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Panasonic AX802/ AX800 (TX-50AX802) 4K TV Review

New beginnings

by Mark Hodgkinson Jun 6, 2014


Home AV review

44

SRP: £2099.00

Introduction

It would be fair to say that Panasonic’s first 4K TV, the WT600, didn’t really hit the heights we’ve come to expect from the company.

But, new year, fresh start, and all that, and Panasonic are making bold claims around their Ultra HD line-up for 2014. The AX802 is the first instalment in the 4K product range with the AX902 following in the autumn of this year with a fancy sounding new local dimming system and a ‘Studio Master 2’ panel. The last Studio Master we saw from the company came equipped in the mind-blowing ZT65 but that was a plasma TV and that’s history now, as far as Panasonic is concerned. So, it is time to move on to fresh – and hopefully, for them, more profitable – pastures.
In our estimation the Panasonic plasma’s have been the benchmark in domestic TV production for the past couple of years, at least, so it’s good to know that some of the engineers behind them have been set to work on the LED/LCD models. As well as the TX50AX802B we have for review here, there is also the 55AX802 and the 65AX802 in the line-up with the smaller model retailing for around the £2,100 mark. This is much more competitive pricing from Panasonic, when compared to the WT600 so it’s time to see if it can match up to the (many) other 4K sets on the market in the other areas.

Design & Connections

‘Flippin heck’ is the sanitised version of what we said when first assembling the 50AX802’s screen to its base-stand. We’ve never come across an LED LCD TV, in this size, of such weight in the past and it’s not due to the fact it has 4x the pixels in the panel. The panel itself is reasonably weighty but it’s the supporting base-stand, at the rear, which accounts for most of the mass. The frame-like stand you can see at the front has almost no bearing on the support, it’s really just for show, so if you’re concerned that it may not fit on your current AV stand, due to the width, you might be in luck. That is, if you can bare the aesthetic compromise of over-hang.

The chassis of the AX802 is also thicker than we’ve got used to over the last three years, or so, but we have absolutely no problems with that if it leads to good screen uniformity. We do have slight concerns that 3 of the 4 HDMI ports are located too close for comfort to the edge of the bezel and pointing out from the side, however, so there is the chance that they’ll stick out at the rear if you don’t utilise the unusual wire tidy system in the back stand. The other HDMI port, is your version 2.0 input with compatibility for HDCP 2.2 so it’s one of the ‘4K’ capable inputs, along with the adjacent Display Port input. Elsewhere are legacy video connections for component, Scart and composite – by means of adapters – a digital audio out and both wired and wireless LAN. You also get dual tuner satellite (Freesat) and DVB-T2 (Freeview) tuners, an SD card slot and 3 USB ports, so it’s quite the list!

Posh is the best word we can come up with to describe Panasonic’s new remote control. It’s a coffee table darling of a handset finished in brushed metal and presenting a very clean and easy to locate set of buttons. There’s also a backlight, for night time operations, and it’s really good to see Panasonic not scrimping on the conventional remote in favour of a ‘smart’ controller when we could level that accusation at some. There is a new iteration of their smart controller in the box, however, which allows for touch and voice control as well as offering a simplified set of controls. Finally, we’ll just note the inclusion of a built-in camera/microphone for Skype video calling but we’ll return to that later on.

A very swanky set of controllers and great connectivity options

Menus

There are a huge number of options in the 2014 Panasonic menus so we’ll just run you through some of the most vital. First and foremost, at this stage of the Resolution Revolution, you will probably want to ensure that the HDMI 4 input can take a conventional HD input by altering the HDCP (High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection) setting from its default of 2.2 to 1.4, in the Setup Menu. The very high chances are, you won’t have a source able to output that right now and when set at 2.2, it disables compliance with older HDCP versions.

The menus now scroll all the way from top to bottom, in one loop, and encompass all manner of setup options, our primary focus being the Picture Menu. We thought it was expansive in 2013 but this year we have even more options to check out. In truth most of the fancier sounding controls, e.g. Colour Remaster, Brilliance Enhancer and Resolution Remaster proved largely unneeded. In any case, you bypass most of these options by slecting either one of the THX or Professional Modes so we suggest that’s exactly what you do as they provide the most accurate out-of-box pictures anyhow.

