Review of the Panasonic TX-L65AX900: Panasonic’s Newest, Greatest Line of UHD TVs
First shown as a teaser prototype at the CES 2014 Fair in Las Vegas earlier in the year, the Panasonic AX900 is definitely the best 4K TV the company has yet put on sale. In fact, this TV might really give a lot of other higher end competitors a real run for their money and it definitely beats the technically praised plasma technology that Panasonic first pioneered a few years ago and finally retired in 2013.
With the AX900 series, it seems that Panasonic is actually trying to be as useful to customers and fans of 4k as they can by really squeezing as much powerful picture performance and awesome features into a TV as they can without wasting effort on flashy curves, enormous size and experimental OLED technology, all of which are making competitor TVs from LG and Samsung get more expensive than they need to be.
The AX900 does one thing in particular extremely well: it competes effectively with plasma technology on really making the black levels on the screen perform superbly in ways that few TVs other than those which had plasma technology are capable of. Maybe this is to be expected from the same company that developed plasma to begin with.
For what this 4K TV represents, there really isn’t too much in the way of bad things that can yet be said of it (though that may change as more people get their hands on one and use it for a while). For one thing, the AX900 isn’t yet available for sale to the public and thus its price isn’t even known so far.
Furthermore, because this is a local dimming LED LCD TV, there is the potential problem of blooming (in which bright objects against a dark background grow a halo of light around them) but so far, early looks at the TVs display under active conditions don’t show any of this problem. And Panasonic itself claims that it has developed the AX900 with an advanced signal analysis algorithm that’s designed specifically to avoid blooming.
Fundamentally though, the TV will have to undergo more user based testing to really reveal whichever flaws and defects it shows over time.
When it finally goes on sale in November, this is going to be one great 4K purchase. Not only is the new Panasonic AX900 4K TV a highly advanced set with some very innovative features, it’s also almost certain to be reasonably priced given Panasonic’s overall reputation for higher affordability in 4K sets.
The Panasonic TX-L65AX900 is almost certainly going to be an excellent overall choice as a 4K Ultra HD TV, not just among Panasonic TVs but even when compared to other models from Samsung, Sony and LG.
Panasonic TX-L65AX900 Specs (Since this is still a Pre-release TV, some specs pending update)
• Screen size: 55 and 65 inches, measured diagonally
• Smart TV: Yes
• 3D Capable: Yes, Active 3D
• 3D Glasses: Active 3D glasses included
• Refresh Rate: 120Hz refresh with 1440 Clear Motion Rate
• Screen Lighting: LED Full.Array backlighting with Local Dimming
• Resolution: 3,840 x 2,160 pixeles UHD
• Wireless Connectivity: Yes, built-in WiFi and TV Anywhere for live streaming of content from TV to other wireless devices
• Remotes: one touch/voice powered remote and one traditional remote included
• Connectivity: 4 HDMI 2.0 ports, HEVC decoder, Dual Freeview and Freesat HD tuners, UB 3.0 ports, DisplayPort 1.2
Cool highlights on the Panasonic AX900 series are numerous given that this is a new TV with some interesting new features built into it.
For starters there is the TV Anywhere feature, which is designed to let you stream, either via USB or wirelessly, content to any other wireless devices you own from anywhere else in the world. This is done via Panasonic’s cloud and can even work in places where you don’t have a WiFi connection as long as your 3G or 4G network connection is strong enough for access. Smart devices to which TV Anywhere can be streamed can include your smart phone, tablet or even another PC/laptop.
Moving beyond this, there is also the interesting and rather unique capacity that the TV has for automatic adjustment of on-screen video processing conditions to suit the environment and ambient light of whatever room it’s located in. This is supposed to maintain a constantly optimal picture quality without manual adjustment by a user.
Another also interesting feature of the AX900 is its powerful Smart TV platform. In addition to all the usual features of smart TV –such as intelligent content recommendations and a powerful user interface-- the system on the AX900 can also create individualized accounts for up to six different people. Each user creates their own personalized profile and can then log in with it during each use of the TV. As the TV is used more often by users who review the content they watch on it, it notes their likes and dislikes so that after a while the home screen of each account will populate with recommended shows and favorite movies for a personalized experience.
