Panasonic is the first TV maker to launch a dedicated Freesat plasma TV screen. Panasonic says its PZ81 plasma TV range, which launches in June, will come with integrated tuners capable of picking up Freesat free-to-air satellite TV channels.

The Panasonic PZ81 television range will come in 42in, 46in and 50in versions, with the smaller two TH42-PZ81 and TH46-PZ81 models going onsale in June followed by the larger TH50-PZ81 in July.

Freesat offers subscription-free high-definition TV broadcasts and enhanced HD interactive services in return for the purchase of dedicated Freesat hardware. For most users, this will mean buying and having installed a Freesat set-top box and satellite dish, while existing satellite TV subscribers will simply need a new set-top box capable of picking up the Freesat programmes.

Panasonic's PZ81 TV range dispenses with the need for a Freesat tuner box but not the need for a satellite dish to pick up the free-to-air channels. However, an integrated option such as this may prove popular with those consumers yet to move from analogue to a digital TV and keen to receive as many HD channels as possible for as little fuss or outlay as can be.

The switch from analogue to digital TV is already underway. Today's launch of Freesat marks a milestone for the main two terrestrial broadcasters as they try and wean viewers off the ‘main’ five channels and towards new ways of tuning in.

The screens will all be 100Hz displays with dynamic contrast ratios of 1,000,000: 1. Each will have three HDMI connectors and 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound. The PZ81 Series can display Jpeg photos read off a Secure Digital or Secure Digital High Capacity memory card.

High definition camcorder footage recorded in the AVCHD format at 1,080x1,920 resolution can also be played back directly on the Panasonic plasma TVs.

Panasonic Freesat plasma TV

Panasonic PZ81 plasma TVs will come with an integrated Freesat tuner

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