A Review of the Panasonic TC-55CX850U 4K ultra HD LED LCD Smart TV
Panasonic may have delivered a lackluster showing of 4K ultra HD TVs at 2014’s CES show in Las Vegas but they more than compensated for it as the beginning of 2015 approached and passed. Their latest addition to the 4K lineup is the Panasonic TC-55CX850U and it is one very fine piece of home entertainment hardware.
Not only does this line of TVs incorporate the latest in connectivity, visual specs and Smart TV applications, it also comes with a completely revamped OS interface and some new, extra fine pixel technology that amounts to an unveiling of the thus-far much vaunted “better pixels” so many UHD TV makers have been talking about.
This display technology that’s behind these “better pixels” is really the heart and soul of the 55CX850U and it means that with this TV, you’re getting a set that’s fully ready to deliver the next generation of ultra HD content that’s just around the corner (according to a number of media producers).
The quality features in this latest of Panasonic’s already excellent line of 4K TVs are quite numerous and while most of the 55CX850U’s best aspects have to do with its display, the TV doesn’t lack much in any other regard either.
For starters, we have the fact that this model is part of a new, upgraded class of 4K UHD TVs that support reproduction of a full 98% of the Digital Cinema Initiative’s color space along with HDR technology for the sharpest contrasts yet seen in Panasonic TVs or in TVs from many other brands for that matter.
The high level of DCI color reproduction in the 55CX850U means that you get to enjoy one very accurate color spectrum that comes closer than you’ve likely ever seen a TV come to imitating the colors of real life as our eye sight sees it live. Furthermore, the new HDR technology in the TV (more on this shortly) represents an innovation in contrast ratios that so sharply varies between light and dark that, once again, you’re given a realism in on-screen visuals that does nothing less than impress.
Finally, the overall package that the Panasonic 55CX850U comes as is more than enough to impress even the most demanding 4K TV owner. A package of fully fleshed out connectivity options alone with complete compatibility with virtually all of the latest digital 4K and HD media services ensure that owners who place the 55CX850U in their living room or den will be getting the best in home entertainment technology in a highly future-proofed package.
Little can be said that’s in any serious way bad about the TC-55CX850U but a few minor points are worth mentioning. For starters, there’s the simple fact that the TV isn’t available yet. Although Samsung, LG and Sony are already letting consumers buy their latest 2015 model 4K TVs, Panasonic remains shy about releasing its own new lineup. Thus, for now at least, the 55CX850U gets to stay somewhat in the shadows as far as more detailed ratings go.
Next, there’s the odd rumor that Panasonic decided to reduce the DCI color spectrum reproduction on the 55CX850U from the 98% found in the 65 inch model to a much less impressive 90% for the 55 incher we’re mainly covering here.
Finally, the screen size itself could be a turn-off for some. While the TV really will deliver some exquisite visual display capabilities, Panasonic seems to have a bit of an aversion to putting out larger 70+ models of their latest TVs.
When the 55CX850U comes out on sale in mid-2015, it’s going to be one extremely spectacular 4K UHD TV. We can easily expect a TV that’s at least on par with the already very highly rated Panasonic AX900 4K UHD model from late 2014 (with which it shares a number of specs in common), and in terms of display, the 55CX850U will almost certainly outdo its already selling cousin TV the AX900.
• Screen size: 55 diagonal inches
• Smart TV: Yes
• HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
• HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
• HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
• Refresh Rate: 240Hz native refresh rate
• Screen Lighting: full-array LED backlighting with Local dimming
• Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
• Wireless Connectivity: Yes, includes both built-in WiFi and Ethernet ports
• Remotes: Panasonic Touchpad remote
• Connectivity: 4 HDMI 2.0 ports, 3 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0 ports, 1 DisplayPort 1.2
• Sound: 18 W (4 + 4 + 10) Front Slim Speakers x 2, Woofer x 1 with stage surround sound
• Dynamic Contrast Ratio: HDR, extremely high
• Other Display Features: Super Bright Panel, THX 4K Certification
• Smart TV Platform: Firefox OS
• Processor: Quad Core Pro processing
As the flagship model for Panasonic’s 2015 lineup of 4K UHD TVs, the 55CX850U and its sister the 65CX850U are coming loaded with highlight features that are worth mentioning.
First of all, we have the 55CX850U’s enhanced Smart TV features, which are built to make accessing content easier, faster and more intuitive than ever before.
These include a new, fast moving Firefox OS that’s built to make browsing applications, movies, shows and general web content smooth and complication free. On top of this, there is also the Firefox interface’s “Pin” function, designed to allow users to bookmark their favorite channels, devices, applications, web pages or content selections for quick menu access. Firefox in the 55CX850U also offers better, more flexible connectivity system thanks to its use of open Web standards that foster a more flexible environment for future app development and connectivity features.
As for compatibility with streaming technology, the TC-55CX850U follows in the footsteps of its predecessors to deliver the latest and widest possible range of features for accessing a broad range of online 4K ultra HD content. This means that the TV is built to handle decoding of streams from both HEVC and VP9 encoded sources as well as VOD content from services like Ultraflix, with its growing selection of 4K content.
