There's not much wrong with the AS650 but there's not too much to excite, either.
What is the Panasonic TX-47AS650?
It’s been a solid start to the new season of TVs from Panasonic.First we had the top-of-the-range 4K AX802 impressing us with its convincing blacks and gorgeously detailed images and this was followed by the 48AS640 which did pretty much the same, only with a reduced pixel count. The most recent Panasonic sample we’ve looked at is the flagship 1080p 60AS802 which whilst not offering the same degree of contrast performance, still produced solid pictures.
So here we have the TX-47AS650 which can probably described as upper mid-range being as it packs a full suite of Smart TV functions and retails for around £800. That’s not an inconsiderable sum for a 47-inch Full HD TV, in these days of emerging Ultra HD televisions, so it has a job on to match performance to price-tag. Let’s find out if it does.
Design & ConnectionsCosmetically, the AS650 is very similar to the AS640 but has a slightly shinier base-stand which is a basic rectangular shape but features a cut-out design which gives a slight sense of ‘floaty-ness’ to proceedings. The two-tone silver/black narrow bezel design is attractive enough and the AS650 will have its admirers on the retail floor.
At the back are a decent collection of inputs and outputs, including 3 HDMI ports, two of which point downwards, on the rear, while the other is both side mounted and facing. You also get 2 USB ports, a headphone jack. A Scart socket and component terminals complete the rear facing connections and there’s a Freeview HD tuner and a digital audio out joining the downward pointing HDMI ports.
Like just about every Smart TV, these days, the 47AS650 ships with a brace of remote controls in the box. The smarter option comes in black, with a simplified button set, voice control and a touch pad for scrolling. It works really well in practise, too, as does the standard handset which is of a traditional Panasonic design with good sized buttons which are easy to locate.
The new Smart controller is quite nifty
MenusThere are a lot more options in the Panasonic menu systems than there used to be. Crucially, as far as we are concerned, this means a full set of calibration controls, including 10 point white balance and a full colour management system. For a best out-of-box approximation of the industry standards, without adjustment, the True Cinema mode should be closest to the mark. There is also a film mode, Adaptive Backlight Control and various other fancy schmancy processing controls we’ll touch on later as we investigate their efficacy.
FeaturesWe apologise that our dedicated Smart TV review has yet to materialise. With samples coming in tick and fast, right now, scheduling is an issue but we do promise it will follow as soon as it’s feasible. There are two new major features for this year’s offering. The first of those is Freetime which offers access to all the major UK catch-up services - BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 40D and Demand 5 – and works very well. There is also the new MyStream feature, which is a scrolling, personalised recommendation screen, pulling content from the likes of YouTube and we’ve not made our mind up on whether it’s something we would ever find ourselves using. Probably not but we would use the included Media Player which we have yet to see working properly in the AX802, AS640 or this TV, with all crashing to the home screen when we tried to access it. More on that in the detailed review, very soon! Other than those points, it’s just a tweaked version of last year’s efforts which is no bad thing, We really like the Viera Remote 2 app – for iOS and Android – the presentation is great and there are plenty of other apps to have a go at.
Freetime is excellent! MyStream - the jury's out
As ever, the True Cinema mode provided the best starting point for a detailed calibration and, as with many a TV with an IPS panel, the greyscale was tracking very accurately out of the box. There’s a bit too much blue energy near back, a small excess of both red and green in the mid-scale and a greener tinge to whites. With delta Errors topping out at 5, we’re in good shape however and gamma is tracking close to our nominated target of 2.3. The colours were equally as impressive with no significant errors to report. There’s a general under-luminance with both primary and secondary colours but a couple of clicks, upwards, on the global Colour control would probably fix most of that.
Since there are both 10-point white balance and gamma controls contained within the TX-47AS650, it is no surprise we obtain a virtual reference greyscale and gamma performance from it. To be picky, there is still too much blue energy near black and whilst we could eradicate that on the charts, it created some posterisation (banding) in darker elements of the picture in doing so. We’ll certainly take the results from anything over 10 percent stimulus, however.
There is also a well-appointed colour management system aboard this Panasonic and with it we are able to gain a superb match for the HDTV Rec.709 standards. Not only were colours nigh on perfect at full saturation levels, as we can see from the CIE Chart top-right, but less ‘full’ shades were also incredibly accurate. IPS panels are well noted for their colour gamut accuracy but the AS650 is even better than most of those.
Contrast, Black Levels and Screen Uniformity
By virtue of its panel type, the AS650 is blessed with only pedestrian contrast performance. In actual fact, for an IPS, it’s pretty good with an average black level of 0.15cd/m2, taken from a chequerboard pattern. That’s without the dimming system engaged (labelled Adaptive Backlight Control) and with it on, it comes down to close to 0.14. That’s not great, either, but ‘ABC’ does help with all/near all black screens without being overly impactful on details in the dark areas. Yes, it definitely will mask some picture elements in the shadows and you will get the odd quick and sudden flash when scenes transition from very bright to dark but it’s just about worth using, on balance. In doing so, we got an ANSI contrast figure of 787:1 which is definitely not going to set the videophiles’ pulse racing but its serviceable in bright(ish) viewing environments. The ABC control also helped to eliminate some uneven light spread on dark screen with just the odd small patch visible, here and there.
