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Panasonic at CES: What's on the horizon for plasma?

This year Panasonic wheeled out Ridley Scott to endorse the best qualities of Panasonic's plasma range. He even used the word "breathtaking"

Panasonic is promising a plasmatastic (Crave's word, not Panasonic's) year. The company continues its whole-hearted support of plasma televisions, claiming they offer the best picture quality of any flat panel. (Despite this, it continues to make smaller screens using LCD, because it's much cheaper.)

The most exciting announcement from Panasonic this year was that it's working on bringing 1080p to smaller plasma sets. It demonstrated a 42-inch, 1080p prototype, which it claims will bring so-called 'Full HD' to people who can't necessarily fit a TV the size of a car in their front room.

In the UK we aren't very keen on rear-projection televisions -- it has done better in the US, where they lust after big things. It's worth mentioning, however, that Panasonic has introduced a new rear-projection lamp system it's calling LIFI. The advantage of this new technology is that you should never have to replace your rear-projection lamp again. There will be two ranges of LIFI-equipped sets, termed LCZ and LCX. The LCZ series is all 1080p, with the LCX supporting 720p.

Panasonic has also added two large screens to its 1080p range. The TH-58PZ700U and TH-50PZ700U are 58 and 50 inches respectively. These screens have a new design, and include an anti-glare coating that should help cut down some of the reflections that blight plasmas. Both will be available from this summer.

If your budget won't stretch to the 1080p range, the TH-50PX77U and TH-42PX77U 720p screens will be available from this spring. Both feature the same anti-glare coating as the two larger screens, and also have had a cosmetic makeover and offer side-firing speakers.

Panasonic also offers three LCD televisions. All three panels are 720p capable, with a resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. The 32-inch TC-32LX700 is the best-specified, offering Motion Picture Pro, a technology that aims to produce smoother motion by interpolating 120 frames per second. The range also includes a 32-inch TC-32LX70 and a 26-inch model, the TC-26LX70. All three LCDs feature Panasonic's Intelligent Scene Controller, which aims to reduce the light level from the backlight during dark scenes.

The good news is that all these models will have something called EZ-Sync, which is supposed to make controlling all your devices simple, through one remote control. The system works through the HDMI connections and has just one downside -- all the things you want to control have to be made by Panasonic. Bah!

It turns out that Gladiator director Ridley Scott is a big fan of plasma televisions. Scott went so far as to say that watching one of his films on a 65-inch Panasonic plasma was "breathtaking" and pointed out that as a filmmaker "deep blacks are essential and in my experience no technology captures those attributes as well as plasma". So that's that, then. Ridley wants you to buy a plasma TV and if you don't, you'll be reducing the quality of his art. -IM