Shock announcement for UK Panasonic Plasma owners

Posted by: Allan Probin on 17 December 2004

Sky recently announced it's intention to begin high definition broadcasts in Jan 2006 and to make this content available ONLY via encrypted digital outputs at 720p/50Hz and 1080i/50Hz. This announcement initiated a flurry of speculation regarding Panasonics soon to be made available HDMI card for the PW7 and PHD7 series plasma displays. The reason for the speculation centred around the published specifications for the card which failed to include any mention of support for these resolution/frequency combinations.

On the face it it would seem most likely that these resolutions had simply been ommited by mistake from a specification sheet aimed at an audience in Japan and the USA and a revised specification sheet would be issued for the Eurpean market when the card becomes available. After all, failure to include these resolutions would be contrary to the HDMI standard and could not therefore be sold as an HDMI product. Panasonic (i.e. Matsushita) are even one of the signaturies and originators of HDMI so it would be highly unlikely that they would put themselves in a position that contravenes their own standard.

Owners of 6th generation Panasonic plasma screens will be denied the oportunity of receiving Sky's proposed high definition broadcasts because it has already been established that the DVI board will not accept these resolutions at 50Hz and the proposed HDMI board will work in 7th generation panels only and not be backwards compatible. This now leaves owners of 7th generation panels waiting for the HDMI board to be released so that it can be confirmed that 720p and 1080i is supported at 50Hz and can breath a sigh of relief.

Panasonic have today announced that it will not be making the HDMI board available in the UK, pretty much confirming non-compliance and that we can forget about being compatible with any digital hidef content in the UK, either from Sky or from BluRay/HD-DVD if the content has a 50Hz refresh rate.

Home Cinema News
Panasonics announcemnt:

"Regrettably, due to specification variations in the US, Japan and Europe, the HDMI terminal board (TY-42TM7HD) planned for introduction into the UK consumer market will not be available.

High definition can still be displayed on the PW7 in VGA resolution by using the component terminal board (TY-42TM6ZC) to produce high quality results.

Panasonic remains committed to HDMI technology and the opportunities it offers to consumers."

The part in the announcement about being able to receive high definition content using the component (analogue) connections is a total joke as no high definition source will be available that isn't digital and encrypted.

Posted on: 17 December 2004 by Frank Abela

In fact it is important that HD content can be received via the component interface. The fact the sources are digital is all very well and they may have the encrypted DVI/HDMI outputs, but if they do the work in the source component (like most DVD players do now), then an analogue output via component is viable, if not necessarily optimised.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinion of any organisations I work for, except where this is stated explicitly.
Posted on: 17 December 2004 by andy c
so, would it be fair to say if I am thinking of getting a 32" LCD philips or other make, that it would be wise to hold out a while until this gets sorted?

I was looking at the philips 32pf9986, which has a dvi input. We watch shy a lot, and would consider converting f this res was compatible. Can anyone help with this?

andy c!
Posted on: 17 December 2004 by Allan Probin
Hi Frank,

I'm a little surprised by your comments and I'm afraid I have to respectfully disagree with what you are saying. SkyHD, BluRay, HD-DVD, whatever, will not be providing high definition content on the analogue outputs. It may be that a deliberately down-rezz'ed signal (down to 480/570p say) will be available on the component outputs but this is the best we can hope for analogue-wise.

This is not at the whim of Sky or the manufacturers of the hardware, its all tied in with DRM (Digital Rights Management) issues and the wishes of the content providers. In fact, from what I'm reading elsewhere, it is proposed that the mere presence of a copy protection flag in the digital content must cause the anologue outputs to be shut down.

Quite a bit of the finer detail of this stuff is still speculation but the one thing that is almost a certainty is that high definition content will not be made available on a non-encrypted output. Thats not to say the content won't be available, it just won't be available at high definition resolutions.

It's difficult to imagine that a service like SkyHD will be viable when it will only be available to potential subscribers who have a display device with a compatible HDMI socket but that is indeed the way things are going. My feeling is that pragmatism will prevail and a grace period will be in place during which time an anlogue output (not necessarily at hi-definition) from the receiving box will be left open.

Posted on: 17 December 2004 by Allan Probin

Now that Sky have announced their intentions, the retail industry are about to introduce a "HDTV" logo sticker for products that will be compatible.

I still wouldn't be 100% confident but at least if it doesn't work you would have pretty strong grounds for taking it back for a refund !