At a recent press event at Panasonic’s Hollywood Laboratory, executives unveiled additional details about their new 2011 Blu-ray player and audio system lineups.
Unlike typical CES press events, which are often very short on substance when it comes to revealing product details, Panasonic arranged for one hour briefings with two pressers invited per each session, which allowed for a lot more one-on-one time with the three executives on-hand. In addition to Panasonic PR rep Jeff Samuels, there was Panasonic’s US Product Manager for their Entertainment Group Troy Livingston, who conducted a quite thorough slide presentation, and he was assisted by Tony Itani from Panasonic’s Osaka, Japan headquarters, where he’s the Chief Engineer of their Advanced Development Group at their AV Product Engineering Center.
They unveiled four Blu-ray players, three of them 3D-capable models, with the fourth being a standard 2D unit. The top two models, DMP-BDT310 and DMP-BD210 both feature built-in Wi-Fi along with a nifty touchless disc tray open/close function, as well as 3D Blu-ray playback. The third model, DMP-BDT-110, also features 3D playback, and ships with a Wi-Fi wireless adapter that plugs in the player’s USB port.
All three 3D models are equipped with Panasonic’s latest System-On-A-Chip video processor, and feature internal 2D-3D upconversion of their own design. That feature really caught my attention, as while many 2010 3D TV models came with 2D-3D upconversion, the overall intensity of 3D effects noted during testing of various sets typically has been mild at best. Of the 3D sets I’ve tested so far, only the Samsungs have a somewhat effective 2D-3D functionality.
During the demos of the new 3D players, Panasonic played a clip from Star Wars on one of their 3D plasma sets, and the 2D-3D upconversion produced a very satisfying 3D effect, far better than I’ve seen so far. We’ll soon be receiving one of their first 2011 3D flat panel models for review, and will also be reviewing one of the new 3D Blu-ray players and will have more to say about the function. Along with the 2D-3D upconversion, the three 3D Blu-ray models feature a 3D Enhancer function and a variable 3D depth control.
All four of the firm’s new 2011 Blu-ray players come equipped with an expanded range of Internet apps (which Panasonic calls VieraCast), including video streaming from subscription services including NetFlix, Amazon Video On Demand, CinemaNow and Vudu. There are also YouTube and Twitter apps, as well as Pandora internet radio, and Google’s Picassa web picture viewing, and the app suite includes the Bloomberg internet business news channel.
Pricing of the quartet of 2011 BD models has just been announced. The top model DMP-BDT310 carries a $249.95 SRP; the DMP-BDT210 has a $199.95 SRP, the DMP-BD-110 lists for $149.95, while the entry-level 2D model DMP-BD75 is slated to list for just $99.95.
In addition to the Blu-ray player line-up, Panasonic also provided more details about their line of 2011 audio products, which includes a 5.1 channel system that features a 3D Blu-ray player and wireless surround speakers. That package, the SC-BT770, which is at the top of their new range, carries a suggested list price of $599.99. The next model down, the SC-BT370, comes with wired surround speakers ($499.99 SRP), but can be upgraded with wireless surround speakers via the firm’s optional SH-FX71 kit ($129.95 SRP).
Far be it for me to second-guess anybody’s marketing strategies, but eagle-eyed readers will surely note that the combined price of the SC-BT370 package and SH-FX71 wireless surround kit winds up being $30.00 more than the price of the top-line SC-BT770 setup, which comes with the wireless surround speaker functionality as standard. Go figure.
All three systems feature an integrated dock for an iPod or iPhone, allowing audio and video downloads from the device, and the systems also feature Skype video calling capability via Panasonic’s optional Freetalk Conference Cam, which carries a $99.00 SRP.
Panasonic also had a sample of a tasty-looking compact sound bar-based sound system with matching subwoofer, called the SC-HTB520 package ($399.99 SRP). The sound bar (Panasonic calls it the Slim Bar) features a mirror-like mesh finish covering multiple drivers, and the matching downward-firing powered subwoofer connects to the sound bar wirelessly via RF, eliminating the need for a cable connecting the two. The sound bar features 3D pass-through, as well as Audio Return Channel (the TV needs to be ARC-equipped in order to pass audio signals digitally between the sound bar and the TV).