Panasonic debuts Viera line of LCD and plasma TVs

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Panasonic is aiming high end with its new range of High Definition plasma and LCD monitors, code-named Viera.

Panasonic is aiming high end with its new range of High Definition plasma and LCD monitors, code-named Viera. The vendor hopes inbuilt connectivity support for games consoles, laptops and digital photo viewing will help make the Viera TV a home entertainment hub.

The new line of "visual entertainment" TV products, which incorporate picture, sound and networking features, aimed to attract consumers through design and technology, said Panasonic managing director Toshiro Kisaka. They had already been successfully launched in Japan, North America and Europe, he said.

"There's a worldwide surge in flat panels," said Kisaka. While flatpanels had accounted for 20 percent of TVs sold in Japan in 2003, this was projected to rise to 48 percent by 2005, he claimed.

The Viera line aimed for stylish looks with additional connectivity to appeal to the "aspirational" home buyer, said Ritchie Djamhur, category marketing manager for Panasonic's visual products group.

The widescreen, flatpanel TVs range from a 66cm (26 inch) LCD to a 127cm (50 inch) plasma. Design features include a pearl-silver finish, a curved base and black framing.

Prices range from $2199rrp for the 50cm LCD up to $10,999 for the 127cm plasma. The two high end LCD TVs are available now, while the 50cm LCD and the plasma TVs will be available in September.

With support for HD digital TV, home theatre, games consoles, laptop connection and SD and PC card slots, the Viera could become "the centrepiece of home entertainment," said Djamhur.

All Viera TVs incorporate a Secure Digital memory card slot and a PC card slot, to allow users to view images from still cameras or camcorders without connecting them to the TV with a cable.

When connected to a DVD or VCR player, the AV Picture-in-Picture feature allows users to watch two TV programs simultaneously, one on each half of the screen.

But users will require an additional set top box to watch digital TV.

In addition, the plasma TVs have a PC input to allow a laptop to connect to the TV and use it as a monitor.

Key features of the plasma TVs include the real black drive system that reduces emissions when reproducing black to gain better contrast and clarity. Additionally, an "acuity core" reduces the halo effect around high contrast images, and a deep black filter on the protective glass panel filters reflective light to achieve a high level of contrast in bright surroundings.

The plasmas also feature an integrated smart sound speaker system with inbuilt speakers on either side of the screen with two woofer units at the bottom.

While consumer marketing of the Viera range will kick off in September, Panasonic had already begun demonstrating the products to retail partners, said Panasonic director Geoff Hannaford.

Retail partners will be asked to display all four units in the appropriate stand-alone or wall-mounted displays, said Hannaford.

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