We just spent some time with the WebKit-based browser Panasonic will be including with select models of its 2012 Viera HDTV line, along with a prototype touchpad controller the company aims to ship this spring.
The web browser — referred to as "WebKit Powered by Panasonic" as of now — offers support for HTML5 video, though lacks any compatibility with Flash. All of your main functions are mapped to colored buttons on the TV's remote control. and users can also choose to have the directional buttons act as a mouse cursor. Bookmarks are gathered on a page with a UI closely resembling that of Safari's Top Sites, which shouldn't come as a surprise considering the underpinnings of Panasonic's proprietary browser. Additionally, both wired and wireless USB keyboards can be plugged in to avoid having to manually select input characters when entering text. Performance seemed relatively snappy, though we noticed some rendering quirks along the way — mostly related to font reproduction.
Also on hand was a preproduction model of an upcoming Viera touchpad controller, which will connect to web-enabled sets via Bluetooth. The prototype hardware had a nice feel in the hand, resembling the size of a Nintendo Wii nunchuck. The touchpad circle was fairly responsive, though became nonfunctional at times — not unexpected considering the early hardware being used on the show floor. Our friendly Panasonic rep revealed that the touchpad controller will come bundled with GT50 and VT50 plasma models along with its WT LED series when it ships this Spring, and the company hopes to sell the device individually for existing owners of compatible units.
Check out our hands-on shots of the touchpad controller and Panasonic's WebKit browser below.