Panasonic DX902 (TX-65DX902B) UHD 4K TV Review
It's so good that Panasonic fans might actually forget about plasma!
What is the Panasonic DX902?Panasonic might not have had many Ultra HD 4K TVs on show at CES this year but what they did have certainly caught our attention. The DX902 is the culmination of a process that has been ongoing for at least the last three years, after the Japanese manufacturer abandoned plasma and embraced the less familiar LCD market. It hasn't always been plain-sailing and there have been a few issues along the way but last year's range was a big step in the right direction, even if there was still room for improvement. As a result, Panasonic have drawn on all their experience to produce a new model that is intended to not only the best LED LCD TV they have ever made but can also hold is own against a professional studio monitor.
The DX902 is the result of a collaboration between Panasonic, THX and Hollywood colourists to develop an LED LCD TV that can deliver a studio monitor level of picture quality. It combines Panasonic's new Studio Master HCX+ processor with professional quality colour management technology to produce a superior level of image accuracy. However it isn't just the processing that's important, it's also what lies behind the panel. Panasonic have not only used 512 LEDs but added their new 'Honeycomb' local dimming that is designed to prevent light leakage between each of the zones. There is also a specially developed diffuser that is designed to even-out the backlight and eliminate banding that can be caused by the LEDs being directly behind the panel.
All of this picture quality innovation aside, the DX902B also includes many of the features that we would expect on any high-end Ultra HD 4K TV in 2016, including a 10-bit VA panel, an effective Smart TV platform, HDMI 2.0a inputs, HDCP 2.2 compatibility, HEVC decoding, 3D and support for High Dynamic Range (HDR). In fact Panasonic say that not only can the DX902 easily hit 1,000 Nits of peak brightness but that it can do so over a much larger area of the screen than the competition. Panasonic also claim that the TV can reach 96% of the DCI-P3 colour space and, as a result of all these factors, the DX902 was among the first to be awarded Ultra HD Premium status by the UHD Alliance.
All these elements should combine to significantly reduce haloing and deliver a better contrast performance than has previously been seen from an LED LCD TV. What's even more surprising is that despite all the cutting-edge technology in the DX902B and its high-end level of build quality, the TV is also priced quite competitively. In fact as at the time of writing (February 2016) the 65-inch TX-65DX902B costs £3,200 and the 55-inch TX-58DX902B only costs £2,700. That's a lot of TV for a surprisingly reasonable outlay, so let's see if the 65DX902 lives up to all that promise.
DesignThe design of the DX902 doesn't deviate too far from the look of many of Panasonic's recent TVs, so we get a familiar minimalist chassis and black finish. The elegant frame uses a 1cm wide black bezel around the screen and a silver trim around the outer edge that is slightly chamfered with a textured finish. The overall build quality is excellent and the entire panel sits on a wide stand that has two feet at the front and a pedestal at the rear. The feet have a dark metallic finish and are 1330mm apart, so you'll need a wide surface to position the DX902B on and obviously it can't be swivelled. Although if you don't have a large enough cabinet for the TV, there is always the option to wall mount and it has 400 x 400 VESA mounts for the purpose.
Despite the size of the stand it's surprisingly attractive and apparently the slight incline is a safety feature; given the weight of the panel you certainly wouldn't want it falling on your head. The DX902 is also quite wide, even for a TV with a 65-inch screen size, but this is in part due the use of the 512 LEDs in the full array backlight and the new 'Honeycomb' local dimming system. As a result the DX902B measures 1457 x 844 x 64mm and weighs 34.5kg without the stand and with it, the TV measures 1457 x 888 x 334mm and weighs in at 42.5kg. One feature to note is that the DX902 uses a series of fans along the top rear of the panel but, unlike previous plasma models, these fans a very quiet and we only noticed they were even there when we had our head at the rear of the TV with the sound off.
The DX902 uses an elegant and minimalist design but it's a big TV and the stand may be too wide for some.
