Panasonic is still serious about plasma, but in 2012 it will release more (and bigger) LCDs than ever, including one with passive 3D--complete with cheap glasses.
As usual CES provided a full look at the company's 2012 TV hardware plans and we covered them extensively in blog and video form, but the table below attempts to coalesce those plans in the most "scannable, glanceable" view possible. All of it came from the company's official CES press releases, although a few of the Notes were the result of follow-up conversations I had with company reps.
You won't find these TVs described in detail on Panasonic's Web site yet. The company, like all of those I'm profiling in tables over the next few days, holds back its Web site updates until the 2012 models start shipping.
Anyway, here's the table. Scroll lower in the post for more detail and click through to the series links for even more, including those patented in-depth blog posts.
- "MAP Price" stands for Minimum Advertised Price, meaning the price most merchants will advertise when the product launches. It's usually a couple hundred less than Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). The prices listed on the chart are based on leaked information; official pricing and availability will most likely be announced in early March, and I expect details on the VT50 will follow later in April.
- An entry of "X" or a brief description (e.g., "2D and 3D") means the TV has the feature. A blank entry means it does not. An entry of "TBD" means I don't know yet.
- I expect the Infinite Black Ultra panel to have better black levels than the Pro variety, which in turn should outperform the standard 1080p/720p panels found on the UT50 models and lower. There's a bit more on panel tech in the videos attached to the VT50/GT50/ST30 blog posts, if you're curious.
- In the 1080p/24 column, 96Hz and 48Hz refer to the refresh rate of the screen when a special 1080p/24 mode is engaged. If performance from past years is any indication, flicker in the 48Hz mode will render it essentially useless. Happily for film buffs however, dis-engaging that special mode while still sending the TV 1080p/24 content will preserve the correct cadence of film (see the ST30 review for details).
- I was told that the VT50 will have those extensive picture controls (like 10-point color temperature) not found on the GT50 and lower sets, but whether they suffer the same issues as on the 2011 VT30 is an open question.
- Since Panasonic offers both in 2012, you might want a refresher on passive vs. active 3D. None of the active 3D models (including the VT50) will include 3D glasses.
- The 2011 version of platform was our favorite overall, mainly because of its quality apps and simple design. for more on 2012's improvements; the new web browser is not included on the UT50 model.
- The XT50 and LE5 sets lack full Viera Connect but include "Online Movies, a service that provides select Panasonic's IPTV functionality by adding five of the most popular movies to the TV's internet functionality."
- I don't list refresh rate (600Hz or otherwise), drive/phosphor speeds, or any of the other myriad arcane specs Panasonic included in its releases because frankly I don't think they'll matter much. The same goes for numerous other specs you won't find on these tables.
- Update 2/2: I have published the full spec sheets for Panasonic's 2012 plasma and LCD lineup, for anybody who wants even more detail. And no, I couldn't figure out how to freeze rows/columns in the URL'd Google sheet.
- Jan 30th: Added release dates for plasmas; see first comment below (thanks to reader Robert Zohn). Corrected typos; see third comment below (thanks to reader jladis).
- Feb 2: Added and screen finish columns 1080p/24 based on Panasonic's official specs spreadsheets (see final note).
- Feb 7: Added leaked pricing for most plasmas and updated VT50 release date to May per ValueElectronics.com.
- Feb 13: Clarified that pricing was MSRP, not MAP, modified first note accordingly.
- Feb 27: Added leaked pricing for LED/LCDs, added TC-PLE50 series LED, both per hdguru. Corrected chart and notes to show MAP pricing, not MSRP as originally indicated.