Panasonic DX700 (TX-58DX700B) UHD 4K TV Review
What is the Panasonic TX-58DX700?The DX700 series is Panasonic’s gateway in to High Dynamic Range (HDR) video and, of course, it boasts an Ultra HD 4K resolution, as well, so it is very much a cutting edge TV in the terms of the technologies it employs. We have already been wowed by the flagship Panasonic DX902B with its special backlighting system and superb colour presentation but, for many, the asking price on that particular television will be too much so the DX700B is sure to garner plenty of interest. Speaking of pricing, the 58-inch DX700 has a suggested retail of £1199.99, the TX-50DX700 comes in at £999 while the junior, 40-inch TX-40DX700 will set you back a penny shy of £800. Let’s see if the Panasonic DX700 hits the mark as affordable HDR.
DesignThe first thing to say about the Panasonic DX700 is that it will almost certainly fit on your AV unit, unlike some of the high-end TVs released in the last couple of years, owing to stand designs that are too wide for regular furniture. The feet can be placed in two positions – one formation is just off-centre with a minimum width of 60cm required while the other option would require you to have almost 130cm of available space. To be honest, we don’t think one formation looks any better than the other so just go with what works for you. Other than the feet, there’s nothing particularly remarkable about the design which features a very narrow silver trim all around the gloss black screen.
Adjustable feet mean the DX700 will fit on almost any stand
Connections & ControlConnections are around the back and can be hidden courtesy of two detachable panels. The smaller one covers the Ethernet, Toslink digital and legacy video and audio connections but if you want to hard wire in to your network – which we would recommend for 4k/HDR streaming – you can’t use it. There are no such problems with the larger panel which hides the three HDMI connections, two of which support HDCP 2.2/HDMI 2.0a as verified by our Murideo Six-G generator. There are also 3 USB ports (2 x v2/1x v3.0), a Freeview HD capable aerial input and a headphone jack. The connectivity you can’t see is WiFi 802.11ac/b/g/n and Bluetooth v4.0.
Unlike many of the TVs we receive for review, the Panasonic TX-58DX700 comes with just the one remote which is a classic Panasonic design. It’s quite big, comes in silver to complement the trim on the TV and features an assortment of well laid out and generously sized buttons; the largest of those is the dedicated one for Netflix. In summary, it’s a no-nonsense handset that quite simply gets the job done.
Features and SpecsAside from the obvious inclusion of HDR technology, the DX700 features an 8-bit panel with a claimed peak brightness of 350nits, which is some way short of the 1,000 required for Premium Ultra HD certification. To assist with the perception of smooth motion handling the DX700 incorporates 1400Hz Backlight Motion Rate (BMR), which means it can very rapidly switch the backlight on and then off again. There’s also local dimming technology included to help improve contrast and black levels and the ability to produce a wider colour spectrum (gamut) than conventional televisions.
Panasonic has stuck with the Firefox operating system to provide the Smart TV functionality and we think this is a good move. The reason why Firefox is so good is that it is extremely simple to use and places emphasis on the services people actually want in a connected TV – i.e. video streaming apps. The DX700 includes 4K streaming via Netflix, Amazon and YouTube; performance with Netflix, in particular, was excellent with the DX700 switching instantly to the app upon depression of aforementioned button. At the time of publishing HDR content from Amazon and Netflix wasn’t available but was billed as coming soon so we’ll revisit them later in the year when they are.
The home screen has three initial default cards - Live TV, Apps and Devices. The Live TV option integrates extremely well with Freeview Play which, in turn, allows you to set recordings to external USB storage and access the catch up players of the major free to air services - BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and My 5. The apps card is fairly self-explanatory and provides access to all your downloaded apps as well as the apps market where you can add supplementary ones. The devices card is where you can find, well, other devices on your network from which you can playback media files, as well as any USB storage devices attached to the DX700. We’ll be covering the entire Panasonic 2016 Smart TV platform in a dedicated review soon so watch out for that but our short summary is that it has more or less everything you would want and delivers them well.
