Panasonic Viera PZ850 HDTV: Oh the things money can buy (like YouTube on your TV!)

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So I just got back from a small meeting with Panasonic in depressingly rainy New York a few minutes ago. Rather than make DVICE’s Peter—our Peter, Peter Ha, is horribly ill—and I sit through something like, “We have 85 new TVs coming out this year, let’s look at all of them,” Panasonic only discussed its flagship plasma, the PZ850. The 46- and 50-inch models ($3099 and $3499) are available now, while the 58- and 65-inch ones ($4299 and $7999) should hits stores by the end of August.

Things you’ll like: SD card compatibility (photos look great, really), AVCHD playback (you can hook up a compatible HD camcorder), studio reference mode (a picture setting that mimics how movies are shown in Hollywood—closer to how the director intended, in other words), digital cinema color (expands the color gamut of the picture past mere HDTV standard and brining it closer to, yes, real life all-digital cinemas), and something called Vieracast. (“Viera” here stands for “visual era;” I was like, “What does the verb “ver” have to do with anything?)

Vieracast is a totally free service/gateway that lets you watch YouTube videos and Picasa photos (and the weather and stock quotes and so on) on the PZ850 via a wired Ethernet connection. The remote control interface works about as well as one could—there was a slight delay between when the guy pressed a button and the TV responded—but any such kinks can be worked out in software, so no point in harping on it. The beauty of upgradable firmware.

The TVs, like all Panasonic plasmas, look damn fine. (I’d have live pics, but of course, OF COURSE, I left my SD card at home, so we’ll have to make do with the stock one.) If I had any amount of money, and were in the market for a new plasma, I’d definitely check out the PZ850. Forgetting all the whiz-bang extras, its aesthetics alone warrant your attention.

Panasonic Viera

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