updated 08:15 pm EST, Sun January 6, 2008
Pana Viera and SC-BT100
Panasonic opened CES with a thorough reworking of its Viera HDTVs and a new Blu-ray home theater to match. The new line now includes both LCDs and plasmas under the Viera name but is topped by Panasonic's traditional focus on large-screen plasma screens. Joining other HDTV makers, Panasonic's PZ850 will be Internet-connected and have access to Google features such as Picasa photo albums and YouTube videos directly from the set. It will also match the best sets at CES this year with a 30,000:1 contrast ratio, four HDMI connectors, and pro-grade image adjustment. Versions will be available in a smaller 46-inch size along with 50-, 58-, and 65-inch parallels.
Other plasma upgrades will include the PZ800, which shares the image quality of the PZ850 without the Internet features but gains a smaller 42-inch set; the PZ85, a home-oriented 42/46/50-inch lineup with the same contrast ratio; and the PZ80, which reduces the contrast ratio to 20,000:1 at the same screen sizes.
Five LCDs accompany the plasmas and fill in as the smaller TVs. The LZ800 series acts as the premium line and includes both 32- and 37-inch 1080p models; the latter is a first for the company, Panasonic notes. These all claim a 10,000:1 contrast ratio and three HDMI inputs. The 26-, 32-, and 37-inch LX85 reach 720p but otherwise share the same features.
Panasonic has remained quiet on the costs of the Viera screens, but most are expected to ship during the spring.
Also released is the SC-BT100, a wireless home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) that is designed to provide virtually everything necessary for full HD beyond the TV itself; a Blu-ray player is standard along with a receiver and a wireless 5.1-channel surround audio system that can be upgraded to 7.1 through extra speakers. An iPod dock is built-in to play music directly from the receiver and is backed by an SD card slot. Pricing is not set but will be ready by the time the BT100 ships in May.