Usually when you visit the TV section of a Panasonic stand at an industry show, it's all about plasma.
After all, the brand has been the single biggest supporter of plasma as a flat TV technology, and has consistently made the best-quality plasma TVs on the market.
However, in a move that hints at a potential shift in Panasonic's long-term flat TV view, at the recent CES the brand was at least as vocal about its latest LED TVs as its plasma ones. Especially the flagship WT50 LED series.
Available in 47in and 55in models, the WT50 TVs certainly do look like a force to be reckoned with. The first thing that catches your eye is their design.
Panasonic hasn't always been at the top table in design terms, but the 55WT50 looks deliriously pretty thanks to a combination of 55an ultra-slim bezel, skinny rear, one-sheet finish, and a bezel which attractively combines black with a chrome silver outer trim and a little transparent section jutting out from the bottom edge that contains an illuminated Panasonic logo.
The 55WT50 also clearly shows in both its spec sheet and - from the demo screens at CES, at least - performance just how much effort Panasonic has ploughed into its 2012 LED range.
Potentially the most significant improvement comes in the new backlight scanning system Panasonic has introduced for the 55WT50.
This combines a high-speed 200Hz core panel with 8-phase backlight scanning, supposedly resulting in both enhanced contrast and a massive reduction in motion blur. Indeed, Panasonic claims that its latest scanning system can deliver a full 1920 lines of motion resolution - more than double the motion resolution of most rival LCD TVs.
Checking out the 55WT50 in action, both the key claims for the new backlight system seem to be borne out. Moving objects appear not far short of the near-perfect clarity witnessed on Panasonic's plasma models, and black levels seem much richer and deeper than those of Panasonic's 2011 LED TVs.
The 55WT50 also seemed to pick up the baton from last year's Panasonic LED TVs by suffering with less crosstalk during 3D viewing than any other active non-plasma 3D TV to date - despite the fact that the 55WT50's 3D pictures also looked brighter and more intense than those of last year's LED models.
The 55WT50 employs Panasonic's latest IPS Alpha technology too, which meant that it could be watched on the stand from a much wider angle than most LCD TVs before colour and contrast started to deteriorate badly.
There were a couple of areas of concern among all the good news, though. First, the bright conditions of the show floor made it look as if the single-layer screen was rather reflective, meaning you'll probably need to install a WT50 in a room where you can control the light levels. Second, bright objects against dark backgrounds exhibit a little cast-off 'glow' rather than looking precisely cut.
Overall, though, once you've also taken into consideration the 55WT50's much more developed and enriched online 'Smart Viera' services (including a new Web Browser interface), it's fair to say that this large LED model did more than enough to ensure that for once, it certainly isn't just Panasonic's plasma screens we can't wait to get on our testbenches this year.
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