BREAKING: A 3DTV at CES. But Panasonic's flagship plasma, the VT30, really had us drooling. And the little companion "tablet" that matches has us intrigued—an extra TV screen is extra good, right? We hope it works as advertised.
If history is any indicator, we have the feeling this gorgeous, second gen plasma will be the 3D set to beat this year. Panasonic plasmas have been outstanding performers, but they look like, well, crap. The VT30 series—as well as the rest of the 2011 plasma line-up—get a long needed makeover, including thinner bezels and a classy metal bands framing the single glass sheet design. The VT30 will come in two models, a 65-inch and 55-inch version, and will include a rejiggered Viera Connect.
The new Viera Connect, which we hope will not be as slow and irritating as the last Viera software, is app-ed the hell out. Apps! APPS! You'll be able to buy them on the Viera Connect Market. The usual suspects are all here. Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Skype, sports streaming—Panasonic, like everyone else, wants you to be able to gander at the same things on your TV as your computer or smartphone. Games are also an option, using any Bluetooth-compatible game pad, although the offerings are a little bleak at the moment—other than a racing game, titles like "Chess" and "Reversi" aren't exactly Xbox-killers. Although it might be pretty much just another "our TV is a treasure trove of apps and internet," we're not mad at any TV that makes it easier to stream movies. At this point it's just another part of the pack, but not such a bad pack to be follow.
A potentially cool addition to the jazzy new Viera is a—drumroll—tablet. The Viera Tablet. A bit of a misnomer, really, as it's more of a glorified remote control than a tablet. It shares the tablet aesthetic (rectangularity!), but, despite running Android, it's meant only to use with your TV. Like a little friend for your TV. Panasonic says the tab lite will let you watch TV events from alternate angles (ie sports), or take a break from the big screen and watch your program on the go (read: on the toilet). Whether this functionality will work with all TV shows or just the Viera apps isn't clear—and we'll have to wait a while to find out, as the tablet is Japan only until an unknown time later this year.
Plus! Chat with your friends while you're watching. This seems like overkill. If I'd like to talk about The Real Housewives of Atlanta while I'm watching it, I'll probably be on my laptop or texting. That aside, an extra screen could be sweet, if executed well.