Perhaps we're just expecting too much from Panasonic
What is the Panasonic TX-60AS802?
There was a time when the idea of a Panasonic flagship TV turning up for review would cause genuine excitement.Of course that was in the days of plasma and now that the manufacturer has transitioned to an exclusively LCD line-up, some of that excitement has diminished. That's not to say that Panasonic isn't still a major player but their tenure as the picture quality kings ended with last year's ZT65. Now the Japanese manufacturer has lost their USP and must compete in a market that's dominated by Samsung and LG. That hasn't stopped them making some pretty bold claims about their upcoming AX902 Ultra HD 4K TV but we'll have to wait until later in the year before we can put those to the test. In the meantime, the higher end of their VIERA line-up is dominated by the already reviewed Ultra HD AX802 and the Full HD AS802.For those unfamiliar with Panasonic's new model numbers, the X prefix denotes a 4K panel, whilst the S prefix means a Full HD Smart TV. In the case of the AS802 (in the UK at least, although confusingly it's the AS800 in other countries) there is a choice of 60, 55 and 47" screen sizes and our review sample was the biggest, the TX-60AS802B. The specifications certainly seem appropriate for a flagship TV, with an attractive new design, their latest Smart TV platform, two remote controls, HEXA processing, local dimming, twin tuners, built-in camera, beefed up sound and passive 3D. However all that doesn't come cheap and at a price of around £2,399 the 60AS802 will have some serious competition. Let's see how it fares...
Design and ConnectionsPanasonic have always produced high-end TVs with a level of build quality commensurate with their status and the AS802 is no exception. The result is a very solid and well engineered chassis, although, as a side effect, it's also very heavy for a LED TV. The main source of all this weight is the base at the rear, which although largely hidden from view, actually provides almsot all the support. The frame that is visible at the front is nearly - but not quite - for cosmetic purposes, with the gaps providing space of the speakers to operate more efficiently. The overall design is quite attractive, with a contemporary and decidedly minimalist appearance.
The panel is 53mm deep and there's a 1cm wide black border around the screen, a silver trim around the outside and along the bottom is the silver stand with a gap between the base and the underside of the panel. The entire chassis sits at a slight incline on the base stand at the rear, which reminded us of Sony's old 'Monolith' design. The TV measures 1,350 x 812 x 303mm and weighs in at 34kg with the stand. Without the base stand the AS802 is a somewhat lighter 25kg, making it easier to wall mount, although it has a hard wired power cable that is only 1.5m long, which might be an issue.
The AS802 boasts an attractive design and an impressive level of build quality.
At the right rear there are some basic controls, whilst over on the left hand side are all the connections. There are four HDMI inputs in total, three facing sideways and one facing down. The sideways facing inputs are only 11cm from the edge, which is too close in our opinion, resulting in the possibility of cables being visible from the front. There are also legacy video connections for component, SCART and composite using 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.
The AS802 comes with two remote controls, the first of which is a variation on the design that Panasonic have been using for some time. It now has a brushed metal finish and the same sensible layout with easy to access buttons. There’s also a backlight, for use a night, and it’s good to see Panasonic not scrimping on the conventional remote in favour of their smart controller. The latter boasts the same brushed metal finish and boasts touch and voice features as well as offering a simplified set of controls.
The AS802 uses passive 3D, which might give you a clue as to who supplied Panasonic with the panel, and thus comes with some lightweight glasses. The design is simple but effective and, as always with passive 3D, they don't need batteries or charging and won't result in flicker when using them. You can also easily increase the number of glasses you have available by simply using any RealD glasses brought back from the cinema. Finally, there's also a pop-up built-in camera/microphone for Skype video calling.
As befitting a flagship TV there are a host of features, connections and accessories.
MenusThe menu system has had a redesign since last year and they now scroll 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. There's also colour temperature, gamma and colour gamut, along with the usual advanced calibration controls for white balance and colour management.
We thought the menus were expansive in 2013 but this year we have even more options to check out. Although most of the fancier sounding controls such as Colour Remaster, Brilliance Enhancer and Resolution Remaster proved largely unnecessary. Luckily you can bypass most of these options by simply selecting either the THX or Professional Modes, which also provide the most accurate out-of-box pictures anyhow. The Adaptive Backlight Control is the local dimming feature and we'll see how this performs later.