Panasonic TX-58DX700 Recommended Settings
Picture Settings – Out of the boxAs ever, with Panasonic TVs not blessed with professional or THX picture modes, the go-to option is True Cinema and, in this case, it produced an image with highly commendable accuracy right out of the box. Looking at the backbone of any great picture – the greyscale – and we can see from the RGB Balance chart that the mix of red, green and blue energy is nice and even with just a general trend for there being too much blue and green, but it was not very noticeable in real world viewing with most content. We can see at the bottom of the scale – near black – that the excess of blue is more pronounced and this is definitely easier to spot with blueish blacks in darker scenes.
Moving on to the colour performance measured against the Rec.709 colour gamut, which is the one that is key for everything but Ultra HD Blu-rays, at this time, and we can see that the 58DX700 again performs very well. Colour tracking is mostly excellent throughout the various measured saturation points, albeit with green heading off toward cyan slightly and blue having a tendency to over-saturate but these errors are even less tangible than those in the greyscale so, all in all, we have an excellent out-of-box performance from the Panasonic TX-58DX700.
Picture Settings CalibratedGiven the fact there are both two and ten point white balance controls available, as well as 10-point gamma, it wasn’t too difficult to get the DX700 to track almost exactly to target during calibration. The only thing we couldn’t fully rectify was the spike of excess blue energy at 10% stimulus; or rather we could get the charts looking perfect but only at the expense of introducing banding errors in the darker portions of the picture and we’d rather settle for blue-y blacks.
In terms of aligning the colours, only the gentlest of manipulations were required to bring the DX700 in to line. Again, while we could have improved the charts a little at full saturation levels – the uppermost squares at the perimeters of the triangle – but that would have been to the detriment of lesser saturated colours which actually make up the vast majority of what we watch.
Picture Settings - HDRThe onset of HDR video means we need to almost rip up our previous rule books and start again afresh, although the point of calibration will always be to get the most accurate image from a display. In addition to the specular highlights HDR brings the new standards for UHD Blu-ray also mean we’re dealing with a new, much wider colour gamut (Rec.2020) and a new EOTF (Electro Optical Transfer Function) which describes how to turn digital information into light. The adopted EOTF standard is known as SMPTE ST2084 (nice and catchy) and it uses perceptual quantisation (PQ) to better replicate how the human eye deals with light; no longer do we have to account for technology from the pre-digital era. Make no mistake this is a massive sea change from how things used to be and, at least for the time being, we’re at the mercies of the manufacturers in terms of how they are facing up to the new challenges. There are a number of recommendations concerning SMPTE 2084 but the majority of manufacturers are using HDR 10 to reproduce the EOTF and since it’s an open standard they can use pretty much any approach they like.
One thing we can be 100% sure of is that Ultra HD Blu-ray is/will be delivered within a Rec.2020 container, meaning the DCI-P3 colour space used in mastering the material - although not a part of any home entertainment specification - needs to be correctly mapped to the saturation tracking targets of the Rec.2020 colour gamut. Yes, it is confusing but hopefully the charts below will help describe it better.
