How big is too big? That's the question that you inevitably ask yourself once you spend any amount of time with Panasonic's new 150-inch plasma TV prototype. We visited it in Panasonic's towering warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey last Friday, running it through its paces with 4K footage, Blu-ray movies and Playstation 3 games. After spending a day with it, was it the type of thing I honestly wanted to set up in my living room?
Maybe. Maybe not. The standards that we use to measure other TVs don't apply here. Have you ever seen a TV taller than yourself? A TV that uses more energy than your washer and dryer? A TV that needs to be carried around on a forklift? I'm guessing you haven't. This thing is in a category all its own.
Man, is it impressive. If you stand within a few feet of it, it fills your entire field of vision, quickly making you motion sick if you're playing video games or watching a movie with lots of action. Even standing 20 feet away, you still feel like the TV is the only thing in the room. It's a 4K set, so if you've got the proper ultra-HD footage pumping into it, it makes 1080p look like a second-rate resolution, but even with 1080p, it's absolutely stunning.
Iron Man looked like he was going to jump out of the TV. Robert Downey, Jr.'s baby blues were the size of watermelons in anything closer than a medium shot. Everything was just so big. Seeing a shark leap fully out of the water to devour a seal in Planet Earth becomes even more mindblowing when the shark approaches life size.
And video games? Forget about it. You haven't lived until you've played Call of Duty with life-sized enemies. As I decimated Mahoney over and over again (note to Mahoney: you suck), I felt my hands getting slick with sweat on the controller, my head whipping back and forth to try to see him around corners. My body felt a dissonance because I wasn't moving my legs or having my body jolted with recoil from my automatic weapon.
I've played video games on big TVs before. I visited Panasonic last year to do similar, uh, "tests" on their 103-inch plasma. And while that was awesome, it still felt like playing games and watching movies on a really big TV. The 150 transcends regular TV to become something more. It's like something out of a sci-fi movie, a living wall, a form of primitive virtual reality. It's so overwhelming that you can't really fathom putting it in your house because you can't see it fitting into any kind of reality you inhabit.
Inside the warehouse, we placed a 42-inch plasma next to it that looked pathetic, like something you'd put over your toilet to watch SportsCenter while you take a leak. I wanted to put it in my pocket. Even the 103-incher looked sad and small next to it. And trust me, a 103-inch TV doesn't look sad or small in too many situations.
If this were a true review, I'd have to complain that, since a 4K TV does to 1080p what your new HDTV does to standard-def, you're bound to watch a lot of crappy looking TV on this. If 1080p looks bad, think about all of the channels that come through in standard def. And if you're planning on streaming Netflix movies via your Xbox onto this TV, be prepared for digital artifacts the size of your head.
But you know what? This TV isn't designed for you to put in your living room. Sorry. It's a TV from the future, generously time-teleported back to the present by our friends at Panasonic. You aren't going to hook a VCR up to this thing, and neither are they; it is designed to run with precision-mastered footage, and our current lack of worthy video doesn't diminish the ridiculous potency of the thing.
Believe it or not, Panasonic will begin selling the 150-inch plasma sometime next year, probably for about twice as much as the $70,000 103-incher. Will it be snapped up by anyone? Probably. There are always sultanates and NBA stars looking to have the biggest and most expensive TV in the world, and this definitely fits that bill. But again I'll ask: Is it something normal people would benefit from having in their living room?
I'd say no, but not out of broke resentment and the fact that this would quadruple my energy bill and require me to knock down most of the walls of my home to even get it inside. I don't think people should put this in their living rooms because, when you get down to it, this isn't a TV. I don't want to imagine people watching Two and a Half Men on it. To check the weather on The Weather Channel on this thing would be an act approaching sacrilege. It's more than a TV: it's a glimpse into the future, it's a brazen display of hubris and overkill, and it's a visceral, skin-searing experience. It belongs on spaceships and in museums, not in living rooms. It's only right.