FeaturesPanasonic has been trying to improve the quality of the sound on their TVs and, if the AS802 is anything to go by, these efforts have been largely successful. The space along the bottom of the frame and the positioning of the speakers helps, as does the deeper chassis, which means that larger speakers can be used. As a result the sound quality was very good and the built-in dual speakers and woofer delivered a decent, room-filling sound. Thanks to the screen size there was a reasonable sense of stereo separation and the volume could go quite high without distorting, whilst dialogue remained clear. We're not saying that a good sound bar or all-in-one system wouldn't be better but, as built-in audio goes, the AS802 certainly did the job.
The 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 image accuracy was excellent, despite some bugs in the calibration controls.
We tested all the various videwing modes and unsurprisingly the THX and professional modes proved the most accurate, although not as accurate as we would have liked. As the graphs below can testify, there was an excess of blue energy in black and just above, whilst up towards white we saw an excess of green and a defect of blue. This resulted in a visible push towards yellow in the brighter parts of the image, whist blacks and dark greys had a slight blue tinge. The gamma was however tracking around 2.2 quite accurately. The general colour accuracy was better and aside from cyan, which was being pulled towards green, all the other colours had overall errors below the visible threshold of three.
We are use to Panasonic TVs having every effective calibration controls that deliver highly accurate pictures, so we were somewhat surprised to discover that the AS802 appeared to have some issues in this area. We could calibrate the greyscale quite accurately with the two-point white balance control and then fine tune with the ten-point but we were unable to fully correct the excess of blue at black, which meant there was still a slight tinge to very dark scenes. Although gamma was still tracking around 2.2. With the colour gamut the luminance and hue accuracy were both good but we struggled with a slight under-saturation in many of the colours that the CMS was unable to fully correct.
The calibrated accuracy was still good however, with all the colours except blue measuring errors well below the threshold of three and blue measuring just below three. The minor under-saturation present at 100% saturation didn't appear to be an issue at lower saturation levels and, in fact, as the CIE tracking chart below shows, the AS802 delivered a very good performance at lower saturation levels. All the colours are at or very close to their targets and given the excellent luminance performance, the result was a very accurate picture with normal viewing material. You can find some suggested calibrated settings here.Black Levels, Contrast Ratio and Screen Uniformity
Panasonic are using an IPS panel on the AS802 which, along with the passive 3D, provides another clue as to who might be supplying the panels for this model. The big advantage of an IPS panel is a wider optimum viewing angle, so everyone in the lounge should see a decent image regardless of where they are sat. The downside to this wider viewing angle is that the native blacks aren't as good as you will find on many TVs that use VA panels, with the AS802 measuring a fairly poor 0.26cd/m2. Thankfully things improved markedly as soon as we turned on the local dimming (adaptive backlight control) and the low setting measured 0.1cd/m2, the mid setting came in at 0.02cd/m2 and the max setting dropped down to 0.01cd/m2.The AS802 had no problems hitting 120cd/m2 and the ANSI contrast ratio measured at 454:1 with the local dimming off and a more respectable 2,000:1 with it on the mid setting. The use of the local dimming in the mid setting resulted in images that had solid blacks but still managed to retain shadow detail and didn't suffer from noticeable haloing, so we would recommend its implementation. The backlight uniformity was very good, with an even appearance and no obvious clouding or bright corners and edges. There was some very occasional banding visible when the camera panned from side to side in World Cup matches but for most viewing it wasn't apparent.
The video processing was excellent and regardless of whether you were watching standard or high definition content, the AS802 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 AS802. The motion handling was reasonably good for an LCD TV, measuring around 400 on the FPD Benchmark Test. In fact, even though we were watching a lot of football we never felt the need to resort to IFC and, unlike on some of the lower tier TVs, we had no problems with stuttering on 50Hz material - even with IFC off.
