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Panasonic Gives Pricing On Blu-ray Decks, HTiBs

New York — Panasonic announced pricing and availability of its next-generation Blu-ray players and Blu-ray-equipped home theater in a box (HTiB) systems, all of which add Panasonic’s Internet-delivered VieraCast service to turn existing TV sets into IPTV sets.

The three Blu-ray players are the $299-suggested DMP-BD60, $399-suggested DMP- BD80 and $399-suggested DMP-BD70V, a VHS/BD combi unit with 1080p up-scaling of VHS content. The combi unit will be available in April. The other two players are already available, said national marketing manager Alex Fried during a press conference here.

The two Blu-ray HTiBs are the 1,000-watt SC-BT200 at a suggested $599 and the $699-suggested 1,250-watt SC-BT300, both due in April to replace a $999 Blu-ray HTiB.

All players and Blu-ray HTiBs decode all authorized Blu-ray surround formats, feature BD-Live with the addition of a 1GB SD card, USB input to connect MP3 players, and PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus image-processing technology, which was developed in conjunction with Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory. The HTiBs add iPod A/V dock that slides out from the front panel.

In related home-theater developments, the company said it plans May shipment of two DVD-based HTiBs with five-disc changers at a suggested $299 and $399 and plans late-fall shipment of the SC-ZT1 wireless speaker system. The ZT1, meant as an add-on to a TV and disc player, comes with four tall, but thin, amplified speakers and a set-top box that incorporates 2.4GHz transmitter and surround decoders.

The company also priced the industry’s first portable Blu-ray player at a suggested $799, said it doesn’t plan this year to replace its sole A/V receiver when supplies run out, and bundled iPod docks with three LCD TVs. The TVs are outfitted with software to display an iPod-like menu and iPod videos as well as enable iPod control from the TV’s remote.

In Blu-ray products, Panasonic incorporates its upgraded VieraCast service, which streams YouTube, Amazon video-on-demand (VOD) standard- and high-definition video, online Picasa Web Albums from Google and Bloomberg information services. All BD devices feature an Ethernet port to network to the Internet for accessing BD-Live content and VieraCast. A wireless-network option wasn’t included because of unpredictable wireless-network performance, Fried said.

The players and Blu-ray HTiBs also feature 1,080/24 fps playback; Deep Color and x.v. color support; 192kHz/24-bit DA audio converters; and 96kHz surround remaster to enhance the sound quality of CD, DVD and BD sources. All models also offer AVCHD playback from SD cards and recordable DVD discs.

The $399 BD80 player adds DivX playback from DVD and USB sources, 7.1-channel analog audio outputs and enhanced audio performance.

The Blu-ray HTiBs, both with wired 7.1 speaker systems, differ in power output and speaker complement. The BT200 features seven small one-way speakers, and the BT300 comes with floor-standing front left/right speakers, which are also one-way models. The subwoofer in each features 6.5-inch woofer with 10-inch passive radiator.

The wireless theater system transmits audio from its slim surround decoder/wireless transmitter to four powered slim towers with front-firing tweeters and midranges and a base that doubles as a down-firing subwoofer. Panasonic calls this speaker configuration a 4.4 speaker system, which delivers a virtual 7.1 soundfield. It features HDMI-repeater input capable of receiving 7.1-channel linear-PCM audio. Built-in decoders are limited to Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro Logic II and Dolby Virtual Speaker. At International CES in January Panasonic targeted a $1,599 price point.