Panasonic 2012 Home Entertainment Launch – Smart Viera Highlights

Last night, I got along to check out the new range of Panasonic televisions, recorders, players and Hi-Fi out at Dunbar House in Watson’s Bay, NSW. The venue was very swish with some tasty food on offer and it presented a setting similar to what you’d expect to experience when you’d be using home entertainment devices. Personally, I hadn’t been to that part of Sydney before so I was delighted with the event overall.

Anyway, the devices.

This year, the Panasonic representatives spoke about five key pillars behind the Viera television range, specifically:

  • picture quality,
  • ease of operation,
  • networking,
  • eco,
  • design.

Panasonic have made significant inroads across all of these areas and I can honestly say that I reckon this year is going to be a big one for Panasonic which perhaps justifies the jump in model numbers from xx20 in 2010 and xx30 in 2011 to xx50 in 2012 (including the top of the line VT50A plasma television).

It was hard to get a good photo of the picture on the new units given the lighting but I can say that new plasma televisions continue to build on the incremental improvements in picture quality over the years. I could notice a difference compared to our current VT20A plasma television particularly in terms of improved contrast and motion flow. Whilst I would recommend that you go into a store to check this out for yourself you might find it difficult to properly assess contrast under the overhead lighting found in many stores.

Ease of operation gets an interesting twist in a couple of ways this year with expanded capability with smartphone and tablet apps (more on that shortly) but also with a new touch pad controller which makes your television more ideal for navigating content or browsing websites (and yes, the higher model Viera televisions also include a web browser).

Networking gets a significant boost this year with the ability to control and interact with devices using more than just the humble remote. Leading on from the capability of the 2011 Viera television range with smartphone app for remote control you can now do so from Apple iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches as well and Android smartphones and tablets without the need for additional extras as Wi-Fi is now built into the 2012 television range.

The remote app this year gets a significant upgrade with the ability to preview content on such smart devices and then being able to flick them up on to the television for everyone to view and watch be it photos or videos. You can also use these devices as keyboards if you want to tweet people from the television without the need for a separate keyboard or navigating the web browser without a separate mouse. This is all in addition to the standard ability to control volume, channel as well as pausing, fast forwarding or rewinding content. Skype also gets an upgrade allowing you to video chat with someone side-by-side with what you are watching opening up the possibility for you to watch television with someone who is located elsewhere. As to whether or not that will catch on but it’s pretty neat that you can do both at the same time.

Streaming content is also bolstered this year with BigPond Movies and Quickflix being added to the content stable for Viera Connect in addition to existing offerings including ABC iView, Yahoo!7 and YouTube.

Eco is always an area of focus with ever increasing power bills and this year Panasonic have also managed to do more with less power this year. LED LCD televisions see a 25% power saving compared to last year’s models while both plasma and LED LCD televisions can adapt their screen brightness to the viewing environment to make further power savings. All 2012 televisions are also free of mercury and lead which means a reduced impact on the environment when the unit goes for recycling.

Finally, design is improved across a number of areas. Firstly, the presentation of the units this year have received a major facelift with a single piece of glass used for plasma televisions while LED LCD screens receive a narrow metal frame. Bezel size has been reduced such that these televisions will draw less attention to themselves being televisions while you are watching them while also being a little more understated when they are switched off. This certainly put Panasonic back in the race compared to the sleek designs offered by the competition. Another design improvement has come in the form of a further reduction in thickness of the unit which can make wall mounting more of an attractive option.

Active 3D glasses for plasma televisionsalso move away from infrared syncing to Bluetooth syncing which can help eliminate loss of sync as someone walks in front of the television while a passive 3D glasses make an appearance in the LED LCD television range as an entry level option for those wanting to get 3D but not shell out a fortune for the glasses. That said, you should be able to use the active 3D Bluetooth glasses from other televisions and brands with the 2012 Viera plasma televisions and vice versa which might sweeten the deal a bit now (just take your glasses to your friend’s house!).

So I reckon Panasonic have really upped the ante this year with their televisions and I reckon there could be enough incentive there for me to go for the VT50A. The level of network and device integration is a major step forward for Panasonic and I reckon it offers a real value proposition for people serious about their home entertainment solutions this year.

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