We like the fact that the Game mode can be activated in any viewing mode, thus allowing us to play games with a calibrated image and the AS802 proved to be quite a responsive TV. It returned a measurement of 36 milliseconds using our testing device which we would consider well within the tolerances of most gamers, and certainly adequate for our needs. As a result a few sessions of Killzone on the PS4 proved to be highly enjoyable with the Panasonic handling the resolution and frame rate very well indeed.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 120W
- Calibrated – Professional Mode: 150W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 160W
Panasonic TX-60AS802 Video Review
Panasonic TX-60AS802 Picture QualityThe AS802 proved itself capable of delivering a very respectable image in our general viewing tests and overall we were pleased with the results. It wasn't earth shattering and in some respects it was subject to the limitations of LCD technology but it managed to get the important elements right. The accuracy of the greyscale and colour gamut meant that whatever we were watching it looked suitably natural, whilst the excellent video processing made standard definition content quite watchable, even on a 60" screen. The motion handling was also surprisingly good for an LCD panel, even without having to resort to IFC and we had no problems with 50Hz material stuttering. The backlight was also nicely even and the lack of clouding or bright corners and edges was highly encouraging. We found that although the native blacks were poor, as soon as we activated the local dimming the situation improved dramatically.
By using the mid setting we were able to maximise the dynamic range, with plenty of brightness and deep blacks. This was achieved without crushing shadow detail, blowing out whites or introducing noticeable haloing. Unsurprisingly we have spent quite a lot of time watching football recently and the AS802 proved to be a very competent performer when it came to extensive World Cup viewing sessions. The natural colours, impressive dynamic range and detailed high definition images really delivered, with a great looking picture. The greens of the pitches and the colours of the strips all looked accurate, whilst the motion of the players and the ball was also impressive. The level of detail in the crowds was also excellent, with only some minor banding as the camera panned across the pitch to spoil an otherwise very solid performance.
We were glad to see that the excellent video processing meant that the AS802 was also able to make standard definition broadcasts and DVDs look good. Not that we watch much standard definition material this days but it was good to know that when do, the AS802 is getting the best out of the content. Naturally with Blu-rays the results were excellent with recent purchases like Her and The Grand Budapest Hotel looking superb on the Panasonic. The images were clean and detailed, shadow detail was evident and 24p was handled extremely well. We have always liked passive 3D, not only because its much simpler to implement but also because the images are free of flicker or crosstalk and often brighter. It is true that the passive filter is more obvious on a 60" screen but we still found that the depth and 3D pop delivered by the AS802 made that a small price to pay when watching recent 3D movies like Stalingrad and The Lego Movie.
The performance was solid rather than inspiring.
- Accurate picture
- Good backlight uniformity
- Effective dimming system
- Impressive video processing
- Decent sound
- Great build quality
- Plenty of Smart TV features
- Native blacks are uninspiring
- Buggy calibration controls
- Some minor banding
Panasonic TX-60AS802 (AS802) TV ReviewThe Panasonic AS802 is a very solid TV in more ways than one. It combines an attractive design with a weapon's grade level of build quality and comes with a host of features, connections and accessories. There's a pop-up camera, two remote controls and a revised smart platform that now includes the Freetime app to deliver all the UK catch-up services. There are plenty of connections at the rear and the menu system has been upgraded but still includes extensive calibration controls. The sound quality was surprisingly good for a modern TV and overall, the AS802 includes everything you would expect from a higher end model.
The greyscale and colour accuracy are reasonably good, out-of-the-box, but can be improved considerably after calibration. Although we found the calibration controls to be slightly buggy on occasion and there were some minor errors we couldn't correct. However, overall the picture accuracy was excellent, with the usual impressive level of video processing. The motion handling was good and the local dimming was effective, which is just as well since the native blacks are poor. The backlight uniformity was excellent and our real compliant in this area was some occasional banding.
When it came to the picture quality the AS802 delivered a very nice image, regardless of whether or not you were watching standard or high definition material. Although obviously the images were best with high definition content, where the added resolution could take full advantage of the 60" screen. The 3D performance was also good, with no flicker or crosstalk and plenty of depth. However the larger screen size will make the passive filter more obvious, depending on how far back you are sat.
Panasonic are probably a victim of their own success and we have simply become used to them producing some of the best TVs on the market. We appreciate that the paradigm has shifted but some habits are hard to break. The TX-60AS802B is capable of a very decent performance and is certainly worthy of recommendation but it pales next to the glories of the past. Let's hope Panasonic still has a few surprises up their sleeve.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality9
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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