Holding the middle ground
What is the Panasonic AS600?
The big problem with moving your entire TV line-up into a single technology is that you find yourself competing against companies that have been there much longer.Panasonic's decision to stop all plasma production means they are now exclusively selling LCD TVs and that puts them in direct competition with Sony, LG and especially Samsung. When Panasonic were the kings of plasma, it was Samsung playing catch-up but now the tables have turned. How relevant can Panasonic remain in this post-plasma world? Well the Japanese manufacturer will certainly look to deliver some impressive high-end models but it's in the middle and low-end of the market that their fate will be decided. It's these low and mid-tier models that will be key.The AS600B is a good example of the kind of TV aimed at this battlefield, holding the middle ground and going up against the competition. On paper the AS600 looks very similar to the AS650 we have already reviewed, the only difference is that it doesn't have 3D. Otherwise it appears to be a well specified TV with calibration controls, a decent panel and Panasonic's latest Smart TV. The TX-42AS600B is the 42-inch version and retails for £499 but there are also models in 32, 39 and 50-inch screen sizes. So let's see how the 42AS600 measures up...
Design and ConnectionsIn terms of design the AS600 is identical to the AS650, with a metallic base-stand which is a basic rectangular shape but features a cut-out design which gives the screen a sense that it is floating in space. The two-tone silver/black narrow bezel design is certainly attractive and the build quality is good for what is essentially a mid to low-range model.
At the back are a decent set of connections, including 3 HDMI ports, all of which point rearwards and one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). You also get 2 USB ports and a headphone jack that all face sideways. Finally facing rearwards you also get a SCART socket, component and composite inputs, an optical digital output, a LAN port and an aerial socket.
The provided remote control is a standard affair and although the AS600 doesn't include the touch pad controller, it's debatable how big a loss that actually is. The provided controller, which is made of black plastic, is comfortable to hold and easy to use. It has all the controls you will ever need and thus gets the job done, although there is the remote app as an alternative.
The AS600 is attractive and well made without ever appearing flashy or drawing attention to itself.
MenusThe new menu system now scrolls all the way from top to bottom, in one loop, and encompass all manner of setup options. Our primary focus, as always, is the Picture Menu which is the first option and includes all the standard controls we would expect to see such as backlight, contrast, brightness, colour, tint and sharpness. A new addition is the Adaptive Backlight Control, which is the local dimming feature and we'll see how it performs later.
There's also colour temperature, gamma and colour gamut, along with the usual advanced calibration controls for white balance and colour management. Whilst there aren't as many 'special' controls on the AS600 as on some of Panasonic's higher-end models, there are still quite a few. Luckily you can bypass most of these by simply selecting the True Cinema Viewing Mode, which also provides the most accurate out-of-box picture.
FeaturesThe smart platform is essentially the same as last year, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, so it retains My Home Screen and many of the other useful features, along with some minor tweaks. The available apps are generally good and the file support is fairly comprehensive, including AVCHD, AVI, MKV, WMV, MP4, FLV, MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, JPEG and MPO.
The big change this year is the addition of the Freetime app, which means Panasonic can match Samsung in being able to claim possession of all the major UK catch up services - BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 40D and Demand 5. A separate in-depth review of Panasonic's new Smart TV system will be coming soon.
The AS600 has a decent set of features for what is essentially a lower range model.
As mentioned previously, True Cinema provides the best starting point and, as is often the case with LCD panels, the greyscale was tracking quite accurately out-of-the-box. There was a slight excess of green across most of the scale, giving whites a slight green tinge but the gamma was tracking our target of 2.2 very accurately. The colours were equally as impressive with no significant errors to report. There were some minor errors in saturation and luminance but with the inclusion of a CMS this should be simple to address.
The inclusion of both white balance and gamma controls on the AS600 meant it was an easy task to get the greyscale and gamma very accurate. In fact the gamma was already tracking very accurately, so there really was nothing to do there and in the case of the greyscale, the adjustments were equally as minimal. All we needed to do was bring green down a bit and the grayscale quickly fell into line, delivering errors that were all less than one. The result was a reference greyscale and gamma performance. The recommended settings can be found here.
