Panasonic launch new 4K TVs at Convention 2014 - Video report
At this year's convention in Amsterdam, Panasonic promised LCD TVs as good as plasma - have they been at the 'wacky baccy'?
This year’s Panasonic Convention had a slight air of sadness about it, thanks to the company’s decision to pull out of the plasma market.
Although all production ceases at the end of this month and despite Panasonic’s efforts to remain upbeat about the future of LED LCD technology, it was still plasma that dominated people’s thoughts. Like the technological equivalent of Banquo’s ghost, plasma haunted proceedings as Panasonic tried to convince the European press that they could get better images from a LED LCD TV. We remain sceptical ourselves and the absence of the other self-illuminating technology - OLED - didn’t help matters but we’re prepared to give Panasonic the benefit of the doubt until we can actually review production samples.
As it is, their flagship AX900 won’t be hitting the streets until later in the year, probably just after IFA in September but at least the TV includes some interesting features including Panasonic’s 4K Studio Master Drive. This uses a Super Chroma Drive to help reproduce accurate colours at lower saturation levels, as well as a Black Gradation Drive to improve the gradation within shadow details. The AX900 also includes an Ultra HD panel, THX 4K Certification, Quad Core Pro5 processing with HEVC decoding and Local Dimming Ultra for deeper blacks and an improved dynamic range. The AX900 will come in screen sizes of 55, 65 and 85 inches and, given it’s use of a full array backlight, it’s affair bet that it won’t be cheap. The pre-production models they had on display certainly looked good, with highly effective local dimming, but it's hard to really judge image quality on a show floor.
At least Panasonic seemed keen to stress the importance they place on image accuracy and not only do their flagship TVs boast THX certification but they also have two ISF modes. These include extensive calibration controls, thus allowing a professional calibrator to create highly accurate and effective Day and Night settings. In fact none other than Joel Silver, the founder of the ISF, was on hand to tell the assembled journalists what we at AVForums already know - the importance of displays adhering to industry standards. Along with use of Super Chroma Drive to ensure that their TVs hit the coordinates for Rec.709 at all saturation levels, Panasonic were also keen to stress that their TVs can meet the proposed gamma standard of BT.1886, which is designed to emulate the gamma response of a CRT display.
In terms of their new TV line-up, Panasonic have completely changed their model numbers in an effort to simplify them and make them more representative of what the TV actually does. So whilst every model number starts with an A, the addition of an S indicates it has smart features, the use of an X means it’s a UHD TV and the number 50 indicates 3D capability. This isn’t entirely accurate since the AS740, AS800, AX800 and AX900 are all 3D capable and the AX800 and AX900 have smart features but you get the general idea. So new for this year we have the A400, AS500, AS600, AS650, AS740, AS750, AS800, AX800 and AX900. As with last year, there is a greater emphasis on larger screen sizes, with models ranging from 24 to 85 inches. Whilst pricing gads yet to be announced, he first TVs should be hitting the shops in couple of weeks, with more models being launched through spring and into the summer - just in time for the World Cup.
Of course Panasonic don’t just make TVs and they were keen to show off their latest range of Blu-ray players, many of which now include 4K upscaling and 4K JPEG playback. There's even the new DMP-BDT700 that is THX certified, a first for Panasonic. There are also additions to their excellent range of 3D Blu-ray recorders with built-in tuners and hard drives. If you’re looking for a tidy all-in-one solution, Panasonic have that covered with 5.1 systems that include a built-in Blu-ray player, amplification and a wireless powered subwoofer. The top-of-the-line SC-BTT885 not only uses four tower speakers but also has built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, Miracast, NFC and DLNA. Of course the big growth area has been soundbars and Panasonic are launching five new models, there of which include wireless active subwoofers and one with four-way multi-angle positioning. There are also two new Speakerboards, Panasonic's name for a soundbase, with a host of features and connectivity options.
In pure audio terms, Panasonic were keen to demonstrate their wireless multi-room system which they have christened the All Series. There are three different wireless speaker models and they include Qualcomm's AllPlay, a smart media platform that allows music to be streamed into multiple rooms at high quality. There are also new portable Bluetooth speakers systems, three new compact music systems and three new micro compact music systems, all with extensive lifestyle features. Whilst 2014 might well be a transitionary year for Panasonic, it's good to see that the Japanese manufacturer can still provide an extensive line-up of products that combine the company's usual flair for design with great features and cutting edge technology. Now if they can just make OLED screens at an affordable price, we'd all be happy.
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