Today Panasonic announced the list pricing of its flagship PZ850 line: 46" for $3,100, 50" for $3,500, 59" for $4,300 and $8,000 for the monster 65 incher. The smaller two sets will be available this summer, with the larger ones due out in the fall. The company also demoed the Viera Cast IPTV system that debuts with the 850; it's a first step into internet country with Picasa, YouTube, Bloomberg quotes and weather reports onboard at launch. Though not positioned as elite as the Pioneer, it's a very good looking TV with high-end color reproduction and other technical features. Besides, the Viera Cast interface shown above and after the jump was cooler than expected.
As is the case with most companies launching similar products, the system is easily expandable, and Pana promises more content partners in the future, though not imminently. I would like to have some kind of a la carte movies-on-demand option, to compete with the new Netflix box, along with Vudu and other options, but Pana isn't talking about that yet. They do say they are exploring options along these lines, and while they won't name names, I see MovieLink or CinemaNow as worthwhile addition, and maybe Rhapsody, too.
As you can see in the video below, it's got enough entertainment at the start to get customers comfortable with the format, and the architecture leaves room for all those other services.
PANASONIC ANNOUNCES AVAILABILITY OF ITS FIRST VIERA® CAST WEB-ENABLED PLASMA HDTV
YouTube™, Google's Picasa™ Web Albums and Bloomberg Sites Accessible Directly On-Screen
Secaucus, NJ, (May 20, 2008) - Panasonic, the industry leader in High Definition Plasma TV, announced today that its much-anticipated web-enabled PZ850 series of VIERA Plasma HDTV's will be available at retail beginning in mid-June. The flagship line's wide range of cutting-edge features is highlighted by VIERA CAST which provides access to some of the most popular content sites on the Internet today - YouTube, Google's Picasa Web Album and Bloomberg. The VIERA line was initially previewed at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show in January 2008.
Panasonic's VIERA 1080p PZ850 series offers features designed for the most demanding videophile - enhanced contrast ratio, deeper blacks, faster response time and outstanding picture quality in four screen sizes - the 46-inch class TH-46PZ850 (46.0" measured diagonally), the 50-inch class TH-50PZ850 (49.9" measured diagonally), the 58-inch class TH-58PZ850 (58.0" measured diagonally) and the 65-inch class TH-65PZ850 (64.8" measured diagonally). Coupled with Panasonic's new VIERA CAST technology, the PZ850 series will give consumers on-screen access to a far broader range of unique content than ever before.
"Our VIERA PZ850 series really takes connectivity and home entertainment to a whole new level for consumers," said Bob Perry, Senior Vice President, Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company. "In addition to delivering stunning, true-to-life High Definition movies and television programming that all of our VIERA HDTV's are famous for, our PZ850 series also allows you to seamlessly access an unending supply of content via the web via You Tube and Google's Picasa Web Album websites. Another terrific enhancement for the consumer is that when new web sites become available they will be automatically available on the TV.
"Imagine being able to press a button and see a family member's photos from their vacation right on your own large-screen Plasma or enjoy one of the many intriguing videos found on You Tube from the comfort of your easy chair," added Perry. "The VIERA PZ850 with VIERA CAST makes it all possible quickly and easily."
The PZ850 also makes it easy to enjoy your own High Definition digital still and video images in breathtaking 16x9 widescreen format by inserting an SD Memory Card into the HDTV. While all of Panasonic's VIERA HDTV's can display digital still images via SD card, the PZ850 features H.264 codec making it possible to enjoy HD video content from your HD camcorder by simply inserting an SD Memory Card into the TV.
In addition to the line's Internet and SD Memory Card capabilities, the PZ850 series delivers a number of other high-tech step-up features that will further benefit the consumer and strengthen Panasonic's Plasma leadership position.
The PZ850 series features a Pro Setting Menu, a must-have for videophiles who can benefit from access to professional calibration software. Images come to life like never before in crisp, true-to-life color, clarity and smoothness thanks to an enhanced native resolution contrast ratio of 30,000:1, a dynamic ratio of 1,000,000:1, 24p native reproduction, Digital Cinema Color Re-Mastering (a technology that allows for accurate color reproduction essential for movies), and Studio Reference Mode (provides faithful reproduction of the subtle colors intended by film makers).
For the avid gamer, the PZ850 series also offers a Game Mode which minimizes the time lag when displaying game images on the Plasma screen. The addition of four HDMI connections and a PC input also gives users greater flexibility to connect peripheral components to the display.
Like all Panasonic VIERA Plasma HDTV's, the PZ850 series panels contain no lead or mercury and deliver increased luminous efficiency and 100,000 hours of viewing time to half brightness (40+ years at 6+ hours viewing per day).
Additionally, the PZ850 series, as well as Panasonic's entire 2008 line of VIERA flat panels, features VIERA Link™, a means to control multiple AV devices with one remote.
Discussing the availability of YouTube content on the VIERA PZ850 series Plasmas at CES 2008 in January, Steve Chen, co-founder and CTO of YouTube, said, "We're dedicated to providing users around the world with a great YouTube experience, no matter where they are. Working with an industry leader like Panasonic will deliver the same terrific YouTube experience that users have come to expect from their computers; browsing, finding and watching millions of videos from the comfort of their living room."