Features

The big new thing for Panasonic, this year, is the addition of the Freetime app to their Smart TV platform. This is rather a big deal as it means they can match Samsung in being able to claim possession of all the major UK catch up services, i.e. BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 40D and Demand 5. Elsewhere not too much has really changed from last year’s offering - and that’s no bad thing - so we retain my Home Screen and all that other good stuff but we’re at work on a dedicated review of the whole platform so we’ll spill all the beans in the very near future.


Almost every feature you would want bar Netflix 4K

Test Results

Pre-Calibration

The results seen below are based on the out-of-the-box THX Cinema Mode but the results are very similar to what you will get with Professional 2, bar a different (slightly brighter) gamma response, and very good they are too. There is a slight deficiency of red energy, and corresponding small excess of green and blue, throughout the greyscale but with delta Errors topping out at around 4, there’s no real visible lack of neutrality. Ideally we would want a gamma response between 2.2 and 2.3, for this TV in a darkish room, and THX Cinema has it closer to an average of 2.15 so it’s a tiny bit too bright to be ideal. In terms of colours matching the Rec 709 standard, we’re in good shape here too, bar a general over-luminance.

Post Calibration

The ISF calibration controls are pretty great. We kind of wish the 10 point White Balance acted more like the Samsung equivalents in being meaningfully effective in affecting gamma response, as it can be a bit of a chore hopping between them and the 10 point Gamma adjustments but we really shouldn’t complain. The results speak for themselves and we were able to obtain perfectly flat greyscale tracking and a gamma curve exactly to suit.

Examining the colours and it’s a similar story of a reference performance. We can see in the CIE chart, above right, that at full saturation levels, deltaE’s were all-but non-existent. And, as the more expansive CIE chart below demonstrates, performance at less saturated levels was almost equally as impressive. Blue is having a little wander toward Cyan but you’d be extremely hard pressed to notice and it’s an exceptionally good set of results here for the AX802.
Contrast, Black Levels and Screen Uniformity

….But, the outermost 1/6 of the screen, on either side, were quite a bit brighter and paler than the rest of the screen so the edge-lighting dispersion mechanism isn’t quite doing its job, as it should. We actually compared the measurements taken above to those taken at the centre of the screen and whilst overall deltaE’s remained under 2, saturation errors went over 5 so definitely noticeable to the human eye. Big deal? Not so much. We really only ever noticed on the likes of the Netflix splash screen and our full-screen test patterns but it was of niggling concern…
However, it’s certainly not all bad news and it was an almost other-worldly experience to be witnessing a Panasonic LED/LCD TV with such great native contrast levels. What’s more, just as rare, is a Panasonic TV with a really good LED dimming system helping to give the dynamic range an extra helping hand. With Adaptive Backlight Control engaged into the, more-or-less, unobtrusive setting of Mid, we took an average black level of 0.058cd/m2 on from a chequerboard pattern and a resulting ANSI Contrast ratio very close to 2000:1. OK, it doesn’t compare to their plasmas of yore but it’s almost stellar performance compared to their older LCD TVs.

A Panasonic LED TV with great contrast performance is a fine sight to see

Picture Processing

We were slightly intrigued by the sound of the ‘1080p Pixel by 4pixels’ option within the Picture Menu, with its promise to display like pixel by pixel on a Full HD resolution display but it proved not particularly interesting. All it does is make a cluster of 4 pixels equivalent to 1 pixel in 1080p and the results are not as good as the scaling of the processor so we’re struggling to see the point. Had it taken some burden off the processor for gaming, we could probably see one but it didn’t, so we remain slightly puzzled.
That aside, the general standard of processing is excellent and although there’s no denying the - relatively small for 4K - fifty-inch panel is going to be quite forgiving to lower resolution signals, it’s plain to see that the scaling performance was extremely good. It failed the PAL-centric 2:2 cadence test but you don’t really want to be feeding an Ultra HD TV with DVDs so it’s of no real consequence. Video deinterlacing performance was very good, however, so you’re broadcast HD (1080i) will be handled very well.

