By Chris Nicholls

SYDNEY: Panasonic launched their new range of Viera plasma televisions today, with nine new models, of which only three are 720p, and most available in time for the Beijing Olympics.

The plasma range includes a new level of ‘Premium’ full HD models, the PZ850 range, before stepping down to the full HD PZ800 models and 720p PX80 and PX8 models. The Premium models differentiate themselves through their four speakers and SRS TruSurround SRS sound systems. The move to have only a limited number of 720p models follows the Korean trend, with recent LG and Samsung launches both offering only a smattering of 720p products.

Both the PZ850 and PZ800 plasma range models use Panasonic’s new 1080p panel, with a claimed 30,000:1 native contrast ratio, 5,120 equivalent steps of graduation and 134 billion viewable colours.

All televisions, including the 720p models, will use 100Hz systems, while a new anti-reflective filter is included. The new panels also include a new toughened glass front, which can apparently withstand a fur joule impact. Whether this was prompted by the number of Nintendo Wii players who have destroyed televisions by throwing their Wii remote into the screen was unclear.

All modes also share the now-standard range of connectivity, with Panasonic’s Viera Link, SD card slots and up to four HDMI connections.

In keeping with their recent environmental stance, Panasonic claimed the new plasma televisions were lead and mercury free.

The top TH-65PZ850A 65-inch Premium plasma model will be available from November, while the smaller 58-nich model will be in stores from October. Neither have had RRPs confirmed. The 50-inch 1080p TH-50PZ850A will be in shops from August, but again, with no confirmed price.

Smaller sizes, such as the TH-46PZ800A 46-inch 1080p plasma will retail for RRP $3299 and be available from July, while its smaller TH-42PZ800A 42-inch full HD cousin will be available from June at RRP $2899 June.

The three 720p models, run from RRP $2399 for the TH-50PX80A 50-inch model to $1699 for the 42-inch PX8A series. The TH-50PX80A model will be available next month, while the smaller TH-42PX80A 42-inch model is out now, joined by the PX8A model.

Panasonic claimed the range would last for 100,000 hours or more than 30 years if used
eight hours a day, seven days a week, thanks to new phosphor processing technology.

Panasonic Australia consumer electronics group director, Paul Reid said he expected continued growth in the plasma sector this year.

“The plasma TV market is booming, with 33 per cent growth overall in our last financial year, and Panasonic achieved almost double this with 65 per cent growth in plasma demand over the same period.”

Panasonic will continue to add to its plasma arsenal in 209, with the completion of its Amagasaki plant. The plant is expected to produce up to one million panels a month when complete, giving Panasonic the world’s largest Plasma manufacturing capacity.