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Only a couple of weeks ago I looked at and pretty much fell for a 65in Panasonic TV, the TH-65PZ800, that costs just £3,750 or so. So you can imagine the puzzled look on my face as I peruse the information I've gathered together on the 65in TH-65VX100E and note a likely price of £8,000. Yes, that's £8,000. Thinking this must be some sort of mistake, I contacted Panasonic's press people. But no, the price is, as they say, right.
Needless to say this raises an immediate and pressing question: just how in the name of all that's holy can Panasonic expect anyone to cough up eight grand for the same size of screen that it only asked us to cough up less than four grand for two weeks ago?! Someone must have been to one to many early Christmas parties, methinks.
My incredulity over the 65VX100E merely grows as it initially appears that it's less well specified than its much cheaper sibling. For it sports neither a built-in tuner nor any built-in speakers. In other words, it's a mere screen rather than a fully fledged TV. Hmm.
Curious though this fact first appears, however, it in fact provides the first clue as to what's going on with the 65VX100E. For the lack of any tuner or speakers indicates that it's designed from the ground up to be some sort of ‘professional' product, or at least a product likely to be sold through specialist dealers working in the custom installation world. Naturally the sort of end user targeted through such distribution channels is more likely to be able to swallow a high price or two than your average Currys buyer. But this still doesn't fully explain the sky-high price.
So I delved a bit deeper into what makes the 65VX100E tick - and quickly came up with some pretty striking stuff. For starters, its connectivity is unusually flexible, with you able to choose from a series of connection ‘modules' that can be slotted into special bays integrated into the screen. Naturally these modules include HDMI and component video inputs.
Next there's its native - yes, native - contrast ratio claim of 60,000:1. This is a hugely impressive figure, roughly double that achieved by the 65PZ800 - a screen that itself produced generally excellent contrast and black levels.
Making this possible is the inclusion on the 65VX100E of a new Dynamic Black Layer innovation. Developed by researchers in Panasonic's Professional rather than consumer division, and sounding broadly similar in principle to Pioneer's Crystal Emissive Layer technology, this critical new layer sits at the font of the 65VX100E's plasma panel and cuts the amount of pre-discharge in each plasma cell to around one-sixth the conventional level. The result, as the 60,000:1 contrast ratio implies, should be greatly enhanced black level response, thanks to less ‘accidental' luminance creeping into pixels that should be dark.
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