A Review of the Panasonic TC-65AX800U 65″ Class 4K Ultra HD TV
The Panasonic TC-65AX800U if one of the manufacturers best late 2014 4K UHD TVs and if there’s one thing that this particular model delivers well, it’s cinematic color. On the other hand, and we’ll say it right off the bat, contrast does suffer slightly in the AX800U.
Nonetheless, the overall design and specs of this particular model are more than good enough for most users and represent a step above the mid-grade models sold by both Panasonic and other name brands. The slim profile and lean stand of this particular 4K TV conceal a very robust set of features that includes some truly vivid color display and excellent accuracy to boot. While several different sizes of CX800U are available, the 65 inch model here represents an ideal combination of size and price for viewing 4K UHD content on a screen good enough for all those extra pixels.
In terms of connectivity, smart TV functions and screen hardware, the CX800U is definitely one of the better Panasonic 4K TV choices for 2015 despite being a 2014 4K TV, and it’s worth taking a close look at.
What is there to really like about the AX800U? Quite a bit actually. This 4K TV isn’t the very best that Panasonic has to offer but it’s definitely higher up on the list of models for this year.
For starters, the single best aspect of the AX800U is its excellent color reproduction. We’ll go into much further detail about this under “Visual Specs” but suffice to say that this model really delivers on color when compared to quite a few competitor TVs. Aside from the obviously excellent 4K ultra HD resolution, the AX800U offers a fantastic color reproduction that’s not only very bright and vibrant but also extremely broad, with 98% DCI P3 digital cinema studio coverage and 122% ITU REC-709 HDTV color range coverage.
Furthermore, this particular model comes with the THX certification that only select 4K TVs offer, thus guaranteeing a more-than-normal accuracy that stays true to the original video production as done by directors in film studios working with THX technology.
In addition to sharp color, the AX800U offers some very decent contrast levels in the form of a rich inky black that accompanies the brightness of its color display. Now oddly, in this particular area there is actually some disagreement among many reviewers. Some have stated that the AX800 showed them a poor contrast ratio and slightly washed out colors while other have claimed excellent dark levels. In our experience with the model, contrast isn’t as good as it can get but it’s definitely far from washed out or anything approaching that. Thus, maybe the problem is more specific to certain units going one way or the other.
Finally, the connectivity of the AX800U is superb. This has become a standard, must have aspect for any 4K TV in 2015 but decent, future-proof connection features for 4K content in 2014 TVs can often be spotty, so it’s good to see that this isn’t the case with this particular model.
3.5 - 4 Reviews
As we had mentioned already, the AX800U can present problems with its dark levels and thus its overall contrast. Apparently, this doesn’t apply to all models but it is a problem noted by several other reviews so it’s worth mentioning.
Furthermore, the TV’s stand is definitely odd looking. Instead of the more common minimalist pedestals found in many other UHD TVs and even in many Samsung 4K models such as the UN65JU7500 the stand of the AX800U looks more like a sort of ballast system with its 401 lb piece of heavy plastic that attaches to the TV so it doesn’t fall forward or backward. The result is something less than elegant and cumbersome to move around. Even the chromed bar that runs along the bottom of the front of the TV is annoying, mainly because it takes up so much space, right to the edge of the display itself. This means that wherever you place the AX800U has to have the same available width as the TV itself.
When you factor in the fact that this is one heavy beast of a TV (just over 90 pounds without the stand and 130.1 with the stand) the clumsy bottom design seems all the more inconvenient.
We should also mention that the AX800U comes with only one single HDMI 2.0 port with HDCP 2.2 copy protection for 4K video at 60Hz. Most newer models from the company or from other name brands include HDCP in all of their HDMI 2.0 slots.
Finally, Panasonic didn’t include full-array backlighting technology in the AX800U. This is a feature that definitely could and should have come with this model when you consider its original release price (which has since dropped by nearly half).
None of these aspects are real deal breakers and the listing of “bad” characteristics is short for the AX800U because this is really a solid TV even though it’s from 2014 and has since been “superseded” by a number of much newer Samsung 4K models.
