Panasonic Australia's 2013 Home Entertainment lineup includes even smarter TVs, wirelessly connected cameras and camcorders and quite a bit more.
A lot more, in fact; Panasonic's claim, at the launch in Adelaide was that it had 78 new products in total, although undoubtedly many of those are just size and/or colour differences within ranges.
Television: Theoretically Smarter
Panasonic's claim is that one-third of Australian households have a TV capable of being connected online, so differentiation in the smart TV market is rather vital. Plasma is still a key part of Panasonic's local launch launch plans, with models from 50-65 inches, voice interaction features for TV control and plenty of second screen content sharing possibilities.
On the Smart TV side, Panasonic demonstrated what it calls "My Home Screen". This lets individual users set up a profile based on a photo taken with the TV's inbuilt camera; you then stand in front of the TV and say "My Home Screen" into the remote to bring up your chosen app layout. Interesting from a technology viewpoint, although you are limited to only saying "My Homescreen", so you can't, for example, say "Alex's Home Screen", and there's a regulated layout of how the apps will appear.
The top of the line Plasma will be the 65 Inch TH-P65VT60A, which will be available in June for $5499; the cheapest Plasma will be the TH-P60S60A, available in July for $1949. On the LED LCD side, top dog status goes to the 55 inch TH-L55WT60A, available in June for $4199, while the cheapest there will be the 24 inch TH-L24XM6A, hitting stores in May for $429.
Blu-ray Recorders: Online Scheduling and 2K/4K Upscaling
Panasonic announced it will "shortly" be launching a service for this year's crop of Blu-ray recorders that allows for external program scheduling via an online portal, which will also supply EPG data, making them (in essence) a competitor to products such as TiVo or Foxtel's iQ. From standby, they're promised to start up in a single second, although (rather inevitably) that does involve a small constant power draw to be able to operate.
On the straight Blu-ray player side, the flagship model is the shiny silver 4K2K-upscaling DMP-BDT330, which will go on sale in June for $299, although you won't be able to connect it to a 4K Panasonic panel just yet -- there's none on the announced Australian launch map, although Panasonic do at least have one 4K TV somewhere on the planet.
Cameras: Connectivity Is King
Panasonic's big push for camcorders and compact cameras is in the connectivity stakes, with NFC pairing a key pitched feature. Panasonic demonstrated this with mixed results at the launch -- which is to say that the custom Android app used crashed at first -- but once up and running, it's an interesting technological feat, if not one that I could see being all that frequently used. Wi-Fi is also on board selected models, as is a focus on heavy waterproofing. Panasonic took journalists out on a dolphin-spotting cruise, and I was able to test out the $499 DMC-FT5 while being gently (and sometimes not so gently) towed behind a boat. It's certainly a capable enough camcorder, and it survived consistent dunkings and drops, but it's a tough environment to get a good shot of all that much except my own feet.
Alex Kidman travelled to Adelaide as a guest of Panasonic.