For consistency, all our reviews use a Klein K-10A that includes colour profiles designed to match the Quantum Dot technology used in most higher-end TVs this year and we also use a Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator which can produce 4K test patterns, the Rec.2020 colour space and also create the necessary HDR metadata, so that a TV will detect the signal and switch to the appropriate mode. Please note, at this stage we are not showing calibrated charts for the HDR mode. The reason for this is that rather than showing calibrated results that are not representative for the majority of users, we feel that currently it is more important to show what the display is capable of out-of-the-box and how closely it adheres to the standards. In that regard, what we can say in this review is how the TV will perform for every user and not just those who have calibrated their TV. Ok, so on with the show…
While the actual mix of red, green and blue energy within the greyscale isn’t too far off what we’d like to see in the True Cinema mode, the EOTF response isn’t tracking where we would like. Anything above the yellow line means images are too bright and, conversely, anything below is too dark. It’s worth noting we set the pattern generator to produce static HDR metadata that identifies the content as being mastered at 10,000 nits, 1,000 nits and the actual peak luminance of the panel, at around 350, itself but the results remained the same; altering the gamma setting to 2.2 helped with the EOTF results but we couldn’t get delta Errors (dE’s) below 5, although that’s a reasonably creditable result.Looking at the charts above, it’s evident that the Panasonic is making a reasonably good job of remapping the colour information to the correct stimulation levels of the Rec.2020 colour gamut. That’s particularly true at 25 and 50%, although both green and cyan struggle to reach even 75% of the target. The dE’s might seem on the high side but a lot of those are accounted for by the EOTF errors and we wouldn’t really expect any more than the circa 70% total coverage of the Rec.2020 colour space the DX700 produces, considering it is an entry level HDR TV.
Black Levels and Contrast RatiosIn terms of the UK market, Panasonic has gone exclusively with the use of VA type panels which means all the 2016 TVs should offer good black levels and, indeed, the TX-58DX700 produces exactly that. We measured a minimum luminance of 0.038cd/m2 on an all-black screen against a calibrated white level of 121 cd/m2 giving an On/Off contrast ratio of 3184:1. More tellingly, using a chequerboard pattern with alternating black and white blocks to give an idea of intra-frame contrast performance the black level is raised to 0.046cd/m2 and average white came in at 106 cd/m2, giving an ANSI contrast ratio of 2304:1 which is still pretty impressive for LED/LCD technology. With the brief clips of HDR content we had at the time of testing it was pretty evident that the black floor raised quite considerably when playing that back, which is exactly what we’d expect from an edge-lit set where the dimming can’t be so precise.
Backlight UniformityIn our first ten hours, or so, of time with the Panasonic DX700 there were two fairly obvious, and quite large, patches of uneven lighting toward the middle and top-left of the screen visible in all darker scenes. Correctly setting up – i.e. reducing the backlight – did help a little and after the run-in period was over they became far less noticeable but they were still there and of occasional nuisance value. As a big viewer of sports we find ourselves getting especially irked by uniformity problems when content is brighter, particularly with the panel banding effect we see so often on LED TVs as the action pans across the screen but the DX700 scores very highly in this regard. It is there, as it is with virtually every LCD TV, but to a much lesser extent than the vast majority of those, almost to the point where we hardly noticed. Thank you Panasonic engineering.
Local Dimming and Viewing AnglesIn neither of these areas does the TX-58DX700 cover itself in particular glory, especially in terms of the viewing angles which are downright poor. On scenes where the director or DOP has gone with anything like an intentional pastel/faded/washed out look, if you are sitting any more than twenty degrees off-centre you could be forgiven for thinking there was something wrong with your setup/settings in fact. We will evidence certain scenes in Episode 5 Season 2 of Better Call Saul, here, where we actually got up off the couch to check everything was OK. It’s not so obvious with fully saturated content - or that rich in colour - but if you were to be watching something and then get up and move to the sides, the contrast and saturation drop-off would be unmissable. Until recently, with the flagship DX902 and its excellent honeycomb system, Panasonic has never really done local dimming very well. While the DX700 is an improvement over the edge dimming TVs we’ve seen from them before, it’s not really very convincing in this facet of performance with some very noticeable haloing and flash-lighting visible at times, even with the adaptive backlight control set to Min. It’s usable in that state and definitely improves the perceived contrast performance but be prepared to tolerate some inconsistencies if you have it engaged.
