Every Spring, Panasonic reveals its latest products, often announcing stuff that wasn’t confirmed at CES, the gargantuan tech trade show held a month before. Last week in Frankfurt, the Japanese technology company had a lot to show. Every part of tech was featured, from washing machines to an epilator that used, Panasonic proudly boasted, the same kind of rechargeable battery a Tesla used. That’s every demographic happy, then.
Televisions are still Panasonic’s crown jewels, with the reputation for innovation, reliability and performance as strong as ever. Frankfurt saw the company show off screens that looked great and – in one case – seemed brighter than a smallish sun. But first, it officially announced its first curved TVs. This is the curious but largely appealing technology pioneered by Samsung and which has sold in big numbers according to the Korean tech giant. Part of that may be down to the fact that if you want the top-of-the-range Samsung TV, you need to buy a curved one. Panasonic has a different approach, putting its best technology in both flat and curved screens. The company was open that it was doing it to give customer choice. After all, a spokesman said, Panasonic used to make plasma screens until a year or two ago and only stopped because consumers had plumped for LED-lit LCD screens.
The company’s flagship TV, the 65-inch TC-65CX850U, is the literal eye-catcher. It is a non-curved 4K UHD model with a subtle matte-finish bezel. Its quiet looks shouldn’t fool you – it’s stuffed with features. For a start it’s compatible with HDR, High Dynamic Range, the technology which delivers outstanding results, given the right hardware-content match. HDR means that deep shadows are full of detail and skies can be suitably dramatic where on lesser screens they would look blown out and detail-free.
HDR is impressive stuff with spectacular contrast levels and richness. But HDR needs an especially bright backlight and there were moments, such as the Netflix red-letters-on-white-background logo when this was just too bright to watch in comfort. This will doubtless be tweaked before the TV goes on sale in Spring.
The company announced it was using special phosphors to make the colour gamut the screens show especially rich. Historically, Panasonic has always been innovative when it comes to phosphors – the ones used in its plasma TVs were designed to last longer and minimise burn-in effects.
Here, the company promises more colours 98 per cent of the Digital Cinema Initiative colour spectrum where rivals can only manage 93 per cent, a spokesman claimed.
Whatever the numbers, there’s no doubting the screen looks astonishingly bright, detailed and rich with colour.
Panasonic also showed its new operating system for the TVs, the Firefox OS. It’s not on all its TVs but the ones that feature it, all of them 4K screens, look great. Firefox OS matches the remarkable ease of use that LG’s TVs now offer, with a striking and simple layout of brightly coloured circles. Click the appropriate one to go to live TV, applications or external devices connected to your telly.
The company also announced it would be the first manufacturer to feature the Freeview Play connected TV service which builds catch-up and on-demand services into the TV, subscription-free.
There was one other screen which caught the eye, the company’s prototype OLED model. This still has no release date but it remains one of the most eye-poppingly beautiful displays I’ve ever seen. It may be out this year, Panasonic said. Start saving now.