As far as controlling the TV’s numerous features and Smart TV apps goes, you’re given a fairly wide range of options here as well. These include the Panasonic Touch Pad remote, with its highly intuitive and easy to operate partially button free pad and in addition to this, there is the Voice Assistant Pro technology.
This feature is exclusive to the CX850 and lets you perform voice commands that are spoken directly to the TV without the use of the remote. These voice commands can let you change channels, search for content and, of course, activate or deactivate different features on the OS, including turning the TV itself off and on; quite a handy thing to have for if you happen to lose the remote itself.
As we’ve already covered above, the visual specs of the TC-55CX850U are some of its most advanced, impressive and must-see aspects.
First among these is the newly developed display panel and its accompanying picture enhancing technology in the form of Panasonic’s Studio Master Drive, which expands color rendering ranges to 98% of the DCI Color Space for a richer, more vibrant display that comes very close to copying true reality.
Furthermore, the Studio Master Drive also uses specialized color correction technology to further increase these levels of realism based accuracy.
Basically, while normal drive systems in other 4K TVs correct colors by processing only the three coordinated axes of the RGB (Red Green Blue) primary colors, Studio Master Drive works on six coordinate axes by adding three complementary colors to the primary three. These are Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. These additional colors are modified in accordance with variable brightness levels to create what is a much more effective color reproduction of even dark tones in dimly lit scenes or delicate halftones.
Then, there is the enhanced brightness technology that the TC-55CX850U offers through its Super Bright Panel technology. This feature is designed to create yet another layer of vivid imagery on top of that already created by the above-mentioned Studio Master Drive.
On top of this there is the HDR power of the new TC-55CX850U. This comes in the form of the TV’s Dynamic Range Remaster technology and is designed to heavily enhance image reproduction and rendering by providing both with extremely high levels of luminance where brightness is most needed in a given visual image. Thus, the effect created for on-screen content is one of restored brightness information to high-brightness areas of an image while dark areas are then made to look realistically darker without losing either their colors or clarity.
Finally, the TC-55CX850U’s Quad Core Pro upscaling technology is also worth mentioning. This internal spec will let you enjoy all the 720p HD and 1080p HD content you want at an enhanced level of detail as it gets upconverted to a visibly higher level of sharpness that comes close to resembling ultra HD. Panasonic’s upscaling engines in their newer 4K TVs have been particularly recognized as capable of delivering genuinely decent qualities of upscaling.
The overall result is an extremely high level of dynamic contrast that comes much closer to simulating reality than has even before been the case in a Panasonic TV or many 4K TVs without HDR from other brands.
Nearly the same high levels of quality that the Panasonic TC-55CX850U brings to its visual specs also apply to its connectivity features in a simpler way.
This is one fully decked out TV when it comes to being assured that it can hook itself into any digital media medium and give you access to the latest and best content.
For one thing, the TV comes with the usual connectivity options of HDMI 2.0, USB 3.0, DisplayPort 1.2 --a not so common 4K TV connection port that gives the TC-55CX850U much easier usability with 4K gaming platforms at a smooth 60 frames per second—and full WiFi, Bluetooth and Ethernet connection options for internet usability.
Furthermore, the 55CX850U’s assortment of Smart TV apps and its overall Firefox-based Web OS system make this a machine that’s particularly integrated into full-blown, smooth web browsing and 4K or HD content searching.
On top of this, thanks to the TC-55CX850U’s compatibility with codecs like HEVC (H.265) and Google’s VP9 makes sure that you won’t have any technical problems accessing and streaming the latest and best choices in 4K UHD movies and programming.
Yes, there are TVs like the Samsung 2014 and 2015 models that offer even more connectivity thanks to their exclusive deals with 4K entertainment providers like M-Go and Comcast’s Xfinity but these are limited exclusivity conditions which will soon end and when they do, the TC-55CX850U will be fully ready and future-proofed for giving its users access to pretty much the full range of digital ultra HD content on the web and elsewhere.
Unfortunately, because the TC-55CX850U isn’t yet on sale to the wider public and won’t be available in this way for at least a couple more months, there is no clear pricing information available about it.
However, if its predecessor the Panasonic AX900 is any indication, the TC-55CX850U will cost at least $7000 for its 65 inch version and possibly as much as $5000 for the 55 inch model. These are the flagship 4K TVs of one of the big four manufacturers of the technology, you can’t expect them to be cheap for now.
Again, until we see a wide base of publicly available models emerge on the consumer market, we won’t be able to really judge or uncover some of the rougher details which are bound to emerge about the TC-55CX850U.
However, for now the worst we can say about this generally spectacular TV is that it will certainly cost a fortune while delivering screen sizes that don’t quite reach the scope necessary to really appreciate 4K resolution as it should be seen.
55 and 65 inches are great sizes for enjoying the HDR and enhanced color features of these types of next-gen 4K TVs but 4K resolution is best appreciated on a slightly larger screen of at least 70+ inches.
• Exquisite color enhancement technology
• Fully developed connectivity
• HDR contrast technology
• Full and intuitive Smart TV package
• Firefox OS
• HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2 and HDCP 2.2
• Not yet available for sale to the public
• Certain to be very expensive
• Panasonic needs to offer a 70+ inch model