Gaming Performance

We like the fact that the Game mode can be activated in any Viewing Mode so we could play with a calibrated image and the AX802 proved quite a responsive TV, by Ultra HD standards. It returned a measurement a 37 milliseconds using our testing device which we would consider well within the tolerances of most gamers, and certainly adequate for our needs.

Energy Consumption

• Standby: 0W

The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:

• Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 110W
• Calibrated – Professional Mode: 115W
• Calibrated - 3D Mode: 204W

Picture Quality – 2D

We were hoping to be reunited with our new friend, Netflix 4K, during the course of this review but the AX802 is apparently incompatible. We’re told it might be something to do with a lack of CPU grunt but we think it might also be a question of lack of memory as the 4K app seems to buffer in the background, possibly on a predictive basis. On the recently reviewed Samsung's, almost the second you select the content it was at 2160p, provided it was the next episode of what you were previously watching or you were resuming mid-episode.

So we were back to our accumulation of test clips and, as you would expect, they all looked great with rich textures and nuanced lighting. Naturally the accuracy of the AX802 also reaps dividends in getting the most out of the 3840 x 2160 pixels too, and the solid blacks help underpin everything with the kind of impact we like. The dimming system, mentioned earlier, is very good, too, and nullifies the slight inconsistency in panel brightness between sides and centre during dark scenes.

Will you be able to pick out every last drop of the resolution hike from a ‘normal’ sitting position? Probably not, but the other qualities noted lift it above 1080p and, such is the quality of the scaling, you’ll be losing nothing watching your Blu-rays, compared to your 1080p TV, whilst gaining a degree of future-proofing in to the bargain. On the subject of Blu-rays, we were pleased to see Panasonic has included a letterbox dimming feature which disables the pixels corresponding to the ‘black bars’ in scope movies. And it works really well so movie watching, in the (near) dark is just that bit more immersive.

Pictures are rich in contrast, highly accurate and detailed

Motion handling is one of the topics du jour at the time of publishing, with the World Cup within touching distance and we found engaging IFC (Intelligent Frame Creation) in its low setting gave a helping hand to the footie, whilst not looking overly smoothed. Avoid it’s equivalent 24p Smooth film, which appears for 1080p24 sources, as it ruins the look of movies, whatever setting you choose. Whilst motion handling was totally acceptable, we did pick up on a slight dirty screen effect on panning shots, but this is certainly not an uncommon LED TV trait and one of the compromises in the take-off of 4K.

In terms of picture quality, there is most certainly much more to like, than not, with the 50AX802 and we think it’s a massive step-up on the WT600. That’s not to mention just about every other LCD TV the company has produced in the last few years, so we’re pleased to see them at least back in the game, on the image quality front, when we feared they may struggle in the post-plasma era.

Video Review


Picture Quality - 3D

Despite being more personally suited to passive 3D than active-shutter tech, it was still a bit of a disappointment that all of last year’s Panasonic’s 3D LED TVs went with the former route. The previous year’s range had some great active-shutter sets and the AX802 is a definite return to form. The presentation is bright and engaging, from the off, with the THX mode offering colours that looked almost spot-on. Motion handling looks good, whether with Blu-ray or (what’s left of) broadcast content and whilst we could just see a whisper of crosstalk on the tram lines in our Wimbledon test footage, it proved fleeting and non-distracting. We like the supplied specs too. OK, they are extremely uncool looking but, face it, if you’re sat at home wearing a set of 3D glasses, chances are you’re somewhere at least close to ‘nerd’ status.

Conclusion

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Highly accurate colours
  • Very good native contrast
  • Effective dimming system
  • Super video processing
  • Lovely remotes
  • Tons of Smart TV features

Cons

  • Some uniformity issues
  • Netflix 4K seems a very big miss

I own this 6
I want this 3
I had this 0

Panasonic AX802/ AX800 (TX-50AX802) 4K TV Review

Pleasant as the mostly decorative front stand is, it’s the one round the back that takes the breath away – literally, as it weighs a ton! Other than that, the AX802 looks every bit the flagship TV and the inclusion of an HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 compatible port, underlines its status as an Ultra HD model. The inclusion of two very swanky remote controls also help to promote a top-tier feeling to the package, as does the extremely comprehensive set of ISF calibration controls amongst the vast amount of options in the user menus. Said controls allowed us to fine tune picture accuracy to reference levels and combined with the effective dimming system and fine video processing, allowed for pictures that were great in whatever definition.

