The $500,000 TV
Even if you happen to have the cash and the space to accommodate the set, experts still say to proceed with caution.
This post comes from Charles Passy at partner site MarketWatch.
That's the price tag on Panasonic's model TH-152UX1, billed as the "world's largest, 4K2K plasma display" (we'll get to that 4K2K part in a minute). The set is indeed massive -- equivalent to nine 50-inch screens and weighing in at a whopping 1,272 pounds. (For one installation at a restaurant, a forklift was used to put the TV in place.)
But Panasonic says it's not just about size; it's also about picture quality The 4K2K refers to the resolution -- meaning 4,096 by 2,160 pixels. In other words, it can deliver four times the resolution of a standard high-definition set, says Rick Albert, a Panasonic vice president. Albert adds that the resolution is key for commercial purposes, such as using the set to display graphics or charts at large gatherings. Indeed, the set's target market is the business crowd, not the high-end homeowner.
But Panasonic will sell to individuals as well. In fact, the set, which was first introduced in 2009, got a lot of buzz when Harrods, the famed British luxury-goods retailer, starting offering it.
Panasonic won't give sales figures -- and, by the way, that $500,000 price doesn't include installation -- but the company reveals that the sets are going everywhere from bars and restaurants to the 39th floor of an office building. Put another way, there's big business in really, really big TVs. "Sales of the 152 have exceeded our expectations," says Albert.
Obviously, most couch potatoes aren't prepared to shell out all their retirement savings for a new TV -- and Panasonic readily asserts they needn't do so. The company points to a 50-inch plasma set -- model ST50 -- it offers for under $1,000. There's also the issue of size: 152 inches of television is far too big to be viewed properly in most homes. Experts recommend a set of only 40 inches to 80 inches if you're viewing it from a distance of 10 feet. As the tech-oriented site Gizmodo warned about the Panasonic behemoth: "Just remember to sit a safe distance from the screen to prevent eye strain. Cleveland should do."
But if you happened to have the cash and the space to accommodate the set, experts still say to proceed with caution. For starters, at this point, commercial TV programming isn't transmitted at the high resolution the set offers. Buying a high-def set today "is a bit like buying a color TV in the black-and-white era," says Joe Kane, a TV-calibration expert.
Additionally, there's always a concern about image "burn-in" with plasma. "It doesn't matter how much it costs, plasma is plasma," says Sean Aune, the editor-in-chief of TechnoBuffalo, a gadget-review site.
Panasonic's Albert disagrees with some of the criticisms, saying that the set's picture quality still makes it ideal "for use in a boardroom or large conference room for high-resolution graphics" and that burn-in is essentially a non-issue for the brand at this point. "We are on our 14th- or 15th-generation plasma displays, and the materials used are far more resistant to burn-in than the first generations," says Albert.
It's also worth noting that higher-resolution TV programming is likely to be a reality at some point in the not-too-distant future. "Eventually, the broadcasts will catch up to 4K, and our cable companies will be able to pipe more data into our homes," says calibration expert Kane.
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