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In space no one can hear you scream

First impressions and shed-loads of pictures and info from CNET Australia's first-hand look at a prototype of Panasonic's upcoming 50-inch 3D plasma TV.

Panasonic showed off its first 3D plasma to CNET Australia today, and we have to admit we were gobsmacked. The 3D element was very immersive, and almost as good as the cinema, but we think that the technology hinges on lots of quality content becoming available. While this TV will get a release mid-year, you won't see Avatar on 3D Blu-ray until November.

But we'll say the 3D aspect was only one of many interesting features. This is definitely Panasonic's most technologically advanced television yet, and features the company's Viera Cast, which in addition to YouTube will also allow Skype calls. The TV comes with two USB ports, with the USB webcam available separately, but is still yet to be announced for Australia.

Despite some overseas moaning recently, we think that Panasonic still rules the television roost, and the Panasonic Viera TX-P50VT20 — or whatever it gets named locally — is already shaping up to be our favourite screen of this year.

Watch the video and click through the photo gallery below.

The final production version of this TV is due on sale here in June or July 2010. Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but Panasonic Australia claims that the price premium will be "small". In the UK, the 3D Viera TX-P50VT20 will soon retail for £2000 (AU$3400). It will ship there with two pairs of active glasses.

Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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3D Blu-ray

With free-to-air 3D broadcasts a long way off in the distance (standards aren't even close to being agreed on and let's not even begin talking about spectrum), the most likely way we'll be watching 3D is via Blu-ray.

For that you'll need a 3D Blu-ray player, such as this Panasonic player DMP-BDT300 from the UK, although as the standard was set in December any 3D Blu-ray player will do.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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Hand me my glasses, part I

With each television maker coming up with its own way of projecting stereoscopic images, you'll need to have a few brand-specific glasses handy.

Panasonic has decided to show alternating left and right eye images, with the glasses' shutters operating in unison with the TV. The glasses are powered by a small replaceable battery, which is good for approximately 100 hours of viewing and communicate with the TV via infrared.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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Hand me my glasses, part II

Panasonic Australia has yet to decide on how many glasses to ship with each 3D TV and how much to charge for additional glasses. In the UK they're expected to retail at up to £100 (AU$170) each.

Each pair of glasses should come with two different bridge attachments, which can be adjusted to sit at one of three heights.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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Hand me my glasses, part III


Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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3D Blu-ray players and TVs use the HDMI 1.4 standard to transport images from disc to screen. This connection standard means you won't need to connect two devices to Ethernet cables, just one, and the TV will allow audio to be fed back upstream so you can listen to your TV tuner or Viera Cast content through your receiver without an extra cable.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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So last year

The thing that most excited us about the 3D plasma was the 2D picture quality. The integration of Pioneer engineers into Panasonic's ranks is now apparent. The television features a Kuro-like design which does without the outer glass layer meaning no inner reflections. The TV features a new "cell structure" but Panasonic was unable to quote the contrast ratio improvement until the TV's formal announcement in April.

For today's demonstration, Panasonic lined up both its prototype TV (left) and last year's Editors' Choice-winning Viera TH-P46G10A (right).

With both displaying in 2D, it was clear to us that the new TV is a leap ahead of the highly acclaimed G10, with blacks that would do a black hole justice, and almost no loss of colour, brightness or contrast when viewed from almost side on. The dark inky blacks reminded us of the Extreme Contrast Concept we saw two years ago at CES 2008, and we're glad to see this technology didn't die with Pioneer plasmas. Unfortunately, this photo doesn't really bear these claims out, so you'll just have to trust us on this one for the moment.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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Back it up, part I

The back of the prototype 3D TV.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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Back it up, part II

The rear of the 3D Blu-ray player which will be available at the same as the TV (June or July 2010). Note the HDMI version 1.4 port, which offers greater bandwidth for 3D applications.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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Something we can all agree on

With our eyes growing slightly weary from viewing the 3D TV, we began emptying the table of its popcorn.

Updated:Caption:Photo:Derek Fung/CNET Australia
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