A Review of the Panasonic Veira AX850 4K ULTRA HDTV Series – 85″ Class (84.5″ Diag.) TC-85AX850U
Meet one of Panasonic’s largest and most impressive 4K ultra HD TVs, the TC-85AX850U. This particular model offers a wide range of the very best display, connectivity and general design features that Panasonic has to offer and packs them into a 4K TV that truly is monstrously big. At 85 inches, the TC-85AX850U, will deliver ultra HD display resolution to you in a way rarely seen by the vast majority of UHD television owners. At this sort of screen size, the 8.2 million pixels of 4K resolution can be appreciated as they truly deserve to be appreciated and it’s an effect that no 50, 60 or even 70 inch TV screen can match.
The TC-85AX850U isn’t just about screen size either. The quality of its display is probably one of the very best that Panasonic has to offer, among both its 2014 and 2015 models and the levels of color vibrancy, picture clarity and most of all, contrast are superb. Furthermore, the backlighting technology of this model ensures a beautiful level of brightness despite the gigantic display space. If you are looking for a more reasonably priced TV check out the Samsung JU7100 or the Sony XBR65X850C.
On the other hand, this is not an economy TV model by any measure and is easily one of the most expensive 4K televisions on sale today. A lot of extraordinary home entertainment value gets delivered for the massive price at which the TC-85AX850U sells but the price tag is steep enough that alternative models with even better display quality and only marginally smaller screens might be your best option.
The first and most obvious knock-out feature of the TC-85AX850U is its colossal 85 inch screen. This TV is a monster and few other mainstream 4K TV models come with a screen this big, usually one or two for each of the major brands. At 85 inches, the screen also delivers the unique benefit of letting you enjoy the 4K resolution as you normally never would in a smaller TV display.
This is because4Kisn’t really appreciable in the same way on smaller displays with which you have to move in close to really tell the difference between Full HD and ultra HD. In basic terms, the larger the TV screen, the further away you can be and really notice that it comes with more pixels than a conventional Full HD TV. At the screen size of the TC-85AX850U, viewing distance for appreciating 4K graphics is at a near maximum for a TV.
And as for the quality of that 4K screen resolution, well it’s quite superb, particularly for an LCD/LED TV. While the plasma TVs of LG’s OLED line definitely deliver a better level of picture quality, as well as the SUHD 4K TVs from Samsung, Panasonic’s TC-85AX850U is a definite contender for one of the best TV displays on the market. This model is as good in terms of display quality as Panasonic’s highly rated AX900 TV from late 2014 and it’s one major difference is the positive bonus of a giant screen. So with this TV, you can expect superb colors and some very inky blacks forming an excellent level of contrast and vibrancy.
Finally, to top things off in terms of stand-out features, the TC-85AX850U comes with THX certification and full-array LED backlighting. Both of these mean further reinforcement of the TV’s picture quality. On the one hand, the THX certification is no little thing: the people at THX put the few TVs with this qualification through a lengthy testing process to make sure that they can deliver the kind of realistic, accurate picture quality which was originally intended by the major motion picture studios which use THX technology. The resulting tests help to not only refine a TV’s picture quality rating, a passing grade also means some very good visuals.
As for the full-array LED backlighting, in the TC-85AX850U it’s part of what helps this TV deliver a very robust contrast level with high levels of peak brightness and very rich, deep dark tones. Only premium 4K TVs offer full-array LED backlighting and the effect it produces always looks considerably better than what edge-lit LED arrays in more economical TVs can produce.
Let’s start with the obvious, he sheer price of the monster 85AX850U. This is not a budget TV even among the still slightly higher prices of 4K sets by any means. With a price that’s well above 12,000, the 85AX850U will set you back by more than a few pretty pennies and that’s where the catch lies. You can get a considerably better 4K TV set for the same price or less if you’re willing to settle for a somewhat smaller screen size.
As we’d said earlier, Samsung’s SUHD models such as the JS8500 and LG’s OLED TVs are both arguably superior Televisions with more advanced color and contrast technologies. In the case of the LG models in particular, picture quality is absolutely unparalleled by anything else on the market and that might be worth more to your home entertainment system than raw screen size. This isn’t to say that the 85AX850U doesn’t also offer an absolutely stunning display (it does) but an even better display from one of the above TV ranges can be yours for 12 thousand dollars or even less if you’re willing to sacrifice 10 to 15 inches off your display size.
