Panasonic to offer $70,000 plasma TV for Christmas

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Secaucus (NY) - Christmas is less than half a year away and some of us may already be busy setting up their wish list for their parents and spouses. If you are looking for something different this year, ditch that Porsche and consider the world's largest plasma HDTV.

Panasonic is delivering on its promise that it would be offering a 103" plasma TV, which is expected to be the world's largest plasma TV screen size when it hits the market. Large TVs never have been cheap at their market introduction, but Panasonic may be setting a record with a price that is high enough to qualify for the headline of this year's Neiman Marcus holiday catalog. The TH-103PZ600U will cost a stunning $69,995 and 95 cents, including a three-year in-home limited warranty - which is "unprecedented" in the industry, according to Panasonic.

"Panasonic didn't create the world's largest plasma TV as a technology demo for a trade show," said Andrew Nelkin, Panasonic's display group vice president. "We created it because, as worldwide sales of Plasma TVs continue on a meteoric rise, the market is seeking bigger displays on which people can experience the High Definition lifestyle.

If you are looking for a reason of the stratospheric price tag, it can be found simply in production yield. There are few factories today that actually can produce such a panel and even in those few, not every panel produced can be used for a 103" TV. For example, the most advanced panel fabs currently in operation, commonly referred to as "7G" fabs, manufacture panels with a size of 1870 mm by 2200 mm, which is barely enough to be used for one 103" panel. Typically, those 7G panels are divided into up to six 46" panels, eight 40" panels or twelve 32" panels. Depending on the production yield, those numbers are lower, because of defects in the panel. The next generation of LCD panel fabs, 8G, will be producing panels with a size of 2200 mm by 2500 mm.

Panasonic promises that the TH-103PZ600U runs at full HD resolution (1080p or 1920 x1080 progressive), offers a 4000:1 contrast ratio and 4096 equivalent steps of gradation. Its effective display area is more than 89.3" wide by over 50.2" high, Panasonic said. The Panasonic TH-103PZ600U will be built to order and is expected to be available from select high-end electronics retailers in December. The 103" will also require "professional installation due to its weight and size," Panasonic said.

Just in case there is some extra cash left over, Panasonic will gladly recommend the purchase of a $5300 extension, consisting of a $1300 Blu-ray player, a $1000 receiver and a $3000 speaker system.