Connections & ControlThe connections are all at the rear left of the TV and sit behind a removable panel for tidier cable management. The DX902 has a fairly comprehensive set of connections and ticks all the boxes as far as future proofing is concerned. Most importantly it has four HDMI 2.0a inputs with two facing down and two facing sideways - the latter are 16cm from the edge. There is one HDMI input that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and all of them support HDCP 2.2. There are also three USB ports facing sideways (2 x USB 2.0 and 1 x USB 3.0), an SD card slot, a headphone jack and a CI (Common Interface) slot. Whilst facing downwards are dual digital and satellite tuners, an optical digital output and an Ethernet port, although the DX902B naturally has built-in WiFi. Finally there are legacy component, composite and analogue inputs facing rearwards; although it appears Panasonic have finally dropped SCART.
There are some basic controls on the TV itself, at the right rear edge of the panel but for the most part you'll use one of the two included remote controls. The first is a rather attractive silver remote, with a brushed metal finish and a suitably high-end appearance. The remote is long and slim, it fits comfortably in the hand and has a solid and well made feel. It is easy to operate with one hand and has an intuitive layout, with large buttons that are sensibly placed depending on how frequently they would be used. All the buttons you need are on the remote and it was our preferred choice when it came to menu heavy activities like setup and calibration.
The second remote is Panasonic's touch pad controller that has been designed for day-to-day use and easy navigation of the Firefox Smart TV platform. The touch pad uses the same silver brushed metal finish as the larger remote and has a black section with a textured finish similar to the rear of the TV's stand. It is small and curved, sits comfortably in your hand and is very simple to use. It pairs to the TV using Bluetooth and includes a microphone for voice control. Finally if you’d rather use your smart device as a controller, there are also free remote apps for both iOS and Android with Swipe & Share and Smart Calibration features.
Features & SpecsAs you would expect from a high-end Ultra HD 4K TV like the DX902 it comes packed with features, so let's start with the important areas first. As we mentioned in the introduction, the TV is designed to be a 4K Pro Studio Master UHD model that can deliver a superior image accuracy that is accurate to the filmmaker's original intention. Panasonic have worked closely with the Hollywood community and THX to ensure a professional level of colour management that can deliver the wide range of colours that a modern TV must be able to reproduce. At the heart of this performance is Panasonic's new Studio Master HCX+ processor, which is based upon the manufacturers experience making professional monitors and has been tuned by a leading Hollywood colourist. Panasonic also sought input from other parts of the industry, including AVForums, as part of the DX902's development process.
The result is a TV that has been designed to deliver a performance that is almost on a par with a professional studio monitor, making it ideal for watching films. It uses a 10-bit VA panel to ensure deeper native blacks and it includes a full array LED backlight that ensures the TV can meet the UHD Alliance requirements for black level and peak brightness (0.05-1,000 Nits). It also incorporates Panasonic's new 'Honeycomb' local dimming that uses 512 zones and a special structure to reduce light leakage and thus haloing. There is also a newly developed diffuser to improve the backlight uniformity and reduce any banding. As a result the DX902 has no problems delivering HDR and in Panasonic's case they support open source HDR10. The DX902B is certified as Ultra HD Premium by the UHD Alliance, which means that along with everything else we have mentioned it can reproduce at least 90% of DCI-P3.
All that means the DX902 is appropriately future-proofed and this is backed up by the inclusion of four HDMI 2.0a inputs with support for HDCP 2.2 - so you can take full advantage for any future Ultra HD source, including those that pass HDR metadata. The DX902B also includes HEVC decoding, allowing you to take full advantage of the Ultra HD services currently offered by both Amazon and Netflix. In the case of the former, there is already HDR content available, with the latter adding their's soon. The larger chassis on the DX902 means that Panasonic can also pack some decent sized speakers inside, with 2 x tweeters and 2 x woofers powered by 40W of amplification and including a quad passive radiator.
The TV uses quad-core processing and includes the same Firefox Smart TV platform that Panasonic launched last year. We really like Firefox, it has a well designed graphical interface, it’s open source for easier development and it's very intuitive to use. The home screen is nice and simple with three default decks – Live TV, Apps and Devices - but you can personalise it by pinning your favourite content and apps to it. The platform also includes a search tool, allowing you to easily locate content from a variety of video services, websites and any external devices you may have connected. There's also Freeview Play which offers all the major catch-up TV players such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5 and you can read a more detailed review of Firefox here.
As you would expect from a high-end TV, the DX902 is packed with features and the Firefox Smart TV platform remains one of our favourites.
