Last night we visited Panasonic's 2012 product showcase, held at Auckland's Aotea Centre. The greater part of the company's consumer electronics range was on display, from cameras and audiovisual equipment to microwaves and refrigerators.
Here we round up some of the shinier tech toys that we'll be putting to the test in the PC World labs this year.
Panasonic Toughpad FZ-A1
This rugged Android-powered tablet was inspired by the Panasonic Toughbook: the most damage-resistant PC we've ever tested. We're not sure when these will be available in New Zealand, but we're looking forward to pushing it to its performance and pugilistic limits.
Plasma TVs, 'neo plasma' and internet connectivity
Panasonic's latest range of plasma TVs include a new, totally redesigned form of display panel that the company calls 'neo plasma'. This was developed to allow for the high framerates needed to produce active (shutter-glasses) 3D, but will also apparently provide an improved viewing experience for 2D content.
Internet functionality -- including web browsing, skype calling and video streaming over YouTube -- makes an appearance on selected TV models (branded 'VIERA Connect'). A Panasonic representative told us that the company's omission of internet connectivity in its 2011 range was deliberate, based on the product not being ready for prime time. We hope this means a more polished experience than we've had with other 'Smart TV' offerings -- watch this space.
LED-backlit LCD TVs and passive 3D
While Panasonic seems to be pushing its plasma range as the best option for image quality, the company also offers an updated range of LED-backlit LCD TVs.
Active 3D is available on selected models of both Plasma and LED-LCD, using the new industry standards for active shutter glasses. A single series of LED-LCD TV offers an alternative in the form of passive (polarised-glasses) 3D, which trades 3D image quality for low-cost glasses.
Panasonic Lumix camera range
We've already had a peek at the new Lumix range, but it was a treat to see them all together in one place. We're particularly looking forward to testing out the rugged DMC-FT4, after our great experiences with the DMC-FT3 last year. The FT4 shares the same chassis as its predecessor, which is a good start: why fix what's already unbreakable?
A couple of audio products caught our eye. The first was a bluetooth portable speaker setup for Android and iOS that looked nifty (and didn't sound too bad at all), but this guitar-inspired iPhone/iPod dock takes the cake for retro charm. Stylish or regrettable? It's hard to say.
Look out for our reviews of these and more products this autumn/winter!