"King of TV's"
take a look!
flagship TV line is the GAOO ("King of Pictures") series, televisions
they've aimed squarely at the Sony XBR series. And they're a darn fine
crop of sets, too; we think they're the best Panasonic has ever offered.
GAOO's are offered
in 27, 31, and 35 inch screen sizes; TechnoFILE got to play with the mid-sized
(try to remember that moniker when you head for the store!),
as with all the GAOO's, offers Panasonic's "Superflat" picture
tube, and it's very flat, which is nice if your room layout is wide rather
than long, as it helps viewers off to the sides get the full picture.
It's also a common trend in the industry, however, so Panasonic isn't
breaking any new ground here.
Our GAOO came
with Panasonic's new "stone" finish, a marble-ous look that
also doesn't display the ever-present dust from which our home theatre
The GAOO includes
an MTS stereo tuner capable of bringing in 181 channels and you can also
store your 15 favorite channels in its memory, so you don't have to scan
up and down the "dial" all the time. Of course, you can enter
your channel selection's number manually as well, via the keypad on the
TV's remote control.
You also get
a second tuner for the set's PIP (picture in picture) feature, and that's
as it should always be - but unfortunately isn't. And that PIP offers
you two different inner picture sizes - one quarter or one eighth (check
this) of the screen size.
The PIP also
lets you swap picture and sound from one window to the next.
GAOO also includes
a digital comb filter and claims a horizontal resolution of 800 lines,
which will be nice when someone starts releasing video material (or broadcasting
stuff) that utilizes the 800 lines. Until then, it's a misleading and
superfluous specification - and Panasonic is by no means the only company
that uses it.
Still, 800 lines
means the set is capable of showing you any picture you can find, short
of HDTV. And that's good.
GAOO has a series
of menus that take you through the process of setting up the TV and they're
fairly straightforward. The Main Menu offers you choices of picture and
sound settings, as well as the activation of the StarSight "automatic
TV guide" that's included on the CT-31XF43C.
the menus is pretty easy, too, though programming the channels we wanted
to scan wasn't the easiest we've seen. Still, we accomplished the task
Hooking in your
other components is also straightforward, and the CT-31XF43C gives you
an S-Video In port along with two sets of input and one set of output
jacks for audio and video. There's also a centre channel input, a speaker
wire input that makes the set's speakers handle the centre channel in
a Dolby Pro-Logic program.
This will work
in a pinch, but it's no substitute for a proper centre channel.
As we mentioned,
we think the GAOO is Panasonic's best TV ever, so we were quite happy
with its picture, especially when the source material was good (like when
is very subjective, but we'd have to rate the GAOO right up there with
the best. Flesh tones, always a good measure of TV quality, were very
nice, and they stayed rock solid through channel changes, thanks to Panasonic's
"AI Picture" circuitry.
The 31 inch
screen size was very pleasant in our room. We set the GAOO to its factory
defaults for the most part, though we turned the picture down a mite from
It gave a nice,
theatre-like (well, for video) picture that was well-suited to widescreen
A Sound Solution?
GAOO comes with
Panasonic's Dome Sound System, thin dome speakers that wrap around the
picture tube and fire their energy out toward the audience. You also get
a new surround sound circuit that's supposed to offer an airy, "3D"
effect, and it works pretty well. An automatic volume control maintains
an even audio keel when channel flipping or when commercials begin their
does a good job, audio-wise, but like any other TV we've seen it still
pales in comparison to a reasonably priced stereo system.
One of the most
important features of a TV is its remote control. It should be logically
laid out and easy to use. The best of all worlds will have a remote that
also controls your other A/V components. We're pleased to say that, for
the most part, the GAOO's remote passes the test.
And the numeric
keypad is backlit, to make using it in a darkened room easier . We'd have
like to see all of the buttons illuminated, but we'll take
what we can get.
remote operated all our other components, in a "pidgin" fashion,
but it was better than using seven separate remotes for the most basic
We thought you
had to aim it too directly at the TV for it to work, though. There was
no bouncing it off the opposite wall with this baby, though since the
GAOO went through a set of batteries in a month (they may have been partially
discharged when we got them), that may have something to do with it.
This GAOO comes
complete with the "StarSight" system, a built in "TV guide
and VCR programmer" from StarSight Telecast Inc. StarSight promises
to give you an on-screen TV listing that you can search by theme or other
parameter and, with a single click of your remote, will then program your
VCR to record your chosen show.
This is meant
to be a convenience feature for those who can't, or won't, learn to program
their VCR's, or who can't find their TV listings on the coffee table (perhaps
it's hidden under a pile of remote controls!).
The idea is
great in theory, and maybe some day it'll be great in practice, but this
is a feature that really rubbed us the wrong way. However, to be fair,
our problems may have stemmed from our location.
You see, StarSight
uses the signal from your local PBS station (in the U.S.) to find the
time and the StarSight information. If you live in a reasonably major
American population centre, you're probably OK. We don't. We're based
in Calgary, Canada and our closest PBS station is in Spokane, Washington.
That puts it one time zone West of us, and we were mighty interested to
see if StarSight would notice the difference and adjust itself.
Since we were
just using the GAOO for a month or so, we didn't want to pay for a StarSight
hookup, so the company set us up with a trial account. We were supposed
to have the service by the morning after we phoned StarSight, and so looked
forward to seeing how it would work.
It didn't. We
never received any program information at all, so we can't tell you how
the feature works (or even if it works at all!).
And what's worse,
StarSight overrode all the channels we'd programmed into the GAOO - putting
all the channels we'd erased back into the scan - and once we'd activated
it in the set we couldn't get rid of it. So the majority of our test had
the damn StarSight running control over the TV, but offering nothing to
And is anyone
really going to string a couple of wires from the back of their TV and
hang 'em over the edge of their VCR? Give us a break! There's enough spaghetti
in a home theatre without adding more wires! 'Cause that's how StarSight
activates your VCR: wires run from the back of the GAOO and you have to
sit the other ends, which transmit the infrared signal, where they can
activate the VCR's remote sensor. It's crazy.
Our advice to
people? Learn how to program your VCR. It really isn't that hard!
Now, we can't
blame Panasonic for our StarSight debacle (except for putting it into
the set!), and we'd really like to give the system a fair shake. That
said, however, our experience with StarSight won't have us recommending
the system to anyone in the near future.
But as for the
GAOO, if you're looking for a good, high end TV with lots of features,
a good picture and sound, and a reasonably universal remote control, you
might want to check out this Panasonic flagship.
Tell us at TechnoFile what YOU think