Picture Settings Out-of-the-BoxThe television industry is going through a period of change this year, it's shifting away from the standards that have been used since the introduction of Full HD and towards new standards developed for Ultra HD that better reflect the capabilities of modern displays. As a result the way we test and calibrate new TVs will be gradually changing but for the moment the majority of our testing still reflects the D65, Rec.709 and 2.4 gamma approach that we have always used, although we will also be looking at wider colour gamuts and high dynamic range where possible. We performed a basic setup on the DX902 using one of the Professional Viewing Modes, you could use THX Cinema but we actually found that the Professional modes gave a slightly more accurate set of measurements once setup properly. You can find our suggested settings in the video below.As you can see from the graph above, the greyscale performance of the DX902B was excellent out-of-the-box with all three colours tracking close to each other. The DeltaE errors are around one, making the overall errors well below the visible threshold of three. There is a slight excess of blue across the entire range and a slight deficit of red in the middle section but nothing obvious. The gamma curve is tracking around our target of 2.4, with a slight peak (2.5) at 10IRE and a slight dip (2.2) at 90IRE but it wasn't really noticeable. On a lesser display this would almost be considered a reference performance but this is a Panasonic, so we know we can do better.Panasonic have been emphasising the colour accuracy of the DX902 since they first launched it at CES and that certainly proved to be the case when we measured our review sample. As you can see in the graph above, not only are all the colours at or very close to their targets for 100% saturation but they are also tracking extremely well at all the other saturation points. If we were nitpicking there is a slight over-saturation of red at 50 and 75% and also for blue at 75% but overall this is probably the most accurate out-of-the-box colour performance we have seen from a domestic display.
Panasonic TX-65DX902B Picture Settings
Picture Settings CalibratedWe said we could do better and the calibration controls on the DX902 didn't disappoint. After a brief period of fine tuning the greyscale and gamma we got the measurements below, which are about as perfect as you're likely to see. We could say more but the graph says it all really.
When it came to the colour management system we found that although you could correct red and blue to a degree it tended to have a slightly detrimental effect on magenta, which is composed of those two primary colours. So we would probably recommend just tweaking red, blue and magenta, as their out-of-the-box measurements were already very good. We did find that we could get a near perfect measurement out of green and, as a result, yellow and cyan, with all three colours tracking the saturation points precisely. Ultimately the DX902B delivers a near-reference greyscale and colour performance out-of-the-box and after some minor tweaking it can produce a level of accuracy that is as close to perfect as you're likely to see on a domestic display.
The DX902 delivered one of the most accurate greyscale and colour performances we've seen from a domestic TV.
We mentioned earlier that the standards for TV are changing and this is especially true of colour gamut, which is moving from the relatively constricted Rec.709 to something much wider. The recommendations established for Ultra HD actually use the very wide Rec.2020 colour space but at the moment no domestic display can get anywhere near that gamut and it isn't even used in the cinema for theatrical projection. What is currently used in the cinema is DCI-P3 and since it appears that the studios will use this for their Ultra HD masters, the UHD Alliance has used this colour gamut as the target for their Ultra HD Premium classification. In fact for a TV to be awarded a UHD Premium logo, it needs to achieve at least 90% of DCI-P3. As you can see from the graph above, the DX902 can reproduce almost 96%, which is amongst the largest colour gamuts we have measured.However as with the colour graphs for Rec.709, the measurements at 100% saturation only tell part of the story. The graph above shows the DCI setting on the DX902B at 25, 50, 75 and 100% saturation and as you can see the performance tracks extremely well. This is an out-of-the-box measurement with no calibration, so the TV can already produce a very accurate performance with Ultra HD content that uses the DCI-P3 colour gamut and this could undoubtedly be improved through fine-tuning. We will address the entire subject of calibrating for the new standards in more detail as the year progresses. We have recently updated CalMan 5 and our Klein K-10A meters and will soon be adding new test patterns to our Murideo Fresco Six-G video generators.
Picture QualityWe'll start, as always, with the contrast and dynamic range performance and here Panasonic's hard work has clearly paid dividends. The use of a VA panel means that the DX902 has an excellent native black level for an LCD TV to begin with and we it measured at 0.026 Nits, which is well below the 0.05 Nits target for Ultra HD Premium certification. The TV is also incredibly bright, easily hitting our target of 120 Nits for a nighttime setting and measuring over 700 Nits on a full screen and over 1,000 Nits on a window, which once again exceeds the minimum target for the UHD Premium logo. Using our standard testing criteria, the DX902B delivered an on/off contrast ratio of 4600:1 and an ANSI contrast ratio of 4100:1.
