Panasonic may have finally called it quits with plasma TVs, but it's got plenty of other irons in the fire. The star of the company's lineup at CES 2014 is the AX800, the company's 4K LED TV, but there are also a slew of 1080p models and some interesting — or even odd — features.
Let's start with 4K, since that's practically a CES 2014 theme at this point. The 65in TC-65AX800U and 58in TC-58AX800U both feature 4K Ultra HD panels with a new high colour space LED backlight that approaches plasma TV-level vibrancy. It also features local dimming to maximise control of the backlight for deeper black levels. A 4K remaster engine upconverts lower-resolution material for the 4K screen. There's also support for 4K 60p single-wire input and a bundled touch pad remote control.
Along with the AX800 announcement, Panasonic unveiled four 1080p model lines ranging in size from 39in to 60in. The AS680 Series (55in), AS650 Series (60in, 55in, 50in) top the 1080p ranges, and include "Beyond Smart" features and picture enhancement functions. Lower down are the AS640 (60in) and AS530 Series (39in, 50in, 55in, and 60in), which combine some of the Beyond Smart features and fewer picture enhancements.
So what's "Beyond Smart?" All of the above HDTVs run what Panasonic calls Life + Screen, a dramatic UI overhaul that includes voice activation and facial recognition. It features a new customisable home screen, plus automatic content recommendations that each person in the home can fine-tune.
There's also an "Info Bar" that automatically displays customised weather forecasts and message notifications whenever you walk by the TV's built-in camera — which seems weird.
Meanwhile, a voice assistant lets you run natural language searches for content, and my Home Cloud lets you download apps and home screen templates from Panasonic. Finally, there's a remote sharing feature that lets you stream programming from the HDTV to a smartphone when you're out and about.
Panasonic also announced a new lower end line called Viera A400, which lacks Life + Screen functionality and comes in 32in, 39in, and 50in sizes.
Rest assured we'll put Life + Screen to the test — as well as picture quality — as soon as we get some of these models in for review.