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New 46-inch size tops Panasonic plasma news

Panasonic announced its 2008 plasma lineup, featuring a 46-inch screen size, at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show.

The top-of-the-line TH-PZ800U series incorporates a new one-sheet-of-glass design. Panasonic

Panasonic is expanding its selection of plasma screen sizes this year, introducing a 46-inch model that splits the size (and price) difference between the company's 42- and 50-inch plasmas. We'll tackle the whole announcement, which includes 11 new models, in this post, starting with the entry-level models. All of the panels are scheduled to debut in spring, and pricing was not announced.

One note first, however. We liked the company's antiglare screen from last year, found on the TH-50PX77U for example, but for 2008 Panasonic dropped it in favor of a new antireflective screen that's used throughout the line. We're anxious to test one of these models to see how the new screen performs.

The TH-PX80U represents company's entry-level plasma. Panasonic

The entry-level TH-PX80U series includes two models, skipping the 46-inch screen size altogether. It also skips the 1080p resolution found in all of the company's other plasmas announced at the show, offering standard "720p" resolution instead (what's the difference?) The 42-inch TH-42PX80U and the 50-inch TH-50PX80U incorporate a new game mode--said to eliminate the large between a game controller and the onscreen action--an SD card slot for digital photo display, and three HDMI inputs.

The TH-PZ80U is the lowest-priced 1080p series in the lineup. Panasonic

The company's least-expensive 1080p resolution plasmas, the TH-PZ80U series, includes all three sizes, the 42-inch TH-42PZ80U, the 46-inch TH-46PZ80U and the 50-inch TH-50PZ80U. The extra million-odd pixels of 1080p represent this series' step-up feature.

The TH-PZ85U series improves contrast ratio and moves the speakers to the bottom. Panasonic

Panasonic's midrange 1080p plasmas, the TH-PZ85U series, include the 42-inch TH-42PZ85U, the 46-inch TH-46PZ85U and the 50-inch TH-50PZ85U. This series improves the contrast ratio spec from 20,000:1 to 30:000:1--which should indicate better black-level performance--enables native 24p playback, adds a PC input and moves the speakers to the bottom.

The top of the line TH-PZ800U series, including the 42-inch TH-42PZ800U, the 46-inch TH-46PZ800U and the 50-inch TH-50PZ800U, is THX Display Certified, which may or may not indicate better performance than the 85U series. Other differentiators include a fourth HDMI input and a new "one sheet of glass" design concept.