Economy class will be slightly less punishing if you fly on an aircraft with Panasonic's Astrova in-flight entertainment system

Panasonic Aviation Astrova in-flight entertainment system
(Image credit: Panasonic)

Unless you're an excited kid or 150cm tall, nobody really enjoys flying in cattle class, do they? You get to put up with longer queues, uncomfortable seats, average food (at best) and poor in-flight entertainment. The latter is certainly better in more modern airliners, but the screens usually leave a lot to be desired.

Thankfully, that's slowly beginning to change. Display Daily (via Ars Technica) reports that Panasonic Avionics is set to begin the roll out of its Astrova in-flight entertainment system. That means no more woeful low resolution LCD screens with terrible contrast ratios, terrible color reproduction, and terrible viewing angles. Say hello to 4K OLED screens complete with HDR, multi-channel audio, 100W USB-C charging ports and integrated Bluetooth support.

I love it already. I'm a tall lad at 194cm, and though I never begrudge anyone reclining the seat in front of me, it often means I'm forced to put up with a bit of a top-down view of a screen, even after I adjust the angle as much as I can. In some cases, it makes the screen unwatchable, so the adoption of screens with superior viewing angles will add usability straight away. 

The switch to OLED screens means far better color reproduction, contrast ratios and minimal motion blur. Notably, crappy LCD screens don't cope well when the cabin is fully lit. The same can be said when it's dark. Simply adjusting the overall brightness doesn't exactly give amazing results. The inclusion of HDR with deeper blacks should mean a better balance between day and night viewing. It gets better and better.

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Astrova includes support for multi-channel audio and Bluetooth. All frequent fliers know how desirable a good set of noise cancelling headphones can be, and the ability to connect them directly without the need for an adapter is something I can personally appreciate. One time I ripped out a wired dual 3.5mm adapter while flying on an Airbus A330 and had to buy another one during a transit. Another time I left the adapter on the plane. Direct Bluetooth connectivity is sure to save me money on buying those damn adapters!

I'm loving the inclusion of USB-C ports with 100W power delivery support. That'll help keep a thirsty laptop or gaming handheld fed throughout the flight, or give you a quick top up for those wireless earbuds. These ports can supposedly be used throughout the flight, but we'll have to wait and see what individual cabin crews will say about that.

The system will debut with Icelandair's Airbus A321 Neo LR aircraft. Passengers can expect 16 inch Astrova OLED monitors in business class and 13 inch in economy. Australia's Qantas will also include the system in its ultra long-haul aircraft. Such flights will be nearing the 20-hour mark in duration, so even if your legs need to be amputated at the end of such a long economy class journey, at least you can be entertained before it happens.

Chris Szewczyk
Hardware Writer

Chris' gaming experiences go back to the mid-nineties when he conned his parents into buying an 'educational PC' that was conveniently overpowered to play Doom and Tie Fighter. He developed a love of extreme overclocking that destroyed his savings despite the cheaper hardware on offer via his job at a PC store. To afford more LN2 he began moonlighting as a reviewer for VR-Zone before jumping the fence to work for MSI Australia. Since then, he's gone back to journalism, enthusiastically reviewing the latest and greatest components for PC & Tech Authority, PC Powerplay and currently Australian Personal Computer magazine and PC Gamer. Chris still puts far too many hours into Borderlands 3, always striving to become a more efficient killer.