Panasonic makes just about every type of gadget out there, but excels at plasma HDTVs. Since the Japanese conglomerate absorbed the remains of Pioneer’s plasma division several years back, videophiles everywhere have turned to Viera plasmas for a top-notch cinematic experience. These sets haven’t quite been perfect -- Panasonic took some flack because the black levels on their plasma sets faded over time, an issue which they claim to have corrected -- but they still produce the smoothest, highest-contrast, most color-accurate pictures of any TVs out there. If you’re going plasma, go with a Panasonic.
Plasma sales had been declining for a few years in the face of light, affordable, and power-thrifty LCD TVs. But Panasonic celebrated and end to the skid -- a nine-percent uptick, actually -- in 2010. They also announced pricing for this coming year's plasma lineup, from the $600 42-inch X3 model all the way up to the 65-inch VT30 at $4,300. Plenty of options, folks.
2011 Panasonic Lines
Panasonic Plasma TVs
- The flagship VT30 is the monolith that videophiles will worship in 2011. It looks like an incredible TV, probably as close to plasma perfection as anything has come since the now-mythical Pioneer Kuro. It’s built around Panasonic’s latest iteration of the Infinite Black panel, and is THX certified. The blacks are as deep as a bottomless pit, motion as smooth as the ocean, and a design as sharp as a guillotine. All the must-have features are present as well, including 3D capability (active-type) and WiFi connectivity, plus 24p playback for judder-free movie viewing. A beautiful TV. Available in 65 and 55-inch versions.
- One small notch down the ladder sits the GT30 series. It keeps the important stuff from its bigger brother: The inky Infinite Black 2 Panel, THX certification, 3D capability, WiFi connectivity, and a picture as smooth as a hot guillotine through fresh bread. The main difference here is purely aesthetic; the whole front panel is still flush, but not an edge-to-edge glass pane like the VT30. If you can live with a slightly less monolithic design, take your pick of 50, 55, 60, and 65-inch configurations.
- The middle-of-the-pack ST30 keeps most of the important specs from the models above -- Infinite Black 2 Panel, 3D, WiFi, plasma smoothness -- but ditches the THX certification. That’s sure to drive down the price, and it’ll still be plenty nice for non-videophiles out there. Offered up in six different sizes: 42, 46, 50, 55, 60, and 65 inches.
- Panasonic’s S30 series offers solid if not spectacular plasma-display sets. There’s nothing too fancy here: No 3D capability, no WiFi connectivity, no built-in Skype or anything head-turning. Just a 1080p, high-contrast plasma display. These sets are a strong choice for anyone who wants a smoother picture for less money than your average LCD and even LED TV. Take your pick of 42, 46, 50, and 60-inch screens.
- Plasma is already pretty cheap, inch-for-inch, but the X3 entry-level plasma series brings everything down a few notches for the sake of an even lower price. Available in 42, 46, and 50-inch configurations, these 720p sets push the limit of what’s acceptable in terms of high-def resolution (we generally recommend that 720p sets shouldn’t be any larger than 40 inches). But if you’re willing to exchange resolution for a silky smooth plasma picture, these X3 TVs are wicked cheap.