In 2010, Panasonic offered up a scorching TV in the form of the much-venerated Kuro.— a flagship plasma that finally promised performance approaching that of the
Twelve months on, Panasonic has released the second TV in this series, with the new "louvre" tech, but is it better — or is it a step back?
Unusually for the Japanese company, the VT30 marks the first time that a flagship hasn't been assembled in Japan. According to Panasonic, the TV panel is still manufactured in the Japanese plasma plant, but the 50-inch version is assembled in south-east Asia — hence the "Made in Thailand" sticker. The 55-inch and 65-inch still read "Made in Japan".
If you, like us, weren't exactly fans of the metallic brown of last year's TV, you'll be pleased that the company has adopted an eminently more stylish position: piano gloss-black and a "one sheet of glass" design. The TV is also the thinnest Panasonic yet, shaving about half of the thickness off from last year's model.
After this year's CES in Las Vegas, it seemed that " " would be the next big thing, and while it's too early to tell, Panasonic has taken the opportunity to rebrand its TVs as " ".
The TV boasts an "Infinite Black Pro 2 Panel", which promises "more subtle, delicate blacks in both dark and bright environments than last year's Infinite Black Pro Panel provided".
In addition, this television is the company's most tricked-out yet, with the new Viera Connect system offering IPTV, DLNA streaming, Skype and full THX certification for both 2D and 3D and "apps", including games and Wii-like exercise workouts.
Web surfing and Facebooking are not fun on a television, and the Panasonic wisely steers clear of these frivolities. As Panasonic was one of the first companies to include Skype, the trend continues with the VT30 — if you add the AU$199 camera — and if you Skype a Panasonic DVR owner, there is now the option to leave a message.
The TVs incorporate catch-up TV from ABC iView, joining the existing Plus 7 service, and further Australian content is promised.
Connectivity includes wireless and wired LAN, four HDMI ports, one component (with proprietary adaptor), VGA, composite and three USB ports.
We waited with quite a bit of anticipation for this television, but now, having tested it, we can say that it's not the best TV that we'll see this year. While it performs excellently in some areas, in others it's one of the worst that we've seen in a long time.
Starting with the good news, though: Panasonic's claims that the TV performs better in well lit environments holds true; when compared against the VT20 in the light, the new model retains a high level of contrast, although still not at the level of LCD, while the VT20 simply looks grey and washed out. Here is one plasma that finally suits the bright-and-airy Australian lounge room, although some amount of light control would be welcome.