Local computer manufacturer Optima has taken a more serious plunge into the consumer electronics world by launching two new plasma TV sets (42-inch/106cm and 50-inch/127cm) aimed at the "value-conscious home theatre enthusiast".

Without the benefit of established brand recognition, Optima has gone the price-competitive route, with its 42-inch (106 cm) plasma tagged with an RRP $3999 and the 50-inch model coming in at the $6599 mark. As an added attraction, Optima plans to bundle the sets with its new set top box and standard speakers for $4399 and $6999, respectively.

The discrete-looking thin (only 82mm) black-rimmed sets can be wall or stand mounted.  They feature picture-in-picture (PIP) mode and VGA (analog and digital) input for connecting directly to a PC. Optima execs claim that the plasma screens are an ideal foil to their MyPC Media Center PC.

Other connections include composite, S-video and component video inputs, and six stereo RCA jacks for 5.1 surround sound and two standard 3.5mm audio jacks.

With 1024 x 768 pixel resolution on the 42-inch screen (1366 x 768 on the 50-inch model), the TVs  support HD broadcasts and HD DVD playback.
The downside of product launches in CBD hotels is that rarely do TV feeds work in the function rooms. With that hurdle, we were not able to view HD content, only a video feed from a VGA link to a notebook. The vision looked clear and the colours true on that demo, but the real test of image quality will come when we are able to fully test a review unit.

More choice and more price competition can only be good for Australian consumers. While it may take a while to equate Optima with more than just PCs and notebooks, the company is banking its growth on these plasmas, LCD TVs and a soon-to-be-expanded MP3/MPEG4 player and projector range, so we'll be seeing a lot more of its logo on retail shelves. If they can push out solid quality at a competitive price point, it will be most welcome.