Panasonic’s 2009 LCD HDTVs add 120Hz technology, iPod docks

Panasonic LCD TVs with docks for Apple iPod
Although Panasonic may be better known for its highly rated plasma TVs, its LCD models also earn high marks in our Ratings of LCD TVs (available to subscribers), especially for offering the widest viewing angles we've ever seen from an LCD TV. Last week, Panasonic showed its 2009 lineup, which includes three new LCD series as well as a new plasma line. (See our previous post, Panasonic's plasma TV plans for 2009, for more details.)

Among the highlights: one line that includes iPod docking stations, and others that use 120Hz technology and/or flashing backlights to help reduce motion blur. While all include an SD card reader for viewing photos and stand-by power-save and auto power stand-by "eco" modes, other features, such as Panasonic's Viera Cast IPTV service, remain exclusive to step-up plasma models. As with its current line, the new models come in 26- to 37-inch screen sizes, a niche where plasma doesn't compete. Here's the breakdown of the newest models.

X1 series
The X1 models, offered in 26-, 32- and 37-inch models, replace LX85-series sets. Prices for these 720p sets range from $600 to $800. There will also be a 19-inch model later in the summer. The most notable feature is the included universal iPod dock, which lets you view iPod audio and video content on the TV, operated via the TV's remote. (Click on the image above for a closer look.)

Panasonic LCD TV
S1 series
Offered in 32- ($850) and 37-inch ($900) versions, this step-up 1080p series, which replaced last year's LZ85/LZ800 models, gets you Panasonic's better "Alpha IPS" panel, which we've found offers some of the best off-angle viewing of any LCDs available, with little or no loss of colors or contrast as move off-axis. You also get Panasonic's Motion Focus technology, which uses a blinking backlight to reduce blurring during fast-moving scenes.

G1 series
Also available in 32- and 37-inch screen sizes, this is Panasonic's new flagship LCD series. These sets have all the S1 features, plus they add 120Hz Motion Picture Pro 3 anti-blurring technology, which combines a 120Hz refresh rate with a blinking backlight. Some competitors, such as Toshiba, are calling this "240Hz-like" performance, while others, including Sony and Samsung, actually quadruple the TV's frame rate to achieve a 240Hz refresh rate. The 37-inch set is priced at $1,100, and a 32-inch model is slated for late spring at $800. Both come with swivel stands.

A lower-cost 720p LX14 series, in 26- and 32-inch screen sizes, will be available later in the year.

—James K. Willcox