The AX800 is no longer one of the darling flagship TVs of the Panasonic line, since it’s from 2014, but this still remains a superb TV even if it lacks some of the more innovative Smart TV and visual features of the company’s 2015 top shelf models. Furthermore, the connectivity on the AX800U is superb and in fact beats that of much newer Panasonic 4K TVs in one crucial way.
Weight: 130 lbs with stand, 90.4 lbs without stand
Dimensions: (WxHxD): 57.8 x 35.0 x 14.5 inches with stand/ 57.8 x 34.0 x 1.8 inches without stand
Screen size: 65 diagonal inches
Smart TV: Yes, with my Home Screen and my Stream, built-in WiFi
HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes (1 HDMI port)
Refresh Rate: 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 and Touch Pad Remote
Connectivity: 4 x HDMI 2.0 ports, 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x DisplayPort 1.2, component, Digital Audio out, Analog tuner, digital tuner, Component/Composite, Ethernet
Dynamic Contrast Ratio: 1 million
Audio: 18 W (4 + 4 + 10) Front Slim Speakers x 2 with VR-Audio Pro Surround 2.1, Woofer (75 mm) x 1
Dimensions 65” model: with stand: 57.8 x 35.0 x 14.5 inches, TV without stand: 57.8 x 34.0 x 1.8 inches
Processor: HEXA-Processing Engine Pro
The AX800U offers a few particularly interesting highlights that made it such a superb 2014 4K TV and which still let it continue being an excellent model for 2015.
First of all, it’s one of the very few 4K televisions on sale today that comes with a DisplayPort 1.2 slot built into it. This means easy, streamlined PC gaming in 4K ultra HD at a smooth 60 frames per second on the AX800U’s lovely 65 inch screen. Yes, there are now PC gaming GPUs with HDMI 2.0 emerging (the entire Nvidia line of Titan and GTX graphics cards) but for the most part, DisplayPort is the king of GPU-to-display connectivity and the AX800U is more ready for this than many other models.
Second, this TV comes with THX certification as a guarantor of the image quality. This is a very useful bonus feature that means the TV was put through the rigorous testing done by THX engineers to ensure a TV can display movies and shows shot in affiliated studios with the same visual accuracy as that intended by these films directors and producers. In order to confer THX certification on a 4K TV model, THX puts a given TV through dozens of different picture quality and color accuracy tests. The AX800U passed all of these to get that little THX seal of approval.
Another neat highlight of this Panasonic model is the pop-up fixed focus Full HD camera that emerges from the top center of the display panel. This device emerges automatically if you decide to use the built-in Panasonic facial recognition software for managing your own user profile on the TV and it also emerges if you use the AX800U to activate Skype for a video chat over the internet. Best of all, because the camera stays concealed unless you activate it via the above methods, there’s not need to worry about hackers using it to spy on your living room/den activities.
Finally, the strongest aspect of the AX800U and its chief highlight is definitely the TV’s color reproduction capacity. This TV really delivers on vibrancy and wide color gamut coverage. It also offers an excellent color accuracy (as the THX certification can attest to). Of course, newer 2015 4K TVs now exist with quantum dot technology which truly renders superb colors but Panasonic was already using clever phosphor coloring combinations in its 2014 TVs to create a color accuracy and range that’s very close to that offered by quantum dot nanocrystals now. In fact, the company’s 2015 TVs still use similar technology to wonderful effect and for a much smaller cost than that of quantum dots.
The two strongest visual features of the AX800U are the rich color vibrancy/accuracy of the TV and the quality of its upscaling engine, which is particularly great in Panasonic 4K TVs. Thus, the AX800U does a superb job of replicating almost the entire current DCI-P3 digital cinema spectrum used by movie studios for digital cinema video. This is a feature it shares in common with even newer 4K Panasonic models and the results of the coverage are definitely notable with 4K streaming videos from Netflix or another source and also with Blu-ray HD movies played back on the TV. The THX certification and the color specs it implies for THX Cinema really shows in this regard.