These measurements are without turning the local dimming on but, once you do, the black level drops to 0.000 Nits, even in the Min setting, and the image steps up a gear. The use of 512 LEDs and Panasonic's new 'Honeycomb' local dimming system produces a lovely contrast performance, with a very dynamic picture. There is virtually no haloing, even on quite challenging material like fireworks against a black sky but the diffuser also plays its part, producing a nice even backlight and eliminating most banding. If we're being critical, and that's what we're here for, there was still some minor banding apparent on fast camera pans over football pitches but we feel the DX902 is superior to any other full array local dimming TV that we've tested to date.
Since the DX902B uses a VA panel the optimal viewing angle is fairly limited, about 20 degrees either side of centre. Once you begin to move further off-axis you will see a reduction in contrast and colour performance. We measured the black level at 0.05 Nits at about 45 degrees off centre, which gives you an idea of how viewing angles can affect performance. This is less of a criticism of the DX902 and more a reflection of the limitations the VA panel technology and there really is nothing that Panasonic can do to mitigate the issue. So if viewing angles are important you either need to look at IPS panels and lose the excellent black levels or go for an OLED TV instead.
The motion handling was excellent for an LCD panel, with the TV delivering over 400 lines of motion resolution in our tests. Of course depending on your preference you can always use the Intelligent Frame Creation feature for frame interpolation and smoothing but we had no issues with the motion handling of this TV. As we've already mentioned, the DX902B can deliver an incredibly accurate image in terms of greyscale, gamma and colour gamut. So once you combine this with Panasonic's always excellent image processing, you can begin to imagine the kind of wonderful pictures this TV delivers. Whether the source was Ultra HD, Full HD or even standard definition, the DX902 produced detailed and accurate images with a lovely natural appearance.
Of course the better the source material, the better the image the TV can reproduce but even with standard definition content the picture was very watchable, which is remarkable when you consider how much of that picture is being interpolated. Once we moved onto high definition TV broadcasts the DX902B had a chance to really show what it is capable of and BBC wildlife documentaries in particular looked gorgeous. The same was true for sports broadcasts like the football and rugby, whilst TV dramas retained a suitably film-like appearance. In general any issues with the image were not the fault of the TV and were just limitations in the original broadcast and the compression being used.
The DX902 has been developed for watching films just as the creators intended, so things really kicked up a gear once we moved on to Blu-rays. We went through a number of our favourite test scenes and the DX902B produced some wonderful images. The highly impressive Blu-rays of both Jurassic World and Tomorrowland looked stunning, with lovely natural images and plenty of fine detail. The scene in Gravity where Sandra Bullock's character tumbles off into space is a great test of any local dimming system and one that the DX902B aced. The black of space was suitably black but the stars were still visible and the local dimming effectively handled the shifts in dynamic range caused by the white space suit reflecting in the sun. There was no obvious haloing and the system also retained shadow detail, as shown in the opening flyby of Sunshine or the scene where Tom Cruise is being told the truth in Oblivion.
That last film in particular is an especially good test of the capabilities of the DX902 because the colourist on Oblivion was Mike Sowa, who was closely involved in the development of the DX902 and last year's CZ952. Mike has demonstrated this particular scene to AVForums, explaining exactly what you're supposed to see, and Panasonic also showed the scene at CES simultaneously on the DX902 and on a $30,000 OLED studio monitor in a private editors demo session. It's a testament to the DX902B's quality and proof of Panasonic's success, that there was very little between the two images. We often talk about TVs delivering exactly what the filmmakers intended but the DX902 might come closer than any previous domestic TV in reproducing the look of a professional studio monitor.
We still only have a limited amount of native 4K content to test with but what we did have looked absolutely spectacular on the DX902. Once again all the key factors of contrast performance and image accuracy came into play as the TV took full advantage of the panel's native resolution. The images of the Canadian wilderness shot on the Panasonic GH4 had an incredible amount of detail, whilst the mountains and forests remained natural looking. We had a brief clip of The Lego Movie in HDR which we were able to compare to our Blu-ray of the film and the results were a revelation. It wasn't so much the change in resolution that was apparent but the wider colour gamut and higher dynamic range, which made the Blu-ray look insipid by comparison. It was quite an eye-opener and a good indication of just how much of a game-changer HDR can be going forward.
