With Pioneer’s Kuro models no longer available it looks like you need to turn your attention to the latest incarnation of Panasonic’s NeoPDP technology if you’re looking for the current state of the art plasma TV.
As found in Panasonic’s new plasma range from its G20 series upwards, the latest NeoPDP engine introduces a really extensive suite of improvements to anything Panasonic has managed before. For instance, there’s now a new filter built into the screen structure for reducing reflections and increasing discharge efficiency; new improved phosphors have been introduced to boost colour reproduction; and the gas used in each plasma cell has been made more efficient.
In fact, Panasonic has pretty much reinvented the wheel in terms of its plasma cell design. And as confirmed by the 46in G20 model we’re looking at today, the results of all Panasonic’s efforts really are very impressive.
Not that the P46G20 gets off to a particularly great start. For the set sadly sports the same rather dated-looking, mostly black (with, here, a touch of blue) chassis we’ve moaned about for at least a couple of Panasonic generations now.
Its rear is actually more attractive than its front, thanks to the appearance there of a pretty substantial set of connections. Four HDMIs lead the way, one of which is built to the v1.4 specification so that it can offer an audio return channel with suitable AV receivers.
Arguably more noteworthy, though, is the set’s carriage of a satellite LNB connection as well as the more predictable RF input. This LNB input is there because, in keeping with all Panasonic’s mid-range to premium plasma sets, the P46G20 carries a Freesat HD tuner as well as the more expected Freeview HD one.
This might seem like unnecessary repetition to folk lucky enough to live in an area of the UK able to receive Freeview HD broadcasts. But for large tracts of the UK, the Freesat HD tuner will represent the only free-to-air way of getting HD broadcasts for quite a few months, at least.
As we’re coming to expect of relatively high-spec TVs from the big brand names, the P46G20’s connections include plenty of multimedia support too. Particularly significant is an Ethernet port, which has no less than three purposes. First, it’s there as part of the Freesat HD/Freeview HD spec, so that the platforms can provided potential future interactive services.
Second, it can be used to connect the TV to a DLNA PC, for streaming in photo, music or video files you might have stored there.
Finally, it can be connected to your router, so the P46G20 can get online with Panasonic’s Viera Cast 'Internet' platform. This ring-fenced corner of the Web houses a decent amount of content and features these days, including Skype, the AceTrax movie streaming rental/purchase site, Eurosport News, access to your Picasa photo web albums, Twitter and YouTube.
There’s no getting round the fact that some rival platforms offer slightly more content, but Viera Cast will doubtless grow in the coming months, and also features an unusually simple and effective interface.