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With new ultra-long flights stretching to a marathon 18-22 hours, many travellers could be tempted to pass the time with some serious binge-viewing – and now they’ll have a serious screen to do it on.
Panasonic’s latest Astrova inflight entertainment system tops out at a massive 42” for first class suites, with more modest 32” and 27” models for upmarket ‘business plus’ suites in the front row of the business class cabin – an approach most recently taken by Air New Zealand, Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic.
Panasonic also offers more conventional 22” and 27” screens for regular business class seats.
And with these 4K panels boasting OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology, they’re using the same display tech that’s probably sitting on your living room wall.
Other mod-cons include Bluetooth ‘spatial audio’ streaming to your own pair of noise-cancelling headphones, and USB-C sockets rated at 67 watts: enough to not only power the latest Apple, Dell, HP, and Lenovo laptops but to fully charge their battery during the flight so you’ll step off ready to go.
In fact, Panasonic is leading the push for high-power USB-C, which is now the default charging socket for laptops.
“After two decades of trying to catch up to the consumer electronics market, airlines are in for a major upgrade.”, the company proclaims.
“Now, airlines are able to provide the same charging experience as passengers might have on terra firma, with a single fast-charging port.”
That’s enough to fast charge a dead laptop from zero to 50% in 30 minutes, and to a hefty 85% inside of an hour.
Powering up with USB-C
Under the European Union’s new ‘Common Charger’ law, all smartphones and other compact devices must adopt USB-C charging by 2024, and laptops by 2026.
A Panasonic Avionics survey reports that 35% of tech-toting travellers in business and first class relied on conventional AC power outlets, while the use of USB ports “ranges from 86–91%, making it the clear winner.”
However, that’s largely relying on USB-A sockets which generally have maximum power output of just 15W – so “charging a smartphone on its last legs can take upwards of four hours.”
“Forget about editing videos or slide decks on laptops, gaming on phones, or streaming Netflix,” Panasonic suggests: “15W is not fast enough to keep up with power demands, especially on long-haul flights.”
The Astrova screens are making their debut at the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg this week, where airlines go shopping in search of the latest and great for their upcoming jets.
Panasonic says each of the new screen sizes – yes, including that 42” super-slab – “has already been selected by an airline.”
Qatar Airways will be first to fly the Astrova, with its forthcoming Boeing 777-9 jets featuring a 22” screen in the next-generation Qsuites and a 13” display in economy.