As expected, Panasonic announced that it will be bringing its 65-inch, 1080p plasma HDTV--currently a Japan-only model--to the North American market in 2006. When it hits U.S. stores this summer, the TH-65PX600U will be Panasonic's flagship plasma panel, boasting full 1,920x1,080 high-definition resolution, integrated ATSC/NTSC/QAM tuners, a Digital Cable Ready CableCard slot, HDMI and PC-style VGA inputs, and the TV Guide onscreen electronic programming guide. Pricing was not disclosed, but it's worth noting that the Japanese version of the 65-incher costs about $10,000 there.
The PX600U series will also feature 50-inch (TH-50PX600U, 1,366x768 resolution) and 42-inch (TH-42PX600U, 1,024x768) models, available in the spring for $4,200 and $3,200, respectively. The step-down PX60U series loses the CableCard slot and the PC inputs, but each model is a easier on the wallet: the 50-inch TH-50PX60U will go for $3,700, the 42-inch TH-42PX60U for $2,700, and the 37-inch TH-37PX60U for $2,200. Bargain hunters will appreciate the continued presence of an entry-level EDTV plasma (TH-42PD60U, 852x480) for $2,000. Furthermore, all seven of the sets in the 2006 Panasonic line feature integrated HD and NTSC tuners, HDMI inputs, and HDAVI control, which enables unified control between compatible Panasonic products connected via the HDMI cable, so you can, for instance, control multiple, compatible Panasonic A/V products from a single remote. And all of the plasmas except for the entry-level EDTV model include an SD slot as well.
The 2006 Panasonic plasma lineup looks to be a worthy successor to the megapopular current generation of panels. But with large-screen 1080p LCDs looking to become ever more affordable in 2006, we hope to see a companion series of more modestly priced bare-bones industrial models (such as our current Editors' Choice, the TH-50PHD8UK) as well.