It must be pretty lonely being Panasonic these days. For while every other brand in the TV firmament turns its attentions increasingly towards LCD technology, many of them exclusively, Panasonic continues to bet the farm on its beloved plasma. It ploughs enormous amounts of R&D into significantly improving its plasma engine every year, while also producing plasma panels on a scale we could scarcely comprehend when we visited the brand’s Japanese plasma factories earlier this year.
It would be easy for Panasonic to lose its faith in plasma as it ploughs its lonely furrow, or have a crisis of confidence as to whether it’s pursuing the right course. But actually, the more everyone else does LCD, the more Panasonic just redoubles its efforts to keep plasma not only current, but ahead. So it is that the P55VT30, a member of Panasonic’s 2011 flagship range, hits our test benches boasting Panasonic’s new ‘NeoPlasma’ panel design packed with innovations galore.
Among the highlights of the NeoPlasma tech are a revamped phosphor material that responds faster than its predecessor (a key element in reducing crosstalk noise with active 3D playback); reduced ‘ribbing’ between the screen’s plasma cells to make the screen brighter and more efficient; a new louvered filter on the screen’s front that suppresses room reflections and enhances the image’s brightness; and the ability to make phosphors discharge without needing as much current, to boost the screen’s efficiency.
The effort Panasonic has put into improving the energy efficiency of its latest plasma screens isn’t just important on ecological grounds. As 3D demands more brightness than 2D, on account of the dimming effect of Panasonic’s 3D glasses, Panasonic needs to get more brightness out of its panels without putting plasma at too great a disadvantage in energy consumption terms versus its LCD rivals.
The P55VT30 has one extra construction trick up its sleeve, as befits a flagship model, in the form of an extra filter built into the screen to boost contrast to even greater levels than those achieved by the brand’s already exceptional GT30 series.
Other signs of its flagship status include a USB wi-fi dongle provided for free (rather than being an optional extra as it is elsewhere with Panasonic’s range), two pairs of 3D glasses included for free (you don’t get any with Panasonic’s other 3D TV series), the facility to record to SD card as well as USB sticks, and a revamped audio system that features a separated woofer built into the TV’s rear to enhance bass.
The P55VT30 inevitably carries Panasonic’s latest online content service, dubbed Viera Connect. Highlights of this platform are the BBC IPlayer, the AceTrax movie rental/purchase service, YouTube, Eurosport, Facebook, and Skype - though the latter feature is only available if you cough up extra for a webcam.