Sound Advice: Future of Panasonic plasma TVs unclear

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 1, 2013 - 1:20 PM

Q: You’ve been a big fan of Panasonic’s plasma TVs. I read recently that Panasonic is exiting the plasma TV business. Any clue as to why?

A: Lots of websites are running this story as if a formal announcement has been made regarding the discontinuation of plasma TVs by Panasonic. When I contacted Panasonic, the response was, “No decision has been made, and there has not been a formal announcement.”

Rumors of Panasonic ending production of plasma TVs have been circulating for years and are part of the myths and misconception regarding the technology. That said, there could be more to the rumor this time than there has been in years past.

Panasonic has a joint venture with Sony to develop OLED television technology, and this could play a part in Panasonic’s plans. Another factor is 4K television. Plasma technology isn’t really compatible with 4K except in extremely large screen sizes (more than 100 inches). Tiny pixels are required for a 4K TV, and the smaller a plasma pixel, the dimmer it is. LCD/LED technology is a better fit for 4k. If it is the wave of the future, Panasonic could be trying to get ahead of the game and devote more resources to it.

I’m not sold on 4K just yet. As I have said in the past, you must be close to the screen to see a difference, there is little content available and well-done 1080p looks magnificent as it is. Upscaling network 720p and 1080i broadcasts to 4K could actually make them look worse, so I’m hesitant about 4K until it proves itself.

If you want a television with superior picture quality, the time to act is now. Some people might shy away from a plasma set because “I hear the technology is being discontinued.” The TV will last for 15 to 30 years.

When the Panasonic-plasma story started circulating on Internet message boards and technology websites, you could practically hear the howls of despair. A picture of Darth Vader screaming, “Nooooooo!” accompanied a lot of the posts as home theater and television fans lamented the possibility of being forced to buy LED/LCD TVs in the future with no better alternative.

Some of them talked about hoarding plasma sets.

I’m almost there myself. I have one in my bedroom, one in a box for future need and I might buy one or two more if there is a formal announcement.

I hope Panasonic would keep at least one or two models in production, or Samsung keeps making its excellent plasma TVs for those of us who want the best.

After you are used to plasma, going to LED/LCD just isn’t a palatable option.

Send questions to donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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