LAS VEGAS – Panasonic is demonstrating at International CES that it is not ready to cast 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 has been the subject of persistent press rumors that it is planning to ditch the plasma TV business on which it has hung its shingle for the past decade, is introducing five different plasma TV model series this year, and seven LCD TV series. Both technology categories will have 16 SKUs apiece.
Screen sizes in plasma will cover 42, 50, 55, 60, and 65 inches, and in plasma will cover 32, 39, 42, 50, 55, 58, 60 and 65 inches. New this year will be the 58-inch screen size for LCD – a size it had carried for several years in plasma before dropping 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 inch models.
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 the television business.
Still, Panasonic will continue offering active-shutter 3D glasses for its plasma models and passive 3D glasses in 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 on board this year.
All model series in both plasma and LCD with the letter “T” in the number will feature 3D capability.
Also, plasma model series with a “T” in the number will incorporate Panasonic’s Focus Field Drive technology, which was offered only in a few top-end SKUs last year and will now be enabling up 3000 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 assistant with video calling for applications such as Skype.
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 will have 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 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 over all panel appearance.
In LCD TV 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 Cold Cathode Florescent (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 dual-core processors for advanced on-screen graphics, second-screen linking and IP connectivity capabilities.
Panasonic is also introducing voice recognition capability into top-end 2013 models (ZT60, VT60 and ST60 plasmas, and WT60, DT60, ET60 and E60 LCD TV series) for advanced interactivity, offering voice controlled basic on/off, channel/volume up/down commands and Voice Guidance that audibly reads out loud text messages from the screen.