The process of logging in with this personalized interactive account system is as simple as walking into the room where the TV is. It scans your face, recognizes you and opens your profile. If multiple profile holders walk in at the same time, all of their profiles will display and whoever wants to use the TV can select theirs. Furthermore, the recognition software is intelligent enough to recognize between human beings and any large pets, so your cats or dogs won’t constantly turn the TV on by accident.
The visual specs of the AX900 are its most spectacular and well known feature so far. For starters, this is going to be one of only three or four Full Array UHD TVs on the U.S market when it hits the shelves in November. What the Full Array local dimming inside the AX900 means that instead of the much more common edge lit LED arrangements that most 4K TV sets have, the AX900 features rows of tiny LEDs all throughout its screen.
These LEDs are then arranged into autonomous lighting zones that fill the entire TV screen in a sort of intelligent grid, with assorted zones illuminating and dimming based on where an internal algorithm decides it’s most needed for maximal visual brightness and effects. This creates a level of contrast precision that any edge lit LED display would have an extremely hard time matching. Furthermore, because there are a whopping 128 zones on the 65 inch model of the TV (and 32 on the 55 inch model), the dimming and brightening of different LED zones is extremely precise.
The AX900 also uses the added benefit of something called an IPS (In-plane switching) panel, meaning that drastically improves color response times, color production and better performance at varied or more unusual viewing angles. According to early viewings of actual live content on the TVs screen, the blacks are as inky and other colors as vibrant as anything ever seen on plasma TVs.
In summary, colors on the AX900 look extraordinarily good, with some truly subtle color blends and vibrancy that cause imagery to almost pop off the screen in a way that even Panasonic’s plasma TVs of yesteryear could never match. The added benefit of the TV's 3,840 X 2160 pixel 4K resolution makes the visual quality of what it shows you truly impressive.
Even if you can’t access 4K content for whatever reason in your region, no matter. Thanks to its built-in proprietary Quad-Core Pro5 processor, the AX900 can upscale lower resolution 720p and Full HD 1080p signals so that they genuinely look considerably sharper and better overall. Panasonic in particular is well known for having mastered this technology.
We’ve already covered TV Anywhere, which uses the Panasonic cloud to create an internet based connection between the TV and the other wireless devices of any user who owns an AX900.
With this feature, movies and other content stored on or streamed to the TV can then be resent by the AX900 itself across WiFi, 3G, 4G or Ethernet connections to the cloud and then shuttles down to a user’s smartphone, laptop or tablet not just anywhere in the house but anywhere in the entire world where there is open, relatively powerful internet connectivity available.
In terms of connections built into the TV, the AX900 comes with WiFi capacity, several HDMI 2.0 ports, USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, DisplayPort 1.2, an NFC system, an Ethernet port and it’s fully enabled for HEVC decoding , meaning that it can accept and let you actually watch the latest 4K streaming content from sources such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Since the Panasonic AX900 isn’t coming out on sale in the U.S market until November of this year, pricing details haven’t yet been released by Panasonic, but we can definitely expect a retail price that sits between $2500 for the 55 inch model and $8,000 for the larger 65 inch version.
As we’ve already said, it’s still too early to really have an impression of the kind of bad features we can expect from the Panasonic AX900. However, a couple possible concerns stand out:
For one thing, the TV does use IPS panel LCD display technology, which, for all its benefits, is also the most likely of display technologies to suffer from blooming problems between black backgrounds and bright screen objects. Samsung claims to have solved this problem through intelligent algorithms and the live demos of the TV seen so far don’t show any blooming, but it’s hard to say how this will play out under uncontrolled conditions.
Furthermore, the Automated lighting adjustment feature of the AX900, which adjusts the video processing to ambient room lighting, has been tried in previous TVs with some very spotty results that involved visible luminance changes and sudden unwanted screen dimness. So hopefully the AX900 will either get this technology right or give users the ability to shut it off.
• Awesome full array local dimming LCD technology
• A powerful Smart TV package
• intelligent user recognition system
• TV Anywhere
• Excellent connectivity features
• High quality display resolution and color gradient
• HEVC compatible
• IPS Panels might cause uncontrolled light blooming
• Ambient light adjustment feature is speculative
• More time on the market needed