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Panasonic "Onyx" HDTVs

At last weekend's CEDIA show, Panasonic unveiled a new series of high-performance plasma displays (PDPs) whose bold hardware-free minimalist look is a big departure from the competition. With their only exposed surface a single sheet of glass, images on the company's Onyx XVS series of plasma sets appear to float in mid-air. With no visible hardware, "all you see are crisp, clear, deep images,€� said Panasonic Display Group vice president Ed Wolff.

The CableCARD-enabled plasmas are only 4" deep, regardless of screen size (42", 50", and 65") and are claimed capable of rendering 2048 colors. Images are enhanced by new "color purity optimizer" that corrects color in a three-dimensional color matrix, adjusting hue and brightness independently, for what Panasonic describes as "amazingly realistic color fidelity."

Pixelization, edge artifacts, "stair stepping" and other forms of digital image distortion are minimized by a "sub-pixel controller" that is said to refine images "by correcting contours at the single cell level," a process claimed to improve image precision "by 3 times compared with conventional systems.€� Motion artifacts are minimized by Panasonic's newly developed motion pattern noise reduction technology.

The sleek look of Onyx XVS plasma displays is made possible by enclosing extraneous circuitry in a separate receiver featuring Panasonic's "digital access pack," a collection of features encompassing everything needed to enjoy high-definition and digital cable television, DVD-based home theater, digital photo albums and more, according to Panasonic. Included in the access pack are NTSC, ATSC and QAM tuners, a CableCARD slot enabling access to high-definition, digital, and analog cable programming, as well as premium cable channels where available, all without the need for a separate cable box. There's also an HDMI (high definition and multimedia interface) input which, when connected to an HDMI-compatible DVD video player, can upconvert 480p to 720p or 1080i output. Other features include a photo viewer with slots for SD memory and PCMCIA cards.

Prices and availability: Panasonic's 42" Onyx TH-42XVS30U should arrive at dealers in October, priced at approximately $7500. Also due in October is the 50" TH-50XVS30U, priced at around $9500. In November, the 65" TH-65XVS30U arrives, priced near $20,000.

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