Panasonic just announced a lineup of microdisplay LCD rear-projection TVs that answer two of the main problems with the category: Its light source won't burn out or lose brightness like some projection bulbs do, and it gets bright quicker, so the picture is visible in about 15 seconds, rather than 60 seconds on other projection sets. The new technology is not painfully overpriced either: The 61-inch 1080p set shown above lists for just $2,200.

There will be five TVs in all, two 720p LCX models at 56" and 61" sizes, and three 1080p LCZ models starting at 50". Price range will be tight, from around $1,700 for the two TVs at the low end, to the aforementioned $2,200 for the flagship. Looking at the spec sheets, the only downside I can see is the targeted 3,000:1 contrast ratio. Sure, we've already admitted that many contrast-ratio specs are nonsense, but that's still pretty low in today's world.

The mysterious technology is not LED, in case that's what you thought. LIFI, just a brand name for the technology which stands for "light fidelity," is not based on electrodes, and is one-eighth the size of a standard tungsten-fed High Intensity Discharge bulb, but Panasonic states:

With a longer lifetime, the LIFI HDTV series offers the same performance as an LED model, but at a lower price point.

The real key is that the bulb itself will "virtually never need to be replaced," according to the press release. We assume that the "virtually" was placed their by cautious lawyers, and that, for all intents and purposes, this is a burn-out free TV. Now all we have to do is see how much chunkier it is than Panasonic's sweet plasma TVs.

Press Release:

PANASONIC DELIVERS WORLD'S FIRST LIFI HDTV

Newest Line of Micro Displays Features Innovative Light Source And Quick Start-Up

SECAUCUS, NJ (August 22, 2007) — Panasonic has started to ship a new line of High Definition LCD Rear Projection Display televisions featuring the revolutionary long-life LIFI™, a first-of-its kind light fidelity projection display application that ensures image brightness over an extended period of time as well as greatly reduced start-up time. The Panasonic LIFI High Definition line includes two series - the LCZ and LCX. The LCZ series, available in three large-screen screen sizes, 61-inches, 56-inches and 50-inches, feature 1080p resolution and an elegant glossy black finish with a new floating panel design. The PT-61LCX70 and PT-56LCX70 offer 720p resolution.

"The unique LIFI technology provides the consumer with a viable, affordable option for big screen, 1080p High Definition entertainment," said Dennis Eppel, Vice President of Panasonic Display Company. "The fact that the bulb will virtually never need to be replaced is a great benefit to the consumer and one of the reasons we strongly believe that LIFI will be successful. From our Plasma and LCD TVs to the LIFI HDTVs, we want Panasonic consumers to experience the absolute best in High-Definition home theater. With our breadth of High Definition choices we are confident that Panasonic can provide that experience."

By converting HID (High Intensity Discharge) lamps to LIFI, the models enjoy an especially long life span with incredible brightness. When the electrodes in HID lamps deteriorate and the tungsten evaporates, it causes diminished brightness, as well as damage to the lamp itself. The light source in the Panasonic LIFI HDTV does not use electrodes, resulting in more stable performance and a considerably longer lifespan. Additionally, Panasonic's LIFI technology projects a wide variety and spectrum of light, allowing for the most radiant reds, greens and natural skin tones.

The start-up time for a Panasonic LIFI HDTV is a fraction of the time it takes for a traditional LCD projection set to start up. This is because the light source does not use electrodes and the LIFI bulb is 1/8 the size found in an HID lamp, so the temperature rises more rapidly, enabling faster start-up. The actual time from the moment the set is turned on until there is a picture is now reduced from 60 seconds or more to approximately 15 seconds.

With a longer lifetime, the LIFI HDTV series offers the same performance as an LED model, but at a lower price point. The LIFI lamp generates less scintillation noise than traditional HID lamps, and the invisible speakers marry impeccable design with high-quality sound. Using the device's remote control, users can easily enjoy EZ Sync™-enabled products such as Blu-ray Disc players.

Additional features of the LCX70 Series include:

· LIFI Light Source

· New 720p LCD Panel

· All Black Cosmetics

· 3,000:1 Contrast Ratio (Target)

· Full Range Speaker System (20W output)

· HDMI (Front 1, Rear 2)

· PC Input

· SD Card Slot

· EZ Sync™



Additional features of the LCZ70 Series include:

· LIFI Light Source

· New 1080p LCD Panel

· Piano Black Cosmetic

· 3,000:1 Contrast Ratio (Target)

· Full Range Speaker System (20W output)

· HDMI (Front 1, Rear 2)

· PC Input

· SD Card Slot

· EZ Sync™



About Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company

Based in Secaucus, N.J., Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company is a Division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, the principal North American subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (NYSE: MC) and the hub of Panasonic's U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. Information about Panasonic products is available at www.panasonic.com. Additional company information for journalists is available at www.panasonic.com/pressroom.



Panasonic LIFI HD MD-PTV 2007 Models



PT-56LCX70 - 720p LIFI HD-TV

$1699.95 - August, 2007



PT-61LCX70 - 720p LIFI HD-TV

$1999.95 - August, 2007



PT-50LCZ70 - 1080p LIFI HD-TV

$1699.99 - August, 2007



PT-56LCZ70 1080p LIFI HD-TV

$1899.95 - August, 2007



PT-61LCZ70 1080p LIFI HD-TV

$2199.95 - August, 2007