Motion HandlingWhile in terms of actual motion resolution, i.e. holding on to details in the image under fast movement, the DX700 scored reasonably well. Personally I’m tolerant to a bit of blur, which the TV will exhibit at times, and I certainly find it preferable to the unnatural looking, overly-smooth presentation I find the majority of motion interpolating processing produces. That said, Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation used in its lowest setting is very mild and most wouldn’t notice it were switched on. Despite that, we did have some issues relating to the motion handling of the 58DX700 where we would observe what looked like frames being dropped every so often. It was most evident when watching sports, when there were frequent changes in pace with the on-screen action but it happened at other times too. It’s hard to pin down a precise reason, or indeed a pattern, but it seemed exclusive to broadcast content at 50Hz; further still, content sent at 1080 lines of resolution, interlaced and captured at 50 frames per second, rather than the ever more prevalent 1080 lines progressive at 25 frames per second, so it could be related to deinterlacing. Whatever the reason, we found it more and more distracting, as time went by, and definitely our biggest bugbear with this particular TV. It is something we saw in last year’s Panasonics but it seems to have worsened. Owners of Samsung TVs with CMR processing, from years gone by, might be familiar with the effect which is somewhat akin to someone pressing pause/fast forward/pause/fast forward.. on the remote in very rapid order.
Standard and High DefinitionWe can’t say we spend a lot of time viewing standard definition material nowadays but there are times when it is unavoidable. Considering the amount of pixels an Ultra HD TV has to interpolate/make up, the Panasonic DX700 makes a pretty good job of SD fare although don’t be taken in my any marketing hype that they are scaled to near HD, or even UHD, quality; something like a high quality animation DVD can look mighty good but, equally, some bitrate starved channels on Freeview, Sky, Virgin etc really can look very poor. That’s not really the fault of the Panasonic but just be aware the DX700 is not a miracle worker.
For most of us, at least we assume AVForums readers seek out high quality sources, the bulk of viewing will be high definition whether that be via Blu-ray disc, broadcast or streaming services. Here the TX-58DX700 does an excellent job of scaling 1080p to the Ultra HD panel, to the extent that static scenes and/or close-ups can give the appearance of being more than Full HD. As ever, the quality of video processing from Panasonic is top notch so while we’re all sat around waiting for a compelling and comprehensive catalogue of Ultra HD Blu-ray discs to be released, you won’t be disappointed with how the DX700 treats Full HD.
High Dynamic Range (HDR)We would love for this section to be more comprehensive but, as it is, we're in the very early days of the format and content is very limited. We are lucky enough to have a playback device, in the shape of the Samsung UBD-K8500, but at the time of writing (non-coincidentally on the UK launch date for UHD discs), our collection numbers one title, although more are on the way! Said UHD Blu-ray is Kingsman: The Secret Service and whilst it's not taken from a 4K master, it's still a stunning looking title with enough for us to briefly evaluate the HDR capabilities of the DX700.
What probably struck us most was how natural the image looked, in terms of the lighting. Several scenes in the back-street boozer that the ne'r do wells frequent features light coming in through a window at the back of the room and, while they're not incredible visual spectacles in themselves, comparing them back to back with the Full HD Blu-ray disc is quite revelatory; they just look like you would imagine they would in real life and, believe us, we've been in our share of dodgy pubs!
For more of the wow factor, check out Chapter 32 and the scenes set in space, and the specular highlights of the earth's atmosphere and reflections from the helmet are dazzling. Likewise, the explosions. disco lighting and frequent muzzle flashes look storming with all displaying a lot more depth, detail and brightness than available in the SDR version; there's just a polish and pizzazz in HDR you can't match with conventional material. In terms of evaluating the TV, itself, the DX700 did a great job of remapping the Rec.2020 colour gamut to the native capabilities of the panel but the limitations of the edge-based dimming system are very apparent with the Panasonic displaying sometimes jarring luminance shifts from one shot to the next; in fact we switched off Adaptive Backlight Control altogether with the HDR content but it still looked fabulous, if not quite as good as we know it would with a full array dimming system or a self-emitting technology, i.e. OLED. We have to say we had our doubts that an edge-lit TV could deliver the goods with HDR but we were very pleasantly surprised and if you can live with the fact you know it can look even better, you won't be disappointed, in the slightest, with the Panasonic TX-58DX700B.
