February of 2009 was a sad month for videophiles: Pioneer, maker of the critically acclaimed Kuro ("Black" in Japanese) line of premium HDTVs with best-in-class blacks, announced that it was throwing in the towel. Plasma TV technology had peaked in 2006, and LCDs were clearly winning the war for the living room. Carrying the torch for the ailing plasma market fell to Panasonic, who dutifully purchased many of Pioneer's patents, hoping to replicate the company's stellar strides in picture quality.
While consumers saw plenty of bells and whistles grafted onto TVs launched in the following years, no set managed to best the Kuro's picture quality -- until now. Panasonic's flagship ZT60 series has finally dethroned the king, making it the best-performing television ever produced.
Truthfully, other excellent sets, including Panasonic's own step-down VT60 series, are capable of closely matching the ZT60's blacks in dark rooms. But excellent performance in brighter rooms (think Sunday afternoon football) is where the ZT60 sprints ahead of other elite plasma competitors. The competitive edge stems from the unit's new Ultimate Black Filter and an advanced design that eliminates the air gap between the TV's Studio Master Panel and the front glass. Additionally, an exhaustive number of picture controls as well as THX-certified picture modes for 2D and 3D content round out the set's incredible video chops.
Smart TV benefits are onboard as well, including direct streaming from most major on-demand video services like Netflix via built-in wi-fi. Other options like an integrated calendar and memo apps, a flash-supporting web browser, voice controls and even smart pen compatibility pad the spec sheet, but will go unused by most.
Unfortunately, the enjoyment for plasma lovers will be short lived; in April, Panasonic announced that the ZT60 would be their last offering in the segment. Just like Pioneer years earlier, the company has finally decided to stop researching plasma technology in order to focus resources on the next generation of advanced displays: OLED. New plasma TVs will be released in the next following years, but none will boast a better panel than the ZT60's. Talk about going out on top.
Excellence, innovation, craftsmanship, and an unwavering desire to challenge expectations -- these are the constants that have captivated our attention since Gear Patrol's inception in 2007. This year we're proud to announce the next step in our role as a champion of quality in product design and execution: welcome to the GP100. Our inaugural product awards are dedicated to honoring the 100 best consumer products released during the calendar year by companies of all sizes and scope.
The GP100 is not a ranking or a contest. These selections represent the collective expertise of our entire editorial staff, who have scoured every corner of the vast product universe -- from automotive and electronics, to men's style essentials, home goods, spirits and outdoors -- to find the inspiring and the practical, the ground-breaking and the traditional, the priceless and the accessible. In short: products that define or defy their respective categories to better the life of the modern man.
The GP100 is not a contest influenced by marketers or brands, nor is it a ranking by specifications as determined by uniform tests. Instead, it starts with a comprehensive list of nominees released in the calendar year, researched and compiled by our editorial team of obsessed experts across all of Gear Patrol's major areas of interest including Motoring, Technology, Style, Home, Spirits, Outdoor and Watches. Brands are not part of the selection process. Nominees are then debated in context of the past, present and future of their respective fields. Which selections stand as significant innovations, category busters or faithful monuments to the icons of history? Do they adhere to Gear Patrol's core tenets of excellence, design, utility and the spirit of adventure? Distilled to the following 100 items, the GP100 represents the best products on earth released in 2013 -- easily inspiring consumers and creators alike during their search for guideposts of excellence in a vast world of products.
Motoring Watches Style Technology Sports Outdoors Home Spirits
Jeremy BergerBen Bowers