The launch of Panasonic’s first batch of 3D TVs is undoubtedly big news at this year’s CES. However, HCC has already had an exclusive, private demonstration of the brand’s 3D plasmas at the Panasonic factory in Kadoma, Osaka. And I've got to say that our behind-closed-doors preview was genuinely eye-popping!

First up was a selection of 3D-enabled Olympics footage displayed on a 103in screen. The same screen has been used by Panasonic on roadshows around the world, including selected cities in the UK. Huge in scale, with a cinematic presence, the monster display still ranks amongst the best I’ve seen outside of a commercial theatre. More significant though was the first look at the brand’s debut 50in 3D plasma which followed, the TC-P50VT25 due to go on sale in the UK later this year. Panasonic has long maintained that plasma is the best technology to deliver 3D in the home, and I’ve yet to see anything dissuade me from sharing that view.

Smooth and comfortable
The 3D screen itself looks like a regular PDP. It’s not the slimmest TV you’ll find but it’s probably the one that offers the greatest (subjective) depth. I watched a variety of clips (both animated and real life) and was blown away by the illusion of dimensionality it delivered. 3D images were smooth and artefact-free, and the screen size was very comfortable. By way of comparison, I went on to sit through some 3D demonstrations on LCD TVs several days later which struggled to move images back and forth on the depth plane, introducing a variety of headache-inducing artefacts in the process.

The Panasonic display, though, was effortlessly seductive. Of course, once differences in display technologies have been ironed out I think a lot of interest will shift to the spectacles themselves. Issues of lightness and comfort will quickly become pre-eminent.

[First-generation active shutter glasses from Panasonic] Prototype glasses
The glasses supplied for my appraisal transpired to be slightly different from those eventually presented at this year’s CES. However, these prototype active shuttering glasses, while heavier than the kind of lightweight polarising spex I’m now used to wearing at the cinema, proved to be reasonably comfortable, at least for the duration of my shortish audition. I had to get them to sync to the plasma display (the first pair I tried had a flat battery and so didn’t work) but after that the 3D visuals snapped into focus. There was some pressure on the bridge of the nose, but no sense of headache or confinement. Quite how comfy they’ll feel after 162 minutes of Avatar remains to be seen, though.

Of course, AV fans have long debated the value of movies in 3D. Yet one aspect of 3D Blu-ray that hasn’t been fully appreciated to date is the provision of 3D menus and subtitles on discs. This might seem trivial, but once experienced I think it really adds to the overall satisfaction of using the system.

UK prices and availability for the new 3D screens are expected to be released in a few months.

Exclusive hands on with Panasonic TC-P50VT25 50in Full HD 3D plasma TV | Home Cinema Choice