The Panasonic TX-50AX802B is a pleasing return to form for Panasonic’s LED/LCD TV division. It has the looks, with an attractive front stand and narrow bezel. It has the connections, with one of its 4 HDMI ports being version 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 compatible. It also has most of the Smart TV features you could ever want too. It is also - unlike the WT600 at launch - competitively priced and capable of producing really great pictures, packed full of detail and contrast, blessed with extreme accuracy and delivered by more than competent video processing. It isn’t perfect, nothing is, and we’d have liked to have seen less niggling uniformity issues - and compatibility with 4K Netflix - but it’s still a fine entrant to the Resolution Revolution and well worth your consideration.

Recommended

The Rundown

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

8

Screen Uniformity

6

Colour Accuracy

10

Greyscale Accuracy

10

Video Processing

8

2D Picture Quality

8

3D Picture Quality

8

Sound Quality

7

Smart Features

8

Build Quality

8

Ease Of Use

8

Value for Money

8

Verdict

8

Our Review Ethos

Read about our review ethos and the meaning of our review badges here.


    1. Mark Hodgkinson

      Mark Hodgkinson Reviewer & News Writer Staff Member

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    2. Loopthrough

      Loopthrough Active Member

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      Thanks for the review and hope to see more Panasonic's reviewed soon, but it's clear Sony's 4K and even 1080 TV's are still the best for uniformity and contrast in the edge lit minefield.

      I know you say "you don’t really want to be feeding an Ultra HD TV with DVDs" but the truth is many movie buffs will still have large collections of DVDs of films that'll never make it to Blu. As for a 4K 50" screen, it's only a selling point as I can't see any benefit at this size or less.

      It would be good if you did a TV of the year roundup at the end of the year in each class (maybe you already do and I'm being dumb!?!)
    3. NickInWiltshire

      NickInWiltshire Active Member

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      How do you pass video deinterlacing and fail 2:2 cadence?

      These things definitely pass the wobble test though. Give one a little push and it barely moves, whereas other sets bend and sway.
    4. AV Junky

      AV Junky Member

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      Thanks for the review, Mark. The AX800 series is tempting, but makes sense to wait and see what the 900 series can do, later in the year. When that one's available, I'd love to see a "head-to-head" with a Vizio Reference Series model. Then of course persuade Vizio (or Amazon?) to sell them in the UK!
    5. arenaman

      arenaman Moderator

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      Nice review, I've just ordered the 65", just hope I've made the right choice, the one in store looked great. How did you find the off angle viewing? Would the DSE/uniformity be an issue during normal viewing?
      Last edited: Jun 6, 2014
    6. vaktmestern

      vaktmestern Active Member

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      Think all is hoping the 902 will become special... lill worryed after this tho
    7. avbill1

      avbill1 Member

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      So only one HDMI 2 port, poor screen uniformity, black levels 10 times brighter than the former plasmas, no Netflix 4k. But it gets 8/10. That must be on the LCD scale. Credit card going to stay in wallet for a bit longer. I sit 4m from my TV and am more tempted by the LG OLED frankly.
    8. arenaman

      arenaman Moderator

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      Here's a thought, go and see the 802 for yourself
    9. avbill1

      avbill1 Member

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      Did so in two different stores in the last fortnight, in two different lighting conditions, before reading this review. I was unimpressed when I saw it, especially in comparison with the LG OLED nearby in the second shop. The technical details here just confirm my suspicions from that experience.
    10. arenaman

      arenaman Moderator

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      Then your mind is made up, I've had a different experience to you, good luck with the LG or whatever you choose, I take it you've been reading the LG OLED thread on this forum too to help you decide?
    11. avbill1

      avbill1 Member

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      In fact I have not made my mind up - rather that at 4m there is zero benefit from 4k to PQ (that was on the 58in) and that there is a big benefit from very high contrast. I am held up on the fact that I have not been able to see the OLED playing some fast moving movie or sports action - it's always the blasted flowers and computer generated fireworks on black backgrounds and that is making me just as suspicious as the lonely 4k samples on a USB stick! I'll certainly keep reading these forums and having demos before shelling out such a large pile of dosh.
    12. HMHB

      HMHB Well-Known Member

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      Cheers for the review Mark.
    13. arenaman

      arenaman Moderator

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      You sound like you're in the same predicament as me, I loaded up as USB with different 4K content scenes and DSE tests and have tested the XB9, AX802, HU8500 and 7500, I left the OLED alone as it's too small though it's not all that anyway, blacks yes but it has it's issues.

