With Pioneer out, Panasonic is licking their chops in the plasma department (with some decent LCDs too). Either way, they make some of the best sets available: here's a guide to their 2009 lineup.
Note that these are the same TVs rolled out at CES—nothing new has been announced, save for pricing and availability (although some remain TBD). So while the super-thin Z1 got all the CES attention, the line as a whole has some great value points scattered through its bafflingly stupid kudzu forrest of model designations. Here, the knife to get through it.
• X1 Series
The X1 are the barest bones 720p sets, and are divided between LCDs for the 26, 32 and 37-inch sizes and plasma for the 42 and 50-inchers. To sweeten the deal (a little), the LCDs come with an iPod dock that lets you play music and video via the remote on an interface on the screen. But as Wilson has said, you don't go to Per Se for McNuggets (or maybe you do)—but in any case, for a low-end LCD, you may be better served by Samsung or Sony. And you'll want to stay away from the X1 plasmas—they're the old panels from last year's line.
LCDs: TC-L26X1 - $US600, TC-L32X1 - $US650, TC-L37X1 - $US800; all coming this month
Plasmas: TC-P42X1 - $US900, TC-P50X1 - $US1100.
• S1 Series
This is the step up into 1080p/120Hz (for LCD) land, and is a series still split into LCDs and plasmas, indicating that the distinction between flat-TV types is something people care less and less about at the store. On the plasmas, this will be the lowest you can go to still get the new 2009 panel glass, which has increased motion resolution and contrast. Motion resolution is essentially the same stat touted as 120/240Hz refresh rate in LCDs; Panasonic has starting referring to the "sub-field drive" (motion resolution refresh rate) in the same terms, here as "600Hz". Also new here is 54-inch plasma, a size Panasonic hasn't done before.
LCDs: TC-L32S1 - $US850, TC-L37S1 - $US900; all coming this month
Plasmas: TC-P42S1 - $US1200, TC-P46S1 - $US1500, TC-P50S1 - $US1800 (this month for these three), TC-P54S1- $US2200 (May 2009), TC-P58S1 - TC-P65S1 (no price on the biggies).
• G1 Series
These are the highest-end LCDs at the 32 and 37-inch sizes, but with not much to differentiate from the S1 series besides an extra HDMI port, a nicer bezel and an increased contrast ratio. Again, if you're going LCD, might want to check around elsewhere.
LCDs: TC-L32G1 - $US800, TC-L37G1 - $US1100
• G10 Series
Throwing the rest of the naming convention to the wind is the G10 series, which is the earliest point in the line where Viera Cast, Panasonic's built-in streaming software service, comes in (it's in all the series moving on up the line from here). The biggest fish offered through Viera Cast is Amazon VOD; there's no Netflix to be found. With others like LG offering both, it's kind of baffling why Netflix is missing here, but if a deal comes to fruition later, your TV will be compatible, as the whole thing lives server side. These sets are also THX-certified with a special THX preset for optimised picture settings, with sizes going up to the new 54-incher.
Plasmas: TC-P42G10 - $US1400, TC-P46G10 - $US1700, TC-P50G10 - $US2000, TC-P54G10 - $US2400.
The V10s are the top-of-the line, big-screen plasmas, going all the way up to 65 inches. They have everything found on the G10s, adding 24p cinema framerate playback and the bigger-sized panels. The 40,000:1 contrast ratio won't beat the custom-install only 65VX100U's 60,000:1 blacks we saw at CEDIA, but you won't have to drop 10 grand either. In fact you won't have to drop a lot of money at all, as the value quotient here is pretty hot—at least where pricing is confirmed.
Plasmas: TC-P50V10 - $US2300, TC-P54V10 - $US2700, TC-P58V10 - TBD, TC-P65V10 - TBD.
And of course, let's not forget the crazy showpiece Z1, the one-inch thick stunner with Wireless HDMI on top of all of the high end specs you've seen before. The pre-production model we saw today looks just as fine as it did at CES. Pricing is now set at $US6000, with a non-commital 2009 release.