Comcast Launches Tru2Way With Panasonic

My new pals at the NCTA recently briefed me that Comcast was nearing launch of tru2way in select markets in conjunction with the release of tru2way-capable Panasonic televisions. And, now that the release has hit the wires, I can break my silence. Comcast head-ends in Denver and Chicago are providing tru2way services to retail devices – initially, to new Panasonic plasmas available later this month. Unlike the first generation of one-way retail CableCARD devices, the tru2way platform enables bidirectional communication with the cable company – taking on their interface, offering VOD, and handling switched programming. Panasonic’s initial lineup doesn’t include DVR capabilities, though TWICE indicates recording “functionality is […] in the planning stages for future […] models.”

As MZ notes, the major cable-cos intend to fully deploy tru2way nationwide by next summer. However, this is a gentleman’s agreement and not a mandate. Meaning, I doubt it’ll roll out exactly as pitched. Leaving a smaller company with limited resources like TiVo waiting and watching from the sidelines. Though, the biggest challenge the cable industry and their CE partners will face is in educating customers. (We can all probably agree that consumer-initiated CableCARD adoption has been “abysmal.”) Having said that, I do have high hopes for tru2way and I give Panasonic credit for getting on-board early – manufacturing sets to (initially) sell in just two markets is unheard of.

Panasonic’s first tru2way enabled VIERA Plasma HDTVs will be offered in 42-inch class and 50-inch class sizes with integrated tru2way cable receiver capability within the set’s chassis. The TH-42PZ80Q and TH-50PZ80Q will be extensions of Panasonic’s critically acclaimed VIERA PZ80 series of 1080p Plasma HDTVs.  The TH-42PZ80Q will have an SRP of $1,599.95 and the TH-50PZ80Q will have an SRP of $2,299.95. These tru2way HDTVs will allow consumers to access all digital cable services such as electronic program guides and the full range of interactive and video-on-demand programming – all accessible directly via the television’s remote control – without the costs or clutter associated with a traditional external cable set-top box. The tru2way VIERA HDTVs will be available in the Chicago area at Abt Electronics in Glenview and at Circuit City locations and at Ultimate Electronics and Circuit City stores in the Denver area.

12 thoughts on “Comcast Launches Tru2Way With Panasonic”

  1. Nice TV with good specs. I can’t wait to read a real life review on it. Although the guide layout is pretty much the same, I see that the graphics have been updated (about time), and hopefully the responsiveness of the U.I. will be better with the Tru2Way Java API.

    Download that updated graphics into my Motorola DCH-3416 and we’ll be good. I’m not replacing my TV anytime soon, not to mention the Panasonic doesn’t have a hard drive for DVR ability. Although I have to wonder if they will have a USB 2.0 or eSATA port so that you could add the hard drive of your liking and obtain DVR functions.

  2. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of tru2way devices at CES. I suspect TiVo will have something, maybe a prototype Series4, to show. And I think EchoStar may have tru2way cable boxes based on their signing the license and their recent appearance in Europe.

  3. There’s a manual online at:

    if you want to wade through it. Looks like you basically reboot it into tru2way mode after inserting a cable card, and in that mode the buttons on the remote work like those on a cableco remote, i.e. page up/down, OnDemand, Guide, A/B/C/D buttons etc on keys that did other things in regular mode.

    Looks like there’s no hybrid mode–when you’re in tru2way you get that and nothing else, so I assume there’s no way to tune to OTA channels or anything when you’re in this mode. Or use a different guide, or anything.

    Like others I would love to see a real life review. I assume it will work just like a cable co STB, i.e. the same UI, the same delays/missed button presses, the same channel guide that they won’t let you delete channels from with the same too few channels on screen, and including a big ad, etc. Would be lovely if some of this weren’t true…

  4. Also, looks like these are carrying a $300 premium over their non-tru2way-enabled TH-42PZ80U and TH-50PZ80U siblings.

    Seems a bit steep to avoid a $5 a month STB rental fee (or some portion thereof if CC’s aren’t free in your area). Would take 5 years to pay off, ignoring the time value of money…

    If this premium doesn’t come down over time…

  5. I don’t see PIP. Too bad, with an M-Card it would be nice to get PIP with the full lineup.

    With my current Samsung HDTV setup, I can get analog clear stations in the PIP, and use my Motorola DCH-3416 box for the main screen.

  6. That gui doesn’t work on the current HD boxes. It will probably require the new next generation boxes. The Motorola 3416 can’t render the guide in widescreen like the next generation boxes can. So yea when tru2way gets more common expect a whole slew of boxes and TV’s. CES 09 is going to be very interesting.

  7. Maybe the VOD app isn’t strech-o-vision afterall. Who knows if it’s SOV. It does look nicer than iGuide. Time Warner customers will probably be stuck with ODN but hopefully these new next gen devices will probably be able to run it better.

  8. cypherstream, rv65: Panasonic gave me the picture of the 16:9 set and Comcast gave me the picture of a 4:3 guide. I Photoshopped them together… so I wouldn’t assume it’ll look exactly like that. Like Glenn, I’d like to see a proper review. I also tried to invite myself up to Comcast (Philly) for a demo – not sure how that went over.

  9. Well I’ll keep it tuned right here, because if anyone gets a good on hand review it’ll be yours.

    EngadgetHD had some live working pictures, along with Gizmodo (and they had a video).

    Guide layout is the same for tech support purposes, but they are taking advantage of the Java Tru2Way API to pretty it up with smoother graphics and fonts. Hopefully I won’t be required to buy a new TV to enjoy an updated interface. Perhaps I-Guide “A26” could bring this to at least advanced HD/ DVR boxes? Time will tell.

  10. A26 might just offer a better experience. I believe the guide shown on this tv is likely J-Guide which is made for tru2way. J-Guide is the enhanced iGuide for tru2way devices. Panasonic also has a RNG-200 DVR. They also have the PCH-Z2180 HD-DVR with a 250 GB HDD. Samsung and Cisco have boxes with a 320 GB HDD which would provide up to 40 Hours of HD which would be much nicer than the current ones. Maybe a 500 GB drive would be even better.

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