We first heard about Panasonic's new line of plasma televisions at CES in January. Since then I've gotten a chance to review one of the new models, the 42-inch TH-42PX77U, and I mostly liked what I saw. Today the company is holding a press event in New York where it will detail its full 2007 lineup, so here's a summary of the press release.
The two baseline series mentioned at CES, the entry-level TH-PX75U series and the step-up TH-PX77U series, all received official MSRP pricing today, although that often has little to do with the actual selling price. For example, the 42-inch TH-42PX75U has a suggested retail price of $1,599, but it's already selling for around $1,200 at some discount stores. If its predecessor, the TH-42PX60U, is any indication, it will drop even further as the year goes on. But you can at least use the prices below as a rough guide to how the models will be priced in relation to each other.
In our review of the TH-42PX77U, we got to try out one of the new features found on all of the company's 2007 plasmas (with the exception of the entry-level PX75U series): an antiglare screen coating. It actually worked pretty well to attenuate reflections coming off the screen, making the set more attractive for rooms with a lot of ambient light. Flat-panel LCDs, with their much-less-reflective plastic screens, have previously held a big advantage in this area, but Panasonic's coating goes a long way toward erasing that advantage.
There are a few other notable additions from a picture quality standpoint, starting with the fact that most of the step-up models feature 1080p native resolution. Judging from our experience with the 1080p TH-50PF9UK, the extra pixels don't make a huge difference at the 50-inch screen size, although they might make for a visibly sharper picture at 58 inches (we'll see when we can test it). The high-end models also get a new Pro Mode setting said to allow for more-extensive calibration options--definitely a weakness of past "consumer" Panasonic plasma TVs--along with a Studio Reference mode said to provide "the consumer with the exact color reproduction as seen on the reference monitors used in film editing studios." We'll take that with a grain of salt until we can test it ourselves, but it's pretty intriguing nonetheless. The press release makes no mention of HDMI 1.3, but we'll ask Panasonic when we get the chance.
Under the heading "cool extras that have nothing to do with picture quality," the company touted a relationship with Gallery Player that will allow a few high-end models to display slide shows of fine art and other HD content from SD cards. The EZ Synch feature is designed to allow HDMI-connected devices to talk to each other so, for example, if you hook up a DVD player via HDMI and then switch to that input, the player will turn on and be controlled via the TV's remote. Nice, but nothing that couldn't be accomplished with a good universal remote.
Here's the full lineup at a glance, straight from Panasonic's press release. We'll have a review of the 50-inch TH-50PX77U in the next couple of weeks.