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CES: Panasonic's midline plasmas get 3D, Internet

Internet connectivity and 3D compatibility make its way down into Panasonic's middle line ST30 series.

Panasonic's TC-PST30 series is the company's midtier model, yet still offers 3D and Internet connectivity. Panasonic

Update Feb 4, 2011: Pricing and availability have been revealed.

LAS VEGAS--Today at its press conference Panasonic announced what amounts to a modest number of TV series, and the one placed solidly in the middle is the TC-PST30. Given its excellent feature set, however, this it might hit the value sweet spot.

According to Panasonic's press material, the only thing the ST30 is missing compared with the step-up GT30 is THX certification. Otherwise, both get the "short-throw phosphors" and "Infinite Black panel," which makes us believe that the two might share very similar picture quality.

The ST30 is also the least-expensive 2011 Panasonic plasma to display 3D sources, and the company is touting a new SD card slot that handles 3D still photos and videos. The press material doesn't mention 2D to 3D conversion, however, which was present on the GT25 models from last year.

The ST30's other big step-up feature is Viera Connect, Panasonic's new Internet TV suite. The service, which received a name change from the VieraCast of yore, keeps all of the old services and adds a few new ones, including Hulu Plus, MLB.TV, MLS Matchday Live, NBA Game Time, NHL Game Center and Facebook.

Panasonic also touted a few other notable content partners, including fitness-related Withings, Body Media, and ICON Health & Fitness, all of which can interact with optional fitness gear--scales, arm monitors and exercise equipment. The company is partnering with Gameloft to offer titles like racer Asphalt 5, as well as with other game developers.

And yes, like Samsung and LG's new Smart TV platforms, Viera Connect will have an App store with free and paid offerings, complete with developer's kits. There's even an on-line store "featuring an ever-growing catalog of hardware products." On the other hand, Viera Connect apparently lacks the Web browsers found on some of those competitors' Smart TV offerings, and no Panasonic plasma has built-in Wi-Fi--you'll still need to buy the $80 USB dongle.

Get ready for the Viera tablet. Panasonic

The new system will also interact with Panasonic's upcoming Android tablet, although exactly how was not specified.

Panasonic TC-PST30 series features:

  • Plasma TV
  • 3D compatible
  • Infinite Black panel
  • Short throw phosphors
  • 3D-compatible SD card slot
  • Viera Connect Internet suite

Panasonic TC-PST30 series models:

  • Panasonic TC-P42ST30: 42-inch, available February, $1099
  • Panasonic TC-P46ST30: 46-inch, available February, $1299
  • Panasonic TC-P50ST30: 50-inch, available February, $1499
  • Panasonic TC-P55ST30: 55-inch, available February, $1799
  • Panasonic TC-P60ST30: 60-inch, available March, $2399
  • Panasonic TC-P65ST30: 65-inch, available March, $3199

Editor's Take: I'm really curious to see whether the ST30 and GT30 indeed offer basically identical black level performance. I am leery of the lack of THX, however, since color accuracy without it has long been a Panasonic Achilles heel.

Update Jan 7, 2010: I spoke with Panasonic's rep at the booth and found out a few more preliminary details about the new plasmas, including conformation that the ST30 an GT30 use the same panel, and so should exhibit very similar picture quality aside from THX. Check out the notes at the bottom of the VT30 writeup for more info.