But the coverage doesn’t end with meeting 98% of the DCI spectrum. The TV also offers essentially perfect 122% coverage of the ITU REC-709 HDTV color range and this too is highly useful for a lot of HD TV programming that will make up the majority of what you probably watch on the AX800U. On the other hand, the REC-709 coverage shows one way in which even lower end Panasonic TVs for 2015 have matched the capabilities of their 2014 cousins. The company’s 2015 CX650 series TV, which is far from one of this year’s Top-shelf Panasonic 4K models, can also deliver 122% coverage of REC-709.
And since most of the content a majority of users watch on the AX800U is likely to be HD or even lower resolution video, it’s a good thing that Panasonic has developed an excellent upscaling engine for their ultra HD TVs. The AX800U does this superbly for Full HD content from sources like Blu-ray discs and even manages to scale SD and 720p HD content up while preserving remarkable levels of clarity. When it comes to native Full HD from Blu-ray discs, the resulting upscaled content looks nearly as good as full 4K video and even manages to come out better than streamed 4K from sources like YouTube or Netflix.
On the other hand, there is the contrast issue to slightly mar the otherwise excellent visual specs of this TV. Again, this problem was only been recorded by some reviewers but it has caused details in dark areas to appear overly shadowy while dark tones in general look washed out. In the unit we observed on the other hand, contrast was good and dark tones looked solid, even if they don’t approach the extraordinary contrast you’d find in a 2015 SUHD TV or an LG OLED 4K model.
The AX800U is an edge-lit 4K TV and this might also affect the overall contrast quality it delivers. Full-array LED backlighting creates superior brightness and dark areas look that much darker as a result.
There is a wide range of picture controls built into the AX800U’s control menus but in this case, the out-of-the-box presets actually work pretty well at delivering quality color and the preset "Cinema Mode" can augment this even further. Often this isn’t the case and a fair bit of manual calibration becomes necessary.
In terms of connectivity, the AX800U is still completely solid despite its slight age. The TV offers four HDMI 2.0 ports, 3 USB ports (one 3.0 port and 2 2.0 ports) and also features the usual analog connections that most 4K TV users will barely wind up needing at any point. There is also built-in Ethernet and WiFi connectivity for the full internet access that’s needed to really make the TV’s smart TV functions work.
One excellent little bonus in this model, as we’d already mentioned above, is the inclusion of a DisplayPort 1.2 connection for easy connectivity to
a 4K PC gaming GPU. Thus, you can use the AX800U as a gaming display even more easily than is possible with 4K TVs which only include HDMI 2.0 ports.
Finally, the AX800U doesn’t come with the much newer Firefox smart TV interface of the company’s 2015 4K models. Instead, its older smart TV platform will have to do and it delivers a clumsier, slower overall performance. However, access to streaming video apps and Netflix in particular is still very much present; one of the remotes even features a Netflix-specific button for opening this crucial source of streaming 4K movies and TV shows.
The original MSRP price of the Panasonic TC-65AX800U 65 inch model was a whopping $4,499.99 when the model went on sale in mid-2014. Today however, you can get your hands on this generally excellent 65 inch television for as little as $ $2,398.99 from Amazon.com and for an even cheaper $1857.99 from the website of Sears. We recommend checking out the Samsung UN65JS8500 or the UN50JU7100 or the Sony XBR55X850C.
3.5 - 4 Reviews
To summarize briefly, the AX800U is a slightly older TV with a few little deficiencies like an older smart TV platform and HDCP 2.2 compatibility in only one of its HDMI 2.0 ports. Furthermore, the TV weighs a LOT for its size. This weight is further complicated by the clumsy stand design.
• Solid connectivity features
• Excellent good color reproduction
• THX certified
• Great price
• DisplayPort 1.2
• Great SD/HD upscaling
• multiple reports of poor contrast levels
• Only one HDCP 2.2-capable HDMI 2.0 port
• way heavier than it should be, and bad stand design