      I'll say that upscaled 4K is just marginally better than 1080 on a 65" screen at 10 feet, I just want a TV that doesn't have noticeable uniformity issues, I'm not bothered which one it is really
    14. Ratcliffe83

      Ratcliffe83 Member

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      So basically, it's inferior to HU8500 & 7500.

      At present, samsung have the 4K market cornered in my humble opinion. LG certainly have the OLED market tied up, but having read the LG OLED thread, my intention to replace the 8500 with an LG 4K OLED has somewhat faltered. Maybe not the thread to go on about it, but top money for a technology that is clearly faulty and unpredictable is a market I'm steering clear of
    15. ridgerama

      ridgerama Active Member

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      There's no 55" ax802 is there ? Just 50/58/65.
      • Agree Agree x 1
    16. vaktmestern

      vaktmestern Active Member

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      Since 4k specs isnt finalised and all 4k tvs has the same well known lcd issues ... I decided to go for oled to get a picture that for me is more impresive than what i seen on 4k lcd demos.
    17. George a L

      George a L Member

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      Guys I think we are reading into reviews to much here. Think we are seeing the shift from a couple of manufacturers and rival forums. So without going into it too much detail. When has AV forums ever been as late reviewing a Panasonic flagship range & been as quick reviewing Samsung's. So go and see what u like best.
    18. arenaman

      arenaman Moderator

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      No, I don't believe it is
    19. arenaman

      arenaman Moderator

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      The LG OLED seems to have the same issues as LCD with uniformity and the same issues as plasma with IR/burn. Great blacks though.
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    20. Ratcliffe83

      Ratcliffe83 Member

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      Arenaman, as I said, it's my opinion :) Also seems to be the opinion of the review seeing the overall scores.

      All being said, I think buying any TV is a lottery. My 8500 is literally faultless yet there are others who have had issues with theirs. I'm not massively keen on Panasonic products or indeed Sony for that matter. But then these are my preferences. Poor Netflix 4K playback would literally rule out this TV for me
    21. arenaman

      arenaman Moderator

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      You're obviously entitled to your opinion, I just took it as you were almost stating it as fact when you started your sentence with the statement.

      I now know you don't fit into this category but some people are so quick to read one review and look at scores and take it as gospel without seeing the TV for themselves. Every good reviewer/calibrator will tell you to make your own mind up by seeing the set.

      I don't think there's a lot of difference between the 8500/7500, X9B and AX802, top end 4k sets, very expensive packed with the latest features. All have stunning PQ and I'd be happy to have any one of those sets. The choice then comes down to the faults and issues. I said a long time ago that it's about finding a TV with the least issues that bug you, if you find a good panel in any one of those sets just grab onto it and don't let it go, it seems you have so I'm a bit envious.

      I could have gone for a third X9B and hoped it would be a good one but 2 poor panels has put me off and caused me to try the 802. If I had a choice (which I don't) I'd still take a fault free F8500 plasma over anything else out there right now
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    22. Scooby2000

      Scooby2000 Moderator Staff Member

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      Great review, I don't see the point of this set though, 50" is a tad small for 4k and it doesn't support one of the only means of getting 4k content.

      The light uniformity would do my head in too, you seem up-beat about a set that would have been knocked not long ago, where have they advanced? Sorry I'm an LCD sceptic and will remain so until they improve known issues, IMO 4k is pointless on this set.
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    23. NickInWiltshire

      NickInWiltshire Active Member

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      I'd really like to know what the mistake was that meant this set cannot play Netflix 4K. We know it can play Panasonic's own 4k stream so the basics are there. The article mentioned possibly lack of CPU grunt or lack of memory. I wonder whether the Netflix stream is encrypted, and the processor just couldn't quite decrypt a 4k stream fast enough. It is one of the problems of releasing a product before something that you want it to support exists, and can be tested. Just like all those HDMI2 ports which may have interoperability troubles in some cases down the line.