There is also a colour management system (CMS) on board the AS600, although it only applies to the primary colours. However once we had calibrated the greyscale, the colour accuracy immediately improved. We were able to adjust the luminance of the primary colours and thankfully the secondary colours also fell into line; whilst the hue measurements were also very good. There was a slight over-saturation in green and under-saturation in red and magenta that we couldn't quite correct but overall, errors were all below the threshold of three. As the graph below shows, the colour accuracy was equally as good at lower saturation points and whilst the performance isn't perfect, it's certainly good for a lower tier TV.Contrast, Black Levels and Screen Uniformity
The AS600 uses a VA panel, as evidenced by a surprisingly good contrast performance. The AS600 could easily hit our target of 120cd/m2 and blacks measured at 0.03cd/m2, even with the local dimming (Adaptive Backlight Control) turned off. That gives an on/off contrast ratio of 4,000:1 and with ABC on, the black level measurements dropped to 0.008cd/m2. The checkerboard performance was equally as impressive, with an average black level of 0.04cd/m2 and white measuring at 117cd/m2, which gives an ANSI contrast ratio of 3,107:1. With manufacturers using so many different panels even within the same range, it's hard to know what to expect sometimes but the AS600 certainly surprised us. There were some uneven patches in the backlight and a bit of dirty screen effect but these could be alleviated by employing ABC.Picture Processing
The video processing was excellent and regardless of whether you were watching standard or high definition content, the AS600 handled both with ease. The deinterlacing and scaling was good, as was the motion adaptive deinterlacing and the Panasonic had no trouble with 2:3 or 2:2 cadence. It also handled mixed film and video material well and was just as effective with 1080i content, deinterlacing the material without any issues. When we moved on to 24p content, the results were just as good and overall this was an excellent performance from the AS600. The motion handling was reasonably good for an LCD TV, measuring around 400 on the FPD Benchmark Test.
By switching into the Game Mode from the Options submenu in the Picture Menu, the AS600 displayed an input lag around 48 milliseconds, which is below average for a Full HD TV. For the causal gamer it won't really matter but the more dedicated game players will undoubtedly find that too high for their needs.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 53W
- Calibrated – Professional Mode: 42W
The AS600 delivered a great picture, with decent blacks, accurate colours and impressive processing.
Panasonic AS600 Picture QualityThe AS600 proved to be a very capable performer with a well rendered and nicely accurate image. The surprisingly good black levels meant that the TV could produce pictures with a sense of depth and also remain watchable at night. There was some minor clouding and a bit of dirty screen effect but if you engaged the local dimming you could improve the blacks still further and address some of these issues.
The Full HD panel was certainly capable of delivering all the detail in high definition content but the video processing meant that standard definition could also look good. especially with the smaller screen size. The AS600 handled motion well and 24p Blu-rays looked especially good, making the AS600 a great all-rounder regardless of what you usually watch. Whether it's movies, soap opera or faced paced sports action, the AS600 should be able to handle all your needs.
When viewing regular test discs like Oblivion or Captain Philips, the images produced by the AS600 retained a suitably film-like quality and the same was true with a more recent purchase like Transcendence. If we moved onto high definition broadcasts, the AS600 remained equally as effective and precise in its presentation, retaining all the detail. Whilst standard definition broadcasts also remained perfectly watchable, despite their lower resolution.
- Good contrast performance
- Accurate colours
- Attractive design
- Excellent video processing
- Decent Smart TV
- Generous viewing angles
- Minor clouding
- Some dirty screen effect
Panasonic TX-42AS600 (AS600) TV ReviewThe Panasonic 42AS600B is a great mid-range offering from the Japanese manufacturer that combines performance, features and value in equal measure. The design is relatively attractive and the build quality reasonable when you consider the price point. There's only the one remote control but it's well designed and effective, whilst there are sufficient connections at the rear. The smart platform has had an upgrade this year and is rather good, with Freetime allowing Panasonic to become only the second manufacturer able to offer all the catch-up services. The media player is also excellent with extensive file support, whilst the sound quality is passable for a modern TV. There's no 3D but it unlikely that the majority of people will miss this.
The AS600 offers a surprisingly good contrast performance, with the Panasonic measuring decent black levels, even with the local dimming off. The greyscale and colour accuracy were also impressive, as was the video processing, resulting in a great overall picture. The input lag could have been lower but the power consumption is minimal, making the AS600 an economic TV to own. Ultimately the TX-42AS600 shows there is plenty of fight in Panasonic yet and when it gets the basics right, the Japanese giant can deliver a competitive product. If you're looking for a decent mid-range TV and don't have any interest in 3D, the AS600 is certainly with considering.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money8
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