RIP Panasonic plasma TVs: Reactions from industry experts

Panasonic recently announced it would no longer manufacture plasma televisions. For many experts in the industry who care deeply about TV picture quality, that came as major news. Here are a few of their reactions, in their own words.

The ZT60 is the ultimate Panasonic plasma.

Panasonic plasma is dead. I'd like to take a moment for everyone to express their feelings at its passing.

Next March, Panasonic "will end sales of plasma TVs for consumer use and PDP-related products for commercial use," in the company's own words. They've been CNET's favorite TVs for years, and we're not alone.

Other reviewers, editors, consultants, calibrators, engineers and picture quality aficionados of every stripe have studied, designed, lauded, picked apart, recommended, purchased for themselves and/or enjoyed countless hours watching a Panasonic plasma.

I asked a few industry experts, many of whom I've worked with over the years and all of whom care deeply about picture quality, for their reactions at the exit of these flat-panel televisions from the market. I told them I'd like to publish a sort of eulogy.

The response was overwhelming.

I've been recommending Panasonic plasma TVs to friends and family since the mid 2000s. Compared to LED and LCD TVs, plasmas (particularly Panasonic plasmas) simply produce a more realistic-looking, enjoyable image. I am undoubtedly sad to see Panasonic leaving the plasma business, particularly in light of the excellent performance of their 2013 crop of plasma TVs. I look forward to see what the future holds for OLED and as yet unimagined technological alternatives, but for now the the TV-buying consumer will suffer for the loss of such a high quality, high value television. RIP, Panasonic PDP.
-- Chris Boylan, editor in chief, Big Picture Big Sound

Although the confirmation arrived early, I've known about Panasonic's departure from plasma since late 2011. It will definitely be missed in the videophile community, but how much depends on how the Koreans react. Will Samsung and LG continue the progress made with plasma, bringing to market versions that outperform the 2013 Panasonics? Or will they decide to follow Panasonic's lead and bury plasma forever? Regardless, I hope Panasonic has the will and capacity to succeed at OLED, because it has zero chance of increasing its LED LCD market share. Otherwise, the name associated with "quality at a reasonable price" will no longer be available to future consumers in the display world.
-- DeWayne "D-Nice" Davis, video system specialist, AV Fidelity

This has been a long time coming, and it shows that plasma is finally going the way of CRT and rear projection. LED-backlit LCDs are much lighter, much more energy efficient, and (in very rare cases) can finally meet the black levels that previously were restricted to plasmas. Why keep a separate infrastructure for one panel type with one big selling point when the alternative can now offer all of the benefits across the board? I'm only surprised that it's taken this long, and that there are still any major electronics manufacturers making plasma HDTVs.
-- Will Greenwald, consumer electronics analyst, PC Magazine

Thanks, Panasonic, for carrying the plasma torch for so long, even if in the end it wasn't as profitable as making car batteries. Countless Kuro-less movie fans who would otherwise have been forced to watch Blu-rays exclusively on LCD screens are in your debt. Now please get to work on OLED TVs, and make them affordable!
-- Al Griffin, contributing editor, Sound and Vision

I'm disappointed that we, as reviewers, were unable to help keep plasma alive. From outdated notions on burn-in to poor performance on the show floors of big box retailers, it faced an uphill fight for a few years now despite always offering a superior image and value. Now I have to go buy an ST60.
-- Chris Heinonen, senior editor, Secrets of Home Theater

The only Panasonic plasma I ever owned -- a TC-P60GT30 -- was the first TV to truly amaze me with its picture quality. Achieving the pinnacle of flat panel picture quality turned out to be the kiss of death for plasma, which is most unfortunate since OLED is not quite ready to fill its shoes.
-- Mark Henninger, senior writer, AVS Forum

Plasma TVs have been the undisputed kings of flat panel picture quality for years. Panasonic's exit from the vanishing pool of plasma display manufacturers is another strong signal that new display technologies (OLED, micro-LED) are poised to finally exceed plasma's quality, if not yet reach its affordable price. Panasonic's latest/last plasma offerings represented the pinnacle of display design and imagery, the pinnacle of eye candy, and its exit from this space saddens me even as we look forward to amazing new things.
-- Robert Heron, Heron Fidelity

I've spent the best years of my professional career recommending Panasonic plasmas just about everyone, secure in the knowledge that they provide great picture quality and value. I can't help but feel a sense of loss. Yes, it's just a TV, but comparing Panasonic and Samsung plasmas was one of the highlights of my job. It'll be way too long before I can compare Panasonic and Samsung OLED TVs my readers can actually afford.
-- David Katzmaier, senior editor, CNET

I was sad to learn that Panasonic will exit the plasma business, not just because they make great TVs, but also because the plasma engineers seemed to care about accurate and great picture quality. In the short term, it will leave a void in the TV market place, but I feel confident that OLED technology will offer even more impressive picture quality in the years to come.
-- Rasmus Larsen, founder, FlatpanelsHD

