Televisions are no longer an area in which massive technological advances are being made, although it's fair to say that each generation of screens improves in many important ways. Picture quality, for example, has generally been getting better and better with each new range that hits the market. But, because screen technology hasn't changed much in the last three years, it can sometimes seem that there isn't that much awesome new stuff to get excited about.
Well, it seems like the geeks at Panasonic agree, because they've gone and created a 46-inch, 1080p plasma TV that has more bells and whistles than a bells and whistles emporium that has recently received a large overstock shipment of bells and whistles from Bells and Whistles Ltd. The main area causing copious ringing and whistling is the Viera TX-P46Z1's wireless high-definition video transmission. This is certainly an exciting development, and we're pretty sure the TX-P46Z1 won't be the only TV this year that makes use of this feature.
It would be quite remiss of us not to mention that this TV costs about £4,200. It doesn't matter who you are -- that's a sizeable wad of cash for a 46-inch TV. It's virtually the same kind of money you'd spend buying a 60-inch Pioneer Kuro. Of course, innovation is never cheap, and the more new technology that goes into something the higher the price will go. Because the Panasonic has 600Hz intelligent frame creation, a NeoPDP panel and, of course, 1080p wireless, it's a very expensive piece of kit.
It's clear that Panasonic wanted to differentiate this series of Z1 televisions from the older plasmas. It's done this by spraying the whole TV silver, which we can't help think makes it look rather like it's come out of a '90s time warp, when silver was all the rage.
The problem we have with the style is that it's inconsistent. The TV is mostly silver, but there are two black bars that border the panel. When the TV is off, these are fine, and you won't notice they're there. But, when you're watching TV, because they're black, they can make it appear that the picture isn't filling the screen. Of course, it is, but the illusion is slightly irritating. We can't help feel it would have been better if the whole set had been piano black, even if there is little then to differentiate this TV from the rest of the range.
With this TV having wireless HD connectivity, there isn't a great deal built into the set itself. The only sockets you'll find anywhere on this TV are a single HDMI input and a companion data connection that looks like a mini FireWire port.
The rest of the connections are relegated to the separate media receiver. That box includes four HDMI inputs, a pair of Scart sockets, component, composite and VGA connections. You also get aerial inputs for both an antenna and satellite dish -- the latter for freesat viewing.
Wireless transmission of HD video is a new phenomenon. It's taken a long time to appear because the technical challenges behind it are tough to overcome. There have also been regulatory issues, but, thanks to an EU harmonisation ruling, the UK frequency watchdog Ofcom has been forced into allowing the use of these TVs.
The system uses very high frequency RF transmissions to get the video signal from the external receiver box to the TV. These signals, which are in the order of 50GHz, are of a high enough frequency that they bounce around the walls in your room and, in so doing, boost the signal. This means that walking in front of the transmitter won't necessarily result in the picture being interrupted. Of course, put enough junk in the way, and you will eventually cause the transmitter to break up.