Panasonic to sell its first Ultra HDTV in October

The WT600-series set will be among the first to include HDMI 2.0 inputs

Published: September 10, 2013 01:45 PM

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Photo: Panasonic
Photo: Panasonic

Panasonic, which has so far sat on the sidelines while other major-label TV companies have offered Ultra HD TVs with higher screen resolutions, will join the Ultra HD TV club in October, when it starts selling the 65-inch Panasonic Smart VIERA TC-L65WT600 model.

The LED-backlit LCD TV ($6,000) has a notable feature: It will be among the first Ultra HD TVs to include HDMI 2.0-capable inputs. As we wrote yesterday, HDMI 2.0 is the latest HDMI specification, which increases the bandwidth of HDMI connections to handle video at 60 frames per second, sometjing current HDMI 1.4 inputs can't do.

That is important because a lot of TV shows and sports events are shot at that speed, so TVs that can handle 60-frames-per-second video should provide smoother, less choppy images. It also helps to future-proof the TV for when Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, and next-generation gaming consoles are able to output Ultra HD content at 60 frames per second.

Panasonic says the set's HDMI inputs are based on HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort (for computer gaming) specifications. Some other manufacturers, including Sony, have said that some current Ultra HD TVs can be upgraded to HDMI 2.0 capability via a simple firmware update.

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The TV is also the first we've seen with a built-in 4K H.264 (MPEG4) decoder, so you can play these higher-resolution Ultra HD video files from USB drives and SD memory cards, and from the Internet. (The set includes a 4K Web browser.)

Given the set's price and flagship status, it's not surprising that the TV is loaded with features, including 120Hz anti-blurring technology, an LED backlight with local dimming, upscaling of 1080p content to the TV's Ultra HD (3840x2160) resolution, and the company's Viera Connect smart TV platform with a customizable home screen and access to apps and streaming movie and TV services. The TV can be controlled using voice commands spoken into the touch-pad remote (or smart phone or tablet), and it includes the company's Swipe & Share feature that lets you send content back and forth between the TV and a compatible mobile device with just a swipe of a finger.

As for OLED TV technology, Panasonic hasn't yet made any announcements, but at CES it  showed an OLED TV with Ultra HD TV resolution. At the recent IFA trade show in Germany, LG and Samsung showed prototype hybrid Ultra HD/OLED models, but so far there's no word on when they'll be available, or how much they'll cost when they get here.

—James K. Willcox

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