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A Review of the Panasonic 4K Ultra HD Smart TV 120hz-CX650 Series

by on July 14, 2015
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Manufacture
Overview

Panasonic is definitely releasing increasingly high performance 4K TVs as the industry takes off and goes mainstream. While nobody’s 2013 and early 2014 ultra HD televisions were nearly as good as what’s coming out now, the models released by Panasonic as of late 2014 really showed improvement over previous versions. In particular, the AX900 flagship TV for 2014 was a real beauty of a UHD television.

Well, in the wake of the AX900, Panasonic has continued the quality trend in that models original template and the CX650 is one more example of extremely high quality, tightly packed essentials and a beautiful physical design being delivered in a very affordable package. This 55 inch 4K UHD TV comes with plenty of goodies for the 4K TV connoisseur while also being an excellent TV for newcomers to the technology, primarily because of the nicely balanced price it’s market at.

There are more and more competitor 4K TVs on sale now with superb features at an excellent price but Panasonic’s CX650 definitely delivers a high degree of value that possibly matches some excellent models from Samsung, Sony or LG.

The Good

The CX650 is not one of the more spectacular 4K TVs of 2015 like the Samsung SUHD flagship JS8500 or LLG’s OLED 4K TVs but then it also doesn’t cost several thousand dollars. Instead, it offers a rock solid package of essential quality, great display and complete connectivity for 4K content at a very affordable price.

Thus, this is a great TV for those looking to enter 4K with its elegant, minimalist and nearly bezel-free design. And behind this design, there is a full connectivity package that includes HDM 2.0, HEVC/VP9 decoding capacity and HDCP 2.2 content copy protection capability. On top of this, you get 55 inches of quality 4K display. No, the CX650 doesn’t come with more elaborate features like enhanced dynamic range or the brilliant colors of quantum dot display technology but it still delivers decent vibrancy and screen brightness.

Basically, the CX650 is an affordable mid-range 4K ultra HD TV that will deliver UHD content in a very good way without taking anyone breath away either. However, it does come with a very solid physical design which includes an extremely thin screen and a solid stand shape that’s actually made out of polished metal instead of plastic. There are also standard VESA holes for wall mounting, a choice that would look particularly good with this model, especially in smaller apartment living rooms.

Finally, the CX650 also features Panasonic’s new Firefox OS platform for its smart TV aspects. This operating system, made in partnership with Mozilla really improves the user experience over that available with the company’s previous smart TV platform and offers great web search and a dead simple user interface that mostly consists of large bubble icons for Live TV, Apps, device control and other items that you can later pin to the main screen in a customizable way. The Firefox TV platform is also fully supportive of 4K streaming from Netflix, YouTube and Amazon among others.

The bad

The CX650 is not a spectacular TV, as we’ve already established, so it doesn’t exactly promise anything more spectacular than what it’s already delivering. However, the TV does also come with a few minor, non-deal breaker deficiencies that go beyond what a user has a right to expect for this model.

For one thing the TV lacks the THX settings for color that come with its more expensive cousins in the Samsung JU7500 series. Thus, while the way off color that come out of the box can be recalibrated to look pretty good thanks to things like the CX650’s “Cinema” profile you won’t get the much better overall color accuracy of Panasonic’s Flagship 4K TV and its slightly less pricey cousins.

Next, the CX650 is a 55 inch model. While this isn’t a defect per se, it does offer a somewhat limited space in which to enjoy the real benefits of 4K resolution without sitting abnormally close to the TV screen. IF you want larger screen space at a price that’s more or less similar to that of the CX650, you might want to consider something like the Vizio M and P-Series 4K TVs or possibly Sharp’s LC70UH30U, which offers a much bigger 70 inch screen and better picture quality for $1,300 more.

Finally, there’s one problem with the Firefox OS. This applies to more than just the CX650 of course but it is an annoying detail. Namely, the Firefox smart TV system doesn’t allow multitasking. Thus, if you want to move from one app to check on another, you have to shut off the first program. This can be annoying during the middle of a movie or show and other brands like Samsung and LG have managed to avoid doing the same.

Final Thoughts

The Panasonic CX650 series TC-55X650U represents solid middle of the road home entertainment dependability. It’s not awe inspiring and delivers no particular wow factor by the standards of name brand 4K UHD TVs but it is a good and very affordable TV that we recommend for users who want to get started with 4K television.

Specs

Dimensions: (WxHxD): 48.9 x 29.8 x 9.1 inches with stand/ 48.9 x 28.3 x 2.2 inches without stand
Screen size: 55 diagonal inches
Smart TV: Yes, with Firefox OS and built-in WiFi
HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes, on all 3 HDMI ports
Refresh Rate: Image Motion 120Hz
Screen Lighting: edge-lit LED backlighting
Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes WiFi, Ethernet port
Remotes: Standard Panasonic button remote with “Netflix” button feature
Connectivity: 3 HDMI 2.0 ports, 1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, component, Digital Audio out, Analog tuner, digital tuner, Component/Composite, Ethernet
Dynamic Contrast Ratio: Over 1 million
Audio: 20 W (10 W x 2) VR-Audio True Surround Full range speakers x 2
Weight (Shipping weight only available): 42.99 lbs
Processor: Quad-Core Pro


Highlights

The CX650 really doesn’t have much to offer in the way of exceptional highlights that truly stand out for their impressiveness. This isn’t to say that it’s a bad TV, it simply offers a very middle of the road dependability and attendant quality without jumping the boundaries of innovation like some more expensive Panasonic models manage to do.