      I agree with @arenaman that all these sets will have superb PQ in general. They all get incredible measurements after calibration as far as the graphs show. So ultimately it comes down to the small things that don't get measured, like how the motion handling looks, or the perception of uniformity, or how fast the viewing angle deteriorates, etc.
    24. Smith2004

      Smith2004 Member

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      Speaking of viewing angles, has anyone who has seen both the AX802 and the HU7500 feel that one is better than the other when it comes to off-axis viewing, or they both roughly similar?
    25. arenaman

      arenaman Moderator

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      The 802 looked better to me, will be having another look this afternoon

      EDIT, saw the 8200, 802 and 8500 side by side today, the 802 won hands down on viewing angles (IMO) I struggled to notice the 802 lightening at all (with or without letterbox dimmer on)whereas the Samsungs were clearly blue at the extremities. Sorry I forgot to look at the 7500
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      Last edited: Jun 7, 2014
    26. Steve Withers

      Steve Withers Assistant Editor

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      I'm not sure what you're suggesting but Samsung were quick to get their review samples out to various media outlets this year and Panasonic have only just started sending them out due to various technical problems - that's all there is to it.
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    27. Smith2004

      Smith2004 Member

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      Thanks. Having had LG sets for the last three years, I'm used to relatively good viewing angles, (although I'll probably not go for any of the latest LG 4K sets, as the reviews I have read so far haven't rated them at all.) I had a Samsung before this and the fact that the blacks in particular washed out off-axis annoyed me no end. From what I have seen my of the latest 4K sets from Samsung the angles aren't that bad, but I haven't seen the Panasonic yet to make a comparison. The only thing that puts me off the latter is the fact that the screen tilts back slightly.
    28. 1080 jawbreaker

      1080 jawbreaker Active Member

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      its a lottery, you can read about stellar reviews for this and that TV but when yours arrives it could be a turkey.
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    29. sajjad

      sajjad New Member

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      4k....I would never spend that much for a tv....i mean upto a grand is ok.....but over that in my opinion is not justified....
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    30. panman40

      panman40 Well-Known Member

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      166
      Ratings:
      +2,402
      Think they are talking 4K screen res!
  • Screen

    Display LED
    Backlight Type Edge
    Display Format 4K Ultra HD
    Screen Size 50 In
    Resolution 3840 x 2160 Pixels
    1080p24 Support Yes
    3D Technology Active
    Refresh Rate 2000 Hz
    Aspect Ratio 16:9

    Digital-TV

    Tuner Freeview
    Freeview HD
    Freesat
    Freesat HD
    EPG Yes

    Features

    3D Accessories Active Glasses
    Smart TV Yes
    Smart TV Features DLNA
    Skype Ready
    Built-in Camera
    Video on Demand Access
    Media Player
    Web Browser
    App Store Access
    Remote App
    Voice Control
    Face Detection
    File Formats XViD
    MPEG2
    MPEG4
    MKV
    DivX
    DivX HD
    AVI
    MP4
    WMA
    MP3
    JPEG
    MPO

    Sound

    Speakers Stereo
    Supported Sound Formats Dolby Digital
    DTS

    Product Properties

    Energy Efficiency Class B
    Width (With Stand) 1131 mm
    Height (With Stand) 697 mm
    Depth (With Stand) 38.1 mm

    Connections

    HDMI Type HDMI
    HDMI with ARC
    HDMI 1.4
    HDMI 2.0
    HDMI Inputs 4
    Scart Connections 1
    Component Inputs 1
    Composite Inputs 1
    USB Ports 3
    SD Card Slots 1
    Ethernet Port Yes
    Digital Audio Out Yes
    Headphone Socket Yes
    Wi-Fi Built-in
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    Jun 11, 2014

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    World Cup 2014: The Best TVs to watch it on

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    We bring you five televisions that won't let you down when this year's World Cup kicks off.

    Jun 9, 2014

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