Secondly, the 85AX850U is one very big beast of a television and accordingly it weighs an awful lot. While this might not be a problem for some users, it can be inconvenient and again, superior and somewhat smaller models cost slightly less than the 85AX850U while offering much lighter designs and better picture quality.
Finally, while this is a relatively minor detail, the 85AX850U only comes with 3 HDMI 2.0 ports built into it instead of the more usual 4. This is hardly a deal breaker but it would be nice to see such a large and expensive 4K TV match the same number of ports as much cheaper and smaller models even from Panasonic itself.
The idea of recommending this arguably marvelous 4K TV is a bit complicated for us. On the one hand, the TC-85AX850U is an enormous, beautiful and exquisite piece of home entertainment technology and on the other hand, we also know that this is one very expensive TV and for the price its selling at, models with superior display technology are available, just with smaller 70 to 78 inch screens.
Screen size: 85 diagonal inches
Smart TV: Yes, Firefox OS with Home Screen 2.0
HEVC (H.265) Included: Yes
HD to UHD upscaling: Yes
HDCP 2.2 Compliance: Yes
Refresh Rate: 120Hz native refresh rate
Screen Lighting: full-array LED backlighting
Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixels UHD
Remotes: Panasonic touchpad remote
Connectivity: 3 HDMI 2.0 ports, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 USB 3.0 port, WiFi, WiFi Direct, Ethernet, Digital Audio Out, Digital Tuner Reception (ATSC/QAM), Analog Tuner (NTSC)
Sound: 10W Full Range Front Slim Speakers x 2 and 2 woofers with VR-Audio Master Surround 2.1
Dynamic Contrast Ratio: more than 1 million
Other Display Features: 4K Resolution Upscaling
Dimensions: 75.5 x 45.8 x 13.9 inches with stand/ 75.5 x 44.7 x 3.4 inches without stand
Weight with/ without stand: 191.8 lbs/ 158.8 lbs
Processor: Quad-Core Pro5
Panasonic has invested the TC-85AX850U with a heavy load of features which range from excellent to somewhat mediocre, depending on your specific tastes and usage patterns. However, what’s undeniable is that this particular model, for its level of luxury and price range, is definitely loaded with some of the manufacturers more elaborate technological innovations, even if it’s from 2014.
For starters, let’s focus on the full-array LED backlight technology and how it combines with what Panasonic calls Studio Master Drive, the company’s answer to Samsung and Sony’s Quantum Dot technologies for enhanced color gamut in display. While Studio Master Drive isn’t quite as good as QD nanocrystals in Samsung TVs (or Sony’s models) it does nonetheless combine well with the enormous brightness of the full-array LED backlight in the TV to create a considerably more enhanced color spectrum that’s notable for its vibrancy and realism. The LED backlight itself is what provides this wider color space and works in both bright color areas and darker spots for a very nice realistic effect.
What adds to the color vibrancy of the TC-85AX850U is its 98% DCI Color space coverage. We’ve covered this feature in our reviews of other Panasonic 4K TVs and while it’s indeed good at color reproduction, by itself it’s pretty standard fare. The Studio Master Drive is the real color augmentation tool in this TV but the mix of 98% DCI standards coverage (Digital Cinema) and 122% ITU standard color coverage does provide a nice foundation of core colors for your on-screen content.
Then there is the Smart TV platform of the 85AX850U. Unfortunately, the 85AX850U is a 2014 model and thus doesn’t include Panasonic’s newer, arguably better designed Firefox TV smart platform but the Life+Screen platform of this model is still excellent and designed with a range of interactive features and smart functions that not only allow for easy navigation but also learn from your usage patterns and preferences for the sake of creating a more personal navigation and content recommendation experience. Thus, the my Home Screen that appears as soon as you turn the TV on will already be loaded with your favorite and previously viewed content, apps and other programs while full internet browsing capacity guarantees access to the wider web of apps and social media as well as streaming video services.
