this went to press. The two units will replace the BD30 and BD50 currently in the line.

As with the previous BD50 model, the new Blu-ray players will support BD Live interactivity, meaning that when playing BD Live-supported discs, the player will enable accessing extra content via a broadband Internet connection. However, the function will require additional memory (1GB minimum) via an SD Card through a built-in card reader slot, according to a company spokesperson.

Key new features in each unit include a new PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus, high-precision 4:4:4 chroma subsampling, 96kHz surround re-mastering and built-in JPEG digital image slide show capability with transition effects.

Both units will also support x.v.YCC expanded color capability when playing supported discs, and will output 1080p HD resolution at rate of 24 fps.

The step-up BD55 unit is said to add advanced high-quality sound including 7.1-channel analog audio outputs, in addition to the 7.1-channel output supported over the HDMI connection. The unit will also play back DivX encoded digital files.

In TVs, Panasonic said it was planning to present the latest additions to its previously announced Internet-enabled PZ850 series of 1080p HD plasma TVs. Joining the TH-50PZ850 and the TH-46PZ850, which Panasonic calls “the industry’s first Internet enabled TVs,” are the 58-inch TH-58PZ850 and the 64.7-inch TH-65PZ850. Both ship this month at suggested retails of $3,999 and $6,999, respectively.

Models in the series include a number of step-up features including IP-enabled connectivity to access online using what Panasonic calls its Viera Cast technology.

The subscription-free system streams Web content directly to the TV without the need for an external box or a PC. Panasonic has arranged to enable users to access video content from YouTube, as well as to share digital photos from Picasa Web Albums, get local weather updates and gain access to financial data from Bloomberg.

“We’re very excited about the technological advances that have been incorporated into Viera’s PZ850 series and the bigger screen sizes should prove extremely beneficial to both Panasonic and the CEDIA membership,” stated Bob Perry, Panasonic display products senior VP. “The 58-inch and 65-inch now stand beside their smaller brethren to provide the installer with a number of screen size options. IPTV in particular is a technology that by providing access to on-line content directly from the TV, allows the consumer to optimize his or her options and use the Viera plasma for more than entertainment. Now the consumer has a large screen TV that is also the source of an endless stream of internet information.”

Other features in the series include a Pro Setting Menu that allows access to professional calibration software, an improved native contrast ratio of 30,000:1 and a dynamic ratio of 1,000,000:1, Digital Cinema Color Re-Mastering, 24p native reproduction; game mode, an SD memory card slot, RS-232C connection, four HDMI connections, increased luminous efficiency, lead-free panels, a 100,000 hours to half brightness rating and a PC input.

The built-in SD Card reader in the sets will read the H.264 video codec to display high-definition video recorded on many H.264 HD camcorders.

The game mode feature minimizes the time lag when displaying video games on the plasma screen by synchronizing the response of the game image to the player’s operation.

The Digital Cinema Color Re-Mastering system is said to create a wide color gamut covering 120 percent of the conventional HDTV color standard. The 24p native reproduction replaces the need for 3:2 pulldown video processing when viewing film-based content, resulting in a smoother picture.