I put 3D firmly in the "give it at least another generation" pile. Mostly due to lack of content - by the time there's enough to care about, there'll be another generation of TVs to choose from. But Panasonic's latest flagship plasma display, the Viera VT20, shows it's worth buying a 3D TV if said 3D TV happens to be as good as the legendary Pioneer Kuro when it comes to its overall performance.
The Panasonic Viera VT20 is available as a 50-inch model in June at $3299 RRP. Larger models will hit the market in time for the Christmas sales rush. For a flagship plasma TV delivering a premium quality picture, $3299 is quite a reasonable price - and that's leaving 3D out of the equation altogether.
The specs are totally over the top. 600Hz sub-field drive, 5,000,000:1 dynamic contrast, THX certified, 24p playback, 4x HDMI, USB HDD recording, USB playback, SD card viewing, VIERA CAST content service (including Skype and Yahoo!7's new PLUS7 service), DLNA certified... oh, and 3D.
But specs are specs. We had the chance to check out the panel in a darkroom setup yesterday, sitting next to Panasonic's 2009 flagship model, the V10. At first glance they're both looking pretty good, but once you started to pay attention the VT20 blew the V10 out of the water. Yes, blacker blacks, but even more telling were the highlights. With the new panel delivering excellent colour, the whites on the V10 started to look more like the teeth of a smoker.
When I mentioned the almighty Kuro above, it wasn't overstatement. Pioneer sold out of the last of their great panels earlier in the year, but Panasonic picks up where they left off. Literally. Panasonic bought the Kuro technology from Pioneer, and here we see it hitting the market again in the VT20. No doubt some will still cry that they don't make them like they used to. We aren't seeing this side-by-side with the old Pioneer magic, but whatever. Let's make no mistake. This latest screen from Panasonic is something special.
And that for me is the future of 3D. It'll just be a feature your TV supports, whether you care to use it or not. And that's fine. The VT20 fits that bill. It 'happens' to be a 3D TV, and 3D is the big marketing push right now so Panasonic is placing that feature front and centre. But it's also a stunning panel, with whiter whites, blacker blacks and gorgeous colours.
With news that Panasonic is ramping up 3D TV production due to high demand, I'd like to suggest the demand is also thanks to building a great television. But maybe I'm just a crazy optimist giving 'the market' more credit than it deserves?
Don't buy this television because it's a 3D TV. Buy this television because it is beautiful.