The same curious processing flaw which we unearthed in the AS640 is present and (in)correct on the AS650. That is, it doesn’t handle 50Hz content as it should, leading to stuttering pictures. It’s particularly noticeable with material with frequent camera pans but you can see it with everything, once you know it’s there. It happens in all picture modes but the issue disappears when the Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) setting is in its ‘Min’ configuration. In fact, set that way, the AS650 behaves almost exactly how you would expect with it off. Since it is on by default in the True Cinema setting we can nearly forgive this but it warrants attention from Panasonic nonetheless.
50Hz stutter present again but it is defeatable
Everything else, processing wise, was as you would expect from a Panasonic TV – i.e. very good. The AS650 didn’t pass the 2:2 PAL cadence test but the interpolation was sufficiently good you’re unlikely to notice. Video deinterlacing was also nicely handled and the 47AS650 scales Standard Definition signals very well. There were no problems with the way 1080p24 was treated either and it didn’t require recourse to any interpolation settings.
By switching into the Game Mode from the Options submenu in the Picture Menu, the AS650 displayed an input lag around 57 milliseconds, which is far from great. As a now causal gamer, it didn’t really bother me but I’m not sure I’d want to take that kind of latency online, into the competitive arena.
• Standby: 0W
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
• Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 55W
• Calibrated – Professional Mode: 65W
• Calibrated - 3D Mode: 97W
Panasonic TX-47AS650 Video Review
Panasonic TX-47AS650 Picture QualityOther than the processing flaw with 50Hz content, the Panasonic AS650 doesn’t have any really serious shortcomings. We would have liked more depth to images – i.e. dynamic range – but the superbly natural colour palette and generous viewing angles are some compensation for its lacking. Though the numbers posted above don’t really back it up, the ‘Active Backlight Control’ option is reasonably effective in upping the perception of contrast but it’s far from a perfect dimming system that will obscure detail you should be seeing in darker portions of the picture. Without it, however, blacks are unsatisfyingly milky and you’re losing shadow detail in any case because of this fogginess.
The general trend for improved screen uniformity in LED/LCD televisions, this year, is mostly continued with the AS650 but the sample did display a minor dirty screen effect on panning shots, especially noticeable on pale greens and whites. It’s not something that troubled us often, however, and the general motion handling was pleasing enough. At its best, the 48AS650 is capable of producing stunning images that are packed with detail and the fact it is capable of going very bright, indeed, means it’s a good fit for a room that sees a lot of daylight. It’s not a TV for those that like to dim the lights when viewing but, for everyone else, it will probably satisfy.
The dimming system is usable but far from perfect
In terms of its 3D capabilities, the AS650 is everything we’ve come to expect from a passive 3D TV. There is none of the flicker some can see in active shutter systems, the glasses don’t rob the images of much luminance so there’s good contrast and there’s barely any crosstalk or ghosting to spoil the immersion. Again, black levels aren’t great and shadow detailing is a little compromised but we enjoyed a spin through Gravity (again!) but it’s with animated 3D titles that the AS650 is at its best as these are generally bright and colourful presentations. Tangled looked particularly great and the fact there are four pairs of specs in the box is a bonus. Sat up close, you might notice some black scan lines and a slightly softer image than active shutter can provide but those at more usual viewing distances aren’t likely to.
- Great colours
- Nice design
- Smart TV features impress
- Viewing angles are generous
- Contrast performance is mediocre
- 50Hz stutter without IFC on
- Some dirty screen effect on panning shots
- Media Player is flakey
Panasonic TX-47AS650 (AS650) TV ReviewThe two-tone bezel design of the TX-47AS650 is quite striking and certainly contemporary. The airy base stand also comes into those categories, although at the expense of being able to swivel it. There are a good set of connections, including 3 HDMI, 2 USB and WiFi amongst the armoury, and there is a choice of two remote controls in the box. One is ‘old-fashioned’ but efficient whilst the other is a smart thing, featuring voice and touch control – both are implemented effectively.
Panasonic’s 2014 Smart TV platform is very well presented and there are a couple of new major additions. Freetime brings with it access to all the major catch-up services and co-exists with the likes of YouTube and Netflix in the main apps areas. There is also MyStream to investigate, which is a personalised recommendation screen that we guess gets better the more that you use it but it’s not something we’ve found ourselves rushing back to.
There is no shortage of calibration controls available in the AS650’s comprehensive menu systems and by selecting the True Cinema mode, we had access to full gamma, white balance and detailed colour controls. The TV was pretty accurate even after following some basic adjustments but the calibrated picture was close to reference level once we’d taken advantage of the more specialised options.
The fantastically accurate colour palette of the AS650 is definitely its strongest card and helps it deliver pictures that appear extremely natural. We would have liked this Panasonic to boast better native black levels and we ended up activating the dimming system to improve their perceptible depth. This does come at the cost of losing some detail in darker scenes but, on balance, the compromise was just about worth it.
The same 50Hz stuttering issues we noted with the AS640 are also present in the AS650 but considering the default True Cinema settings activate IFC at its lowest setting – which alleviates the issue – it’s something we can forgive. We do, of course, recommend Panasonic addresses it. Otherwise processing capabilities are strong and the 3D performance is very pleasing with bright, flicker free pictures helping to immerse you.
The Panasonic AS650 isn’t a TV which will take your breath away. It’s solid rather than startling but it’s one to check out if you’re looking at a good all-rounder for a brighter room.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level6
2D Picture Quality7
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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