The end of Panasonic plasma is a gigantic loss for quality representation of film at home. Panasonic's irreplaceable involvement in this technology created a glassy, lucid canvas that really let quality video shine. As compressionists encoding films for Blu-ray, it's vital to us all that home viewers can enjoy panels of this quality, without our efforts being compromised. Knowing that our work is watched on Panasonic's plasmas is a key impetus for us to go the extra mile in the production process. Thank you Panasonic for your receptiveness in listening to and acting on our enthusiast demands, and for holding out this long.
-- David Mackenzie, hardware consultant, HDTVTest

I believe that Panasonic's announcement will be the death knell for plasma altogether. LG and Samsung will probably cease plasma production as well in the next few years, in favor of putting resources into the further development of OLED. It saddens me because once again the superior product category is eclipsed by an inferior technology (LED LCD), which is reminiscent of the Betamax vs. VHS story. My hope is that TV manufacturers will quickly ramp up production of larger OLED screen sizes, and reduce the current stratospheric pricing, so that an even better display technology emerges soon after the demise of plasma.
-- Kevin Miller, co-founder, TweakTV

There are going to be those who try to shape this as a "win" for LCD, or as a sign that plasma has "lost the battle." This is stupid. To try to phase it like the technologies were anthropomorphically "fighting" is absurd. The only thing lost is a series of TVs with excellent picture quality and decent prices. That is a loss... for anyone shopping for a TV next year. Samsung (and LG) have said they'll be coming out with plasma for 2014. But 2015? Beyond? Let's hope OLED drops in price fast enough that it is a valid option.
-- Geoff Morrison, privateer writer, Forbes

Pioneer and Panasonic plasmas may leave the market, but the brilliant engineering teams that brought us those reference quality displays remain. I have had the privilege of working with these extraordinary people at multiple companies, and I enjoy the products they sired both at my home and at ISF sessions worldwide. Do yourself a favor. Read the reviews on the current Panasonic plasma offerings, then buy one while you can. Invest in a professional calibration so you can experience the same picture reviewers rave about. Enjoy these delightful HDTVs while you await the next generation of technological wonders from the proven engineers behind plasma.
-- Joel Silver, founder, Imaging Science Foundation

Display technologies have natural life cycles just like people. CRTs had a nice long commercial life of about 65 years, and I was saddened when this great technology died around 2005. Now we're told plasma will die at the early commercial age of about 15 years. In my opinion, this premature death is due almost entirely to the industry ignoring, ostrich style, the screen burn-in issue. That was a PR and sales disaster because every TV buyer was concerned about it, even though the issue had already been solved with 100,000+ hour phosphor lifetimes. So plasmas, RIP, but it's your own damn fault.
-- Raymond Soneira, president, DisplayMate Technologies

Plasma displays have long represented the best value in high-quality flat-panel television and models engineered initially by U.S.-based Plasmaco, which was later absorbed into Panasonic, were routinely among the best in class over the years. With luck, consumers will continue to find strong values in plasma sets from Samsung and LG, until OLED TVs evolve into more mainstream-friendly products.
-- Greg Tarr, executive editor, TWICE

First Pioneer, now Panasonic. For those of us who look at TVs every day and care about picture quality, there's a sense of loss at Panasonic's exit from the plasma market, and what it portends for the future of plasma. This year, its ST60-series sets were probably the TVs I recommended most to friends who asked for buying advice, and the ZT60 sets we tested were perhaps the best TVs we reviewed short of Samsung's OLED set. I only hope that Samsung and LG realize there are customers looking for a top-performing plasma TVs and remain committed to the technology, at least until OLED can get bigger and cheaper.
-- Jim Wilcox, senior editor, Consumer Reports

I am deeply dismayed at the passing of Panasonic from the plasma TV business. Having finally matched and even exceeded the legendary Pioneer Kuro with this year's VT60 and ZT60, it's ironic that the leading proponent of plasma technology now finds it necessary to stop development and production due to business concerns. I sincerely hope that Panasonic turns its considerable talents to making OLED TVs larger and more affordable--and flat--because only then will we have a worthy successor to the plasma crown. The king is dead, long live the king!
-- Scott Wilkinson, director of content, AVS Forum

When I first heard the rumors that Panasonic would be exiting the plasma business, it brought back the same feelings and emotions I felt when Pioneer announced the end of the legendary Kuros. This may sound silly, but being a serious videophile I felt like I had lost someone very close to me. I understand mass merchant retailers promote LCD displays, but specialty stores like mine recommend plasma to most clients, and A/V enthusiasts prefer plasma. The silver lining is that Samsung is committed to plasma and from what I am told, we'll see new plasma development and products for the next few years.
-- Robert Zohn, owner, Value Electronics

It's always made me crazy that the easier a technology is to spell, the more successful it seems to be. Regardless of having the better picture, I guess plasma had 3 too many letters.
-- Anonymous former plasma engineer

At the moment I'm not confident Panasonic is going to do away with plasma sets, so participating in a eulogy seems a bit ahead of its time...as much as I like to be ahead of time. At best I see the near term future of plasma to be uncertain.
-- Joe Kane, founder, Joe Kane Productions

With that last note of faint hope, I invite CNET readers for their own reactions in a comment below.

Thanks for all the great pictures, Panasonic plasma. You'll be missed.

 

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