posted on Monday, 18th February 2013 by Steve May
Panasonic will introduce its 'Beyond the Reference' TX-P60ZT65 (TX-P60ZT60 in the US and some other territories) plasma TV (pictured above) into the UK and Europe this summer, with an RRP of approx. £4,000. Although the models numbers differ - the ZT65 will be the name in the UK - there is no difference in hardware. Only a single 60-inch screen size will be available. The brand confirmed the news at its recent pan-European dealer conference in Nice, France.
The company was quick to stress that only a limited number of ZT65s would be available, although it was unable to say just how many. To emphasise its exclusivity, every TV would be individually numbered and supplied with commemorative document signed by the chief engineer responsible. Fabrice Estornel, Senior Manager for Panasonic UK's Visual Marketing Group, told Inside CI that the new Studio Master Panel "is totally different from that on the VT60. This panel is quite complicated to manufacture, which is why we are saying it's a limited edition. It's truly amazing in terms of black level and colour reproduction."
Better than Kuro
Demonstrations of the model, which is THX certified for both 2D and Active Shutter 3D, were certainly compelling. Lined up for a dark room shootout against the final iteration of the Pioneer Kuro, and last year's ZT50, the new screen offered visibly deeper blacks and greater dynamics. Incidentally, one former Pioneer Kuro engineer, now with Panasonic, was in attendance. "Yes, it is better than Kuro," he confirmed.
To improve overall clarity, the set uses a new High Contrast Pro filter and direct glass layer which removes the airgap between the PDP itself and front-panel glass, to eliminate off-angle shadows and unwanted reflections. A so-called Hexa processing engine combines six-image enhancement techniques (including noise reduction, Intelligent Frame Creation and MPEG remastering), while a 3000Hz Focused-field Drive (FFD) promises improved motion resolution. The set offers 31,000 steps of gradation, compared to 24,000 last year, plus a more effective version of the 1080p Direct function seen on some 2012 screens from the brand.
Naturally the flagship is armed to the teeth with cutting edge functionality. It's one of several sets being introduced this year which will feature multiple TV tuners. The set sports six in all, of which two (most likely the two Freeview HD tuners) can be used in tandem. This allows the set to timeshift programmes to an attached USB hard drive, without tying up channel choice on the set. The facility also supports Watch & Share: viewers can watch one channel, while a second is streamed to a smartphone or tablet using a Panasonic app. You can even view dual channels simultaneously on a split screen.
Introducing My Home Screen
The TX-P60ZT65 also sports Panasonic's new My Home Screen user customisable interface. This allows owners to tailor functionality as appropriate; a 16-segment grid permits streaming TV services and widgets to be arranged as desired. Owners can also upload their own Home Screen wallpaper image. The panel incorporates a built-in camera which uses face recognition technology, so several distinct Home Screen configurations can be saved. The TV also supports voice interaction.
One of the more unusual new feature additions, available on the ZT60 as well as the rest of the 2013 plasma range, is an electronic Touch Pen that enables notes and scribbles to be drawn directly onto the glass itself. Quite why anyone would want to encourage folks to deface their TV eludes us though. An electronic pen is supplied with the set, along with two pairs of shuttering 3D glasses. Panasonic insists the e-pen in no way marks the screen.
Design aesthetics are high, with the set finished with a minimalistic metal bezel and high-neck pedestal. Screen longevity is claimed to be around 100,000 hours before panel brightness decrease by half - that's more than 30 years viewing at eight hours a day.
Panasonic plasma TV line-up in full
The VT65 will be joined by a wide range of sibling models: the VT65 will be available in 55-inch, 60-inch and 65-inch screen sizes, and will feature a 3000 Hz FFD neoPlasma panel, Infinite Black Ultra filter and twin tuners. Like the ZT60, they are all THX certified for 2D and 3D, and sport built in cameras for face recognition. A VR-audio stage pro 2.1 audio system promises more than the traditional thin TV squawk.
Two GT60 models are due this year, in 42- and 50 inch screen sizes. They share much in common with the VT60s, including a 3000 Hz FFD panel, Hexa-processing engine and THX certification. The cost-effective ST60 represent Panasonic's mainstream proposition. These 3D sets come in 42-, 50-, 55- and 65-inch screens sizes, and feature Infinite Black Pro panels. The brand's entry level plasmas are the 42- and 50-inch X series.
Panasonic LED TV line-up
2013 will see Panasonic unload its largest range of LED models yet. "We have a great image when it comes to plasma TV," says Estornel, "we now need to make sure we're seen as a very strong maker of top-end LED TV." Interestingly, all of the brand's 3D LED screens will use Passive polaristion, rather than Active Shutter 3D. Heading up the 28 strong line up is the WT60 Series. Available in 47- and 55-inch screen sizes, these sets feature IPS LED-edge-lit panels with 3600Hz Back Light Scanning (BLS), for high motion clarity. Intelligent local dimming and Infinite contrast filtering deliver convincingly dark blacks. They also have an integrated camera, My Home Screen customisation and twin tuners.
The similarly high-end DT65 series come in five screen sizes (42-, 47-, 50-, 55- and 60-inch), with 1600 Hz BLS, while stablemate FT60 models arrive in 42- and 47-inch screen sizes. The first LED TVs will land in March.
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Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics
industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.