Sound QualityThe pair of 10w speakers squeezed in to the narrow confines of the DX700’s chassis provide a surprisingly full sound, at least for a TV. Dialogue, in particular, is always crystal clear and the Panasonic also produces decent mid and high frequencies too. It’s definitely lacking at the other end, however, so if you’re anything like a bit of a bass head you will no doubt want to sort out an external solution such as a soundbar or even go the full monty with a dedicated 5.1/7.1 system – go on, you know you want to.
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionPrior to measuring the exact input latency, with our Leo Bodnar lag tester, we decided to engage in a spot of gaming without the prior knowledge of the result. What we say is that you will definitely need to engage the Game Mode from the picture menu else you will be severely disadvantaged, from the outset, and we found it unplayable for FIFA, Halo 5 and Forza Horizon without it. Switching on the game mode made the DX700 feel about 3x more responsive and the measurements nearly bore that out. In True Cinema, without Game Mode, we recorded an input lag of 122.5 milliseconds but with it engaged that drops down to 55ms. So, the Panasonic TX-58DX700 is definitely not the fastest gaming TV on the planet but we found it perfectly serviceable for our casual gaming habits and the picture quality was excellent, with no ghosting or panel response issues visible.
Using a full window 50% white pattern, in the out of box normal mode, we measured energy consumption at 129W, which is pretty impressive for a 58-inch 4K TV but if you take the time to move in to True Cinema and adjust the settings a little, consumption drops to just 109W so there’s another reason to watch accurate images.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 68% 10-bit Panel HDMI 2.0a Inputs HDCP 2.2 Support HEVC Decoding 4K Streaming Services Smart TV Platform Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 9 What do these mean?
- Copes well with HDR
- Good blacks
- Excellent out of box colour accuracy
- Mostly very strong processing
- Virtually every video streaming platform you'll need
- Adjustable stand
- Fairly frequent stuttering effect with 50Hz content
- Extremely narrow viewing angles
- Mediocre dimming system
Panasonic DX700 (TX-58DX700B) UHD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?The Panasonic TX-58DX700 is a relatively affordable way to dive in to the HDR/Ultra HD revolution. The design is sleek and attractive while connectivity is bang up to date with two HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 inputs allowing you to take full advantage of the cutting edge video formats. The Firefox Smart TV platform is also well equipped for the future with 4k streaming available from YouTube, Netflix and Amazon, with the latter two soon to offer HDR programming on the DX700. Panasonic’s 2016 TVs also benefit from the inclusion of Freeview Play which, with the aid of external storage, can turn them in to near fully fledged PVRs as well as providing access to all the major UK catchup services – BBC iPlayer, All 4, My 4 and ITV Hub.
In terms of delivering high quality images, the Panasonic TX-58DX700 mostly produces the goods too. The out of box colour accuracy of the True Cinema mode is highly impressive and video processing, for the most part, is also excellent. A good Blu-ray disc will even provide a taster of what Ultra HD Blu-ray disc will bring, in terms of resolution, thanks to the excellent scaling engine inside the DX700. The native contrast performance of the Panasonic is also strong with solid blacks and, of course with this being an HDR TV, it can go mighty bright too. We do have some concerns that the edge dimming system might not really be up to the job for HDR going forwards, however, although our brief encounters with the format on the DX700 were definitely positive and more than a metaphoric eye-opener. More concerning are the restrictive viewing angles and, in particular, the stuttering visible on 50Hz content that sees the Panasonic TX-58DX700B narrowly miss out on an award.
What are the alternatives?At this stage of the year (April 2016) we’re a bit limited in terms of the samples we’ve seen but we can give resounding recommendations for both the Samsung KS9000 and Panasonic’s very own, and outstanding, DX902. Both will cost you a fair bit more, however so it’s probably prudent to hang fire until there’s a bit more choice available.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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