On the other hand, the smart platform of the 85AX850U doesn’t come with Netflix built into it and some video sources like YouTube might not work with their 4K videos, since VP9 encoding isn’t supported in this model or other 2014 Panasonic 4K TV models.
Simply put, the visual specs of the 85AX850U are exquisite and all of their attractive aspects are further magnified by the sheer size of the screen. On the other hand, any defects that might appear will be magnified as well, though luckily, such defects are very few indeed in the 85AX850U. The Full-array LED backlighting of the TV Creates a deeply uniform illumination that’s capable of extremely high levels of brightness. The color enhancing LED technology of Studio Master Drive further augments this by delivering a wider, brighter and also more realistic range of colors that can be very subtle in lightly illuminated areas. The resulting effect is truly something impressive to behold and almost rivals what we’ve seen in Samsung’s SUHD TVs, though it’s not quite as good as what LG’s OLED models offer.
Additionally, Panasonic has built a fine-tuned backlight scanning and local dimming technology into the 85AX850U. These are actually two different technologies with the first called 2400BLS (Back Light Scanning) and the second called Local Dimming Pro. The result of these two technologies working together is a level of contrast and blackness that really is very, very impressive, again, almost as good as what the very best of Samsung’s SUHD TVs, the JS9500 can offer.
Basically, 2400 BLS delivers optimized brightness and contrast with next to no image blur and a spectacularly refined level of gradation and contrast precision/sharpness is created with the help of Local Dimming Pro, which matches the backlight control on the TV and accordingly optimizes brightness for each small segment of this TV’s gigantic screen. In turn, tiny details of light and dark are expressed in a way that looks stunning across the 85 inches of the 85AX850U’s display space.
The 85AX850U offers what is now a fairly standard connectivity package for all name brand 4K UHD TVs and it suffers from only two defects in doing so. One of these is somewhat minor while the other could potentially be more problematic.
First there are the three HDMI 2.0 connections on the TV. Unlike most other models for 2014 and even more 2015 models, the 85AX850U only offers three HDMI 2.0 ports, instead of the more common 4K port setup we’re now seeing everywhere. All are capable of delivering 4K video at 60 frames per second and offer HEVC video decoding capacity. HDCP 2.2 is also built into these ports. On the other hand, the lack of a fourth port might be an issue for some users who want to hook multiple media devices to their TV at the same time and jump between them. There are also three USB ports, one of which is a USB 3.0 version, with the other two being much weaker USB 2.0 variations. In addition to these ports, you get built-in WiFi and an Ethernet connection, both of which are crucial for full smart TV functionality and access to digital content in HD or in 4K ultra HD.
Finally, the biggest connectivity weakness of the 85AX850U is that it doesn’t as far as we can tell support the VP9 4K video compression codec developed by Google and used in YouTube, along with a growing number of other online 4K content sources. For now, HEVC is much more dominant for 4K streams and video from media players but if VP9 takes more market share, this could become problematic for owners of the rather pricey 85AX850U.
The Veira TC-85AX850U is extremely expensive, largely due to its immense screen size and all the backlighting and other materials which have to go into it and the other display technologies. This model retails from the Panasonic website for an MSRP of 12,999. This makes it one of the most expensive mainstream 4K TVs on the market right.
What's not so great about the Panasonic 85AX850U? Well, to summarize briefly, this TV is extremely big and heavy, possibly much more so than some potential owners would like. Secondly, despite its very high price, it's definitely not close to being the best 4K TV on the market. In fact, the only thing which justifies buying this model at the price its selling for is its massive screen. In all other regards, models like the larger SUHD TVs and Sony's bigger 4K models offer better overall visual specs and better connectivity options. Finally, the lack of VP9 4K video compression decoding capacity means you'll lose out on some very cool sources of online 4K content with the $13,000 85AX850U.
• Absolutely gigantic screen for maximal 4K appreciation
• Superb color rendering
• Excellent contrast levels
• Full-array LED backlighting
• Great smart TV features
• Too expensive
• No VP9 as far as we know
• Only three HDMI 2.0 ports
• Heavy, extremely heavy TV