A Review of the Panasonic TC-60CX800U 65” 4K Ultra HD Smart TV 120hz
Panasonic’s CX800U 4K TV could technically be called a direct successor to 2014’s AX800U and much like the previous TV, it comes with a load of specs that combines to turn it into a solid and more or less decently priced 4K ultra HD TV. However, this is not one of the manufacturer’s top-end 4K models for this year and it comes with a few notable overall defects.
On the other hand, an extremely bright picture with excellent color saturation that meets different professional gamuts, combined with an enhanced dynamic contrast ratio and Panasonic’s excellent upscaling engine all work together to create a 2015 4K ultra HD TV model that certainly isn’t anything to laugh at.
Panasonic may not be on the cutting edge of TV display technology to the same degree as Samsung's SUHD JS8500 and LG's OLED EG9600 are perceived to be but the company’s models in the range of the CX800U offer some of the most solid, high quality value for a decent price that there is today. The CX800U itself, despite some moderate imperfections, offers a generally good picture quality, excellent connectivity and a revamped Firefox OS, and thus is a 4K TV that won’t disappoint even though it doesn’t necessarily represent the best that Panasonic has to offer or has offered in the past.
To overview the finer aspects of the CX800U, we need to mention its color specs, great brightness and wonderfully aesthetic design, along with a few other key features.
For starters, the 4K resolution of this specific model is about as solid as it gets for a more or less conventional LCD LED TV. You’re not getting OLED technology here or quantum dot color enhancement for that matter but what you do receive is a better than average 4K ultra HD display that’s better than a majority of 4K TVs on the entire market.
What augments this display and makes the CX800U a particularly decent TV is the fact that it delivers on excellent color despite not having truly advanced features like quantum dots built into it. This is partly due to a mix of Panasonic technologies like phosphor augmented LEDs (which we’ll cover in more detail under “visual specs”) and the end result is a color vibrancy and color range delivery that isn’t all that far behind the one offered by the more advanced Samsung and Sony 2015 4K TVs such as the X830C with their quantum dot nanocrystal display technology.
Furthermore, the CX800U offers a superb upscaling engine that surprised us with its ability to take HD and even SD content and enhance both so that they look superior to their original form. Upscaling isn’t an easy thing to pull off, particularly with lower resolution content, and Panasonic has definitely gotten the technology right in this model and other newer TVs of theirs.
Finally, the connectivity specs and physical design features of this TV are both very nice. In terms of connectivity, the CX800U delivers everything you need for a complete 4K UHD and HD content experience along with full web browsing thanks to the new OS/smart TV platform of Panasonic 2015 TVs. And in terms of design, the CX800U is just great to look at. It’s not curved or ultra-thin like some LG TVs, Samsung or Sharp models but it will look elegantly beautiful in any living room or wall mount you add it to.
On the other hand, the less than ideal parts of the CX800U certainly do exist, though none of them are real deal breakers.
Most importantly, the TV comes with a dynamic range that leaves quite a bit to be desired. This means that its contrast is off and while brightness is great on this TV, the dark sections on video and imagery look less inky than we have a right to expect. In fact, the black tones are even on the side of looking washed out and this definitely isn’t a good thing, particularly for viewing in darkened rooms. What makes this deficiency of inkiness all the more puzzling is that Panasonic did get it right in last year’s AX900 4K TV, only to screw it up again this year? This might be the case because the CX800 went with an IPS panel for better viewing angles while sacrificing dark tones in the process.
Furthermore, the new Firefox OS is great but does lack one key feature that makes Samsung’s Smart Hub and LG’s webOS 2.0 operating systems positively superb: You can’t multitask with it. So if you open Netflix and then want to switch to another app, you’ll have to shut the first one down to do so. This isn’t a major deal but it’s certainly annoying sometimes.
Finally, the CX800U does deliver bright, vibrant colors but their accuracy and fundamental subtlety definitely sometimes suffers because of this. Thus, if you combine this with that aforementioned lack of deep darks, you get an overall picture quality that does leave a bit to be desired when it comes to softer, darker, more subtle realism.
The CX800U has a lot going for it and it is a great 4K TV in terms of overall specs, but while it won’t disappoint most users at all when used, actually paying for this model might be a bit hard to justify. At its $2,500+ price the TV is simply too expensive when compared to competitor models with even better features and similar size at the same price.
Dimensions: (WxHxD): 57.3 x 34.7 x 13.6 inches with stand/ 57.3 x 33.1 x 2.4 inches without stand
Screen size: 65 diagonal inches
Smart TV: Yes, Firefox OS
HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes (all 3 HDMI ports)
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: 3 x HDMI 2.0 ports, 1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, component, Digital Audio out, Analog tuner, digital tuner, Component/Composite, Ethernet
Dynamic Contrast Ratio: 1 million
Audio: 20 W (10 W x 2) Full Range x 2 speakers with VR-Audio True Surround
Processor: Quad Core Pro
The real highlights of the CX800U involve its color vibrancy and brightness. These are the TV’s strongest features and what stands out most amidst the other, otherwise fairly ordinary specs.
In terms of color, the CX800U delivers an excellent bright room experience. While the low contrast somewhat spoils the viewing experience in darkened conditions, the vibrant, brightly lit color display of the TV creates an image that’s wonderfully clear and attention grabbing under lit conditions. Of course, it looks great when you’re viewing the TV in a darkened living room as well but since the low contrast on dark tones slightly messes this up, it’s in well-lit rooms that this TV really shines, ironically.