However, some of the more notable features of the CX650 for those with no experience in seeing 4K technology at work are still impressive. First among these is the 4K resolution of the TV itself. Ultra HD 4K, especially when used to display uncompressed native 4K content, is truly an impressive sight, even on a mid-sized screen like that of the CX650 at closer ranges. Offering slightly more than 4 times the resolution of 1080p Full HD video resolution, 4K stands out for its sharpness, clarity and the technologies for brightness and high contrast that almost always come along with it. In the CX560, this resolution isn’t displayed at its absolute cutting-edge best but it is shown in its standard high quality form and this is more than impressive enough for most new users of 4K TV display.

The color range and accuracy of the TC-55CX650U is also worth commenting on. Panasonic didn’t include more specialized precision technologies like quantum dots and THX certification in this more affordable model but they still gave the TV a great color accuracy that looks great after a bit of calibration by the savvy user. The TV is in fact capable of a remarkably expanded color range for its price due to a red LED backlight phosphor.

Finally, the Firefox OS on the CX605 is definitely worth mentioning. It isn’t the best smart TV OS on the market today (the honor for that might go to LG’s webOS 2.0 or Samsung’s Smart Hub maybe) but it is a superb 4K TV smart interface with an elegantly simple, fast and easy to use design that revolves around “bubbles” for different TV apps and software which can be pegged in a custom way to the TV’s home screen.

Firefox may not make the world’s most popular web browser for PCs anymore but their move into TV operating systems has been a coup of lean open source innovation. The only defect we’ve found for the Firefox OS is that it doesn’t allow for multitasking between different apps and smart TV programs at the same time.

Visual Specs

We’ve already mentioned the red phosphor that the CX650 has added onto its backlight LEDs. Well, this is one of the better visual spec features of the TV because through this, the CX650U can cover 98% of the professional DCI range and 122% of the ITU REC-709 HDTV color range. Basically, without using quantum dots, HDR or any other truly advanced display technology, the CX650 manages to provide users with a remarkable range of color vibrancy and accuracy for its price.

Furthermore, the color vibrancy is augmented by an equally good (if unspectacular) level of backlighting brightness that nicely enhances contrast levels. In essence, Panasonic invested in installing Back Light Scan Pro technology with Super Bright Panels in the CX650 and as a result, this TV is particularly good at actually reaching its optimum brightness. This means sharper contrast due to more luminance in the bright spots of on-screen content. In fact, the overall contrast ratio after some calibration for higher brightness can be made to go as high as 4470:1. Given how many conventional LCD 4K TVs barely manage more than 1000:1, this is a genuinely superb real contrast ratio.

Furthermore, the TV channel processing on the CX650’s screen is genuinely good. This is something that Samsung is historically known for pulling off well and the scaling of HD content to something resembling 4K is also quite nicely achieved with the TV’s internal upscaling engine. This means that HD content manages to look really impressive with an improvement that makes it almost resemble Blu-ray HD in its clarity and even SD content looks decent when upscaled.

Finally, the CX650 also offers some solidly inky, deep blacks that create a rich, vivid overall picture. In fact, the degree of darkness in black tones is surprisingly good when you consider that this isn’t even an HDR-capable TV by any means.

Connectivity

In terms of connectivity, the TC-55CX650U delivers all the essentials to a degree no worse than that delivered by even the best 4K TVs on the market.

Thus, you get your HDMI 2.0 ports, USB connectivity in both the 2.0 and 3.0 versions and Full HDCP 2.2 compatibility. The TV’s internal hardware/software is also fully HEVC/VP9 compression codec compatible. What all of these essentially mean is that the CX650 can completely deliver all the latest 4K streaming content from sources like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Ultraflix and others while also being fully compatible with 4K content from set-top box sources like Sony’s 4K media player and others. This content can be accessed through the HDMI 2.0 connections on the TV.

On top of the above physical connectivity features, the TV’s Firefox OS smart TV interface is obviously fully capable of web browsing and searching through web apps like Hulu or YouTube. As long as you have full and fast internet connectivity going to your home then the CX650 can get you access to almost any kind of available music, HD video and 4K UHD video content on the web today.

The TV’s one minor connectivity flaw is that it comes with only 3 HDMI 2.0 connections instead of the more common 4, but this is hardly a serious problem for most users.

Pricing

Pricewise, the Panasonic TC-55CX650U is almost as affordable as a mid-grade 4K TV with all the essentials can be. Currently, the 55 inch model we’re reviewing here sells for just $1,299.99 on the Panasonic website itself. This is a very competitive price. We suggest other 4k TV models such as the Sony X830C Series, the Vizio M Series or the Samsung JU6500 Series.

Not so Great

To summarize briefly, the CX650U is not anything extraordinary among name brand 4K UHD TVs or even among Panasonic’s own lines of 4KK TVs for 2015 and late 2014. Thus, you’ll get no access to HDR contrast enhancement, exceptional quantum dot color vibrancy or full-array backlighting ant local dimming. Instead, you get quality which delivers solid 4K without impressing anyone who’s used to seeing the technology at work in higher end 4K TVs.

Positives

• Solid connectivity features
• Surprisingly good color reproduction
• Good contrast level
• Great price
• Nice black levels
• Great SD/HD upscaling

Negatives

• Brightness in cd/m2 could be better
• Only 3 HDMI 2.0 ports
• No Panasonic THX certification or HDR and QD tech

Editor Rating
 
Features
B

 
Quality
B+

 
User Friendliness
A

 
Connectivity
A+

 
Price
B+

Total Score
A-

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User Rating
 
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Bottom Line
 

For anyone looking for a solid, reliable middle of the road 4K TV that’s very affordable, the TC-55CX650U is one of the better choices on the market right now. This a good 4K TV that surprises with the quality of some of its features.

 
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