Panasonic really worked to deliver full spectrum coverage in the CX800U and thus, the vibrancy we’re describing is largely the case due to a mix of very nicely lit Back Light Scan Pro technology with Super Bright Panels and because the LEDs of the TV themselves have been specially designed with a red backlight phosphor built into them. What this phosphor does is expand overall color range in a more natural way that delivers virtually all of the DCI P3 digital cinema color spectrum and over 120% of the ITU REC-709 HDTV broadcast color range. This means a palette that’s very colorful indeed, even if it sometimes exaggerates those colors unless calibrated manually to be a bit more subtle.
Aside from the display brightness and vibrancy of colors, the one other major highlight of the CX800U would have to be its upscaling engine. This technology has been known to work well in a number of other Pansonic 4K TV models we’ve reviewed and the CX800U is no exception. Content genuinely scales up well to something closer to 4K resolution and when you upscale Blu-ray HD content on the TV, the result is particularly impressive because what emerges on the screen looks more like native 4K than the actual native compressed 4K content of a Netflix stream! The scaling engine even manages to do a decent job of sharpening the quality of SD content, turning it into something that looks closer to lower end HD.
Panasonic was once a leader in the development of plasma TVs and as such it made some of the best displays in the world for rendering deep black tones, which plasma is known for delivering. Now however, since the company shut down their plasma technology development, they’ve tried to recreate those rich blacks with LCD technology and with slightly mixed results, as the CX800U shows.
While the 2014 AX900 offered a superb dark palette and while a number of other 2015 Panasonic TVs do the same or better (the company is also moving towards HDR content), the CX800U falls a bit flat on this count. Instead of rich, inky blacks, you get an effect that’s somewhat washed out and this is all the more notable during dark room viewing. This is a shame because the brightness of the TV is wonderful and the colors also really shine for their vibrancy and diverse tones. Part of the reason for this is the IPS display technology in the screen. On the one hand, it produces some excellent clarity when the TV is viewed from off angles but the dark tones suffer as a result of inherent weaknesses in this IPS. Panasonic has added in technology called Adaptive backlight control in an effort to boost contrast but it only works part of the time and completely fails at its job in other moments. Simply put the shadows in this model are not very good.
On the other hand, the richly colored, bright scenery of the TV really does impress and colors like red, blue and green absolutely dazzle. This works great for daylight shots of things like colorful animals and neon soaked city scenes, to name a couple of examples. The accuracy of these exhilaratingly bright colors may not be perfect all the time (sometimes they exaggerate color) but they really do leap at your eyes and certainly impress. The 98% DCI P3 digital cinema spectrum coverage and the 122% ITU REC-709 HDTV broadcast color range coverage realy show in the CX800U.
Motion performance on the CX800U is also excellent and the 4K content shown at 60 frames per second is damn good at its job. This works particularly well in the CX800 for action sequences and sportscasts in either HD or 4K UHD whenever they might be available. If you can hook up an HDMI 2.0 capable Nvidia 4K GPU to the TV from your PC, you can also enjoy 4K gaming at a smooth 60 frames per second on the screen at a scale much better than what any 4K PC monitor offers.
If the CX800U also included THX certification for its display then we suspect that color accuracy would also be superb, not just color vibrancy. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with this excellent Panasonic feature and as a result, Panasonic never calibrated the TV for that kind of precision. Thus, the CX800U’s display specs and color palette were never put through the rigorous batteries of tests that THX gives to TVs built to gain their seal of approval. This is a shame considering how much such calibration refinement would have helped the TVs contrast as well, and considering the retail price of this model.
The physical connectivity features of the CX800U are excellent, as should be expected of any name brand 4K TV from 2015. You get three HDMI 2.0 ports with HDCP 2.2 content protection and full HEVC/VP9 content decoding compatibility, and you get three USB ports, of both the 2.0 and 3.0 kind. Most 4K TVs come with at least 4 HDMI ports but having 3 of them doesn’t kill the viewer connectivity experience with this model.
There is also full internet connectivity via Ethernet and Wbuilt-in WiFi in the CX800U. This is a good thing since the Firefox OS is absolutely built with full web access in mind. It gives you easy, intuitive access to a Firefox web browser (did you expect Chrome here?) and a full plethora of apps for 4K content such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube 4K, HD or SD videos. Unfortunately, the TV doesn’t support the decent and rapidly growing 4K entertainment library of the UltraFlix app but this is an oversight that might soon be fixed anyhow.
The price is one of the major defects of the CX800U. It’s simply too high. The 65” model TV is retailing on the Panasonic website for $2,999 and we’ve seen it go for as little as $2,599 but either price is still too high for a 4K TV model that doesn’t include HDR, comes with no THX certification and only delivers a high color vibrancy as its biggest highlight. Panasonic could have retailed this 2015 TV for as much as $1000 less. We recommend going with a Samsung or Sony 4k TV such as the UN50JS7000, UN55JU7500 or the XBR65X850C.
To summarize briefly, the Panasonic CX800U suffers from a really sore lack of contrast due to its washed out blacks, it doesn’t come with THX certification, colors are sometimes a bit too bright and the lack of a fourth HDMI 2.0 port is also a minor but annoying mark against this model. Finally, the 800U is just too expensive for what it offers.
• Solid connectivity features
• Excellent good color vibrancy
• Great upscaling engine
• Poor contrast levels
• Slightly overbright colors at times
• Too expensive on the whole