Finally we tested the 3D performance of the DX902B and this is one of the few areas where it slightly disappointed. Using our two favourite test scenes, the 'seeds of the sacred tree' from Avatar and 'Marvin the Martian' from Gravity, we could immediately see more crosstalk than we would like. It wasn't excessive and on most content it probably wouldn't be apparent but on anything with a lot of negative or positive parallax it was definitely present. Having said that, given the recent news regarding other manufacturers dropping 3D entirely, we should probably be grateful that Panasonic still support the format.
Sound QualityAs a by-product of Panasonic's uncompromising approach to the picture quality on the DX902 the chassis is quite large and, as a result, there is more room for a decent sound system. There are twin woofers and tweeters built-in, along with a quad passive radiator and 40W of amplification. So although we expect most owners of the DX902B will use some form of outboard sound solution, should you decide to use the built-in audio you won't be disappointed. The size of the screen gives the audio a nice sense of stereo separation and the TV can deliver a big and open sound that suits its dimensions. The audio can also go quite loud without distorting, so the DX902 shouldn't have any problems, even in a large room. If you're watching movies or TV dramas we would definitely recommend a full surround system to make the most of the TV's fantastic picture but for general TV watching the built-in sound solution is more than adequate.
Panasonic TX-65DX902B Video Review
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionWhen we initially reviewed the DX902 we measured an input lag of 68ms which is too high for serious gamers. However our review sample was one of the first production units in the world and was running an early version of the firmware. In response to our findings Panasonic have updated the firmware and as a result the 58-inch DX902 now measures an input lag of 35ms, whilst the 65-inch model measures 38ms. We took these measurements with just about everything turned off including the Adaptive Backlight Control and Intelligent Frame Creation, although setting the Adaptive Backlight Control to Min actually made no difference to the measurements.
Interestingly turning the Game Mode off also made no difference but this is because we had the IFC feature off. So effectively if you turn off most features whilst gaming then you don't actually need to use the Game Mode and it's really just a quick way of reducing the input lag if you do have a number of features engaged. In case you're wondering, turning the Game Mode off and turning the IFC feature on added an extra 10ms to the lag time. An input lag of less than 40ms is excellent and makes what was already an impressive TV even more desirable. Perhaps more importantly, top marks to Panasonic for being so proactive and addressing our feedback immediately.
Considering its size and inherent brightness, the DX902 is surprisingly economical when it comes to energy consumption. We measured a 50% full screen raster in Normal mode (which is what the TV ships in) at 211W, which is just below the number Panasonic quote in their specifications. However our calibrated Professional mode measured just 109W, which is impressive for a 65-inch TV. The main difference between the two is the backlight setting, so when using day mode or watching HDR content, the energy consumption will obviously go up. The DX902 is certainly capable of delivering an incredibly bright picture, over 700 Nits on a full screen, which would explain the need for all those fans.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best) 96% 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) 10 What do these mean?
It's taken them a while but Panasonic have finally delivered the best LED LCD TV we have tested to date.
- Reference greyscale and colour accuracy
- Excellent contrast performance
- Highly effective local dimming
- Uniform backlighting
- Plenty of future-proofing
- Great video processing
- Attractively designed and solidly built
- Decent sound performance
- Occasional minor banding
- Some crosstalk with 3D content
- Limited viewing angles
- Stand may be too wide for some
Panasonic DX902 (TX-65DX902B) UHD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?
Whilst it's still early days, if you're looking for an Ultra HD 4K LED LCD TV that has the lot, then the simple answer is probably yes. For a start the Panasonic TX-65DX902B sports an attractive, minimalist design and uses a great level of build quality. We're still not quite sure why the screen is at a slight incline and the stand might be too wide for some people but there's always the option to wall mount. There are fans included for cooling but we never found these to be an issue and couldn't hear them at all unless we put our head to the rear of the panel.
The feature set is excellent with everything you would expect from a modern TV including a 10-bit VA panel, 3D, HEVC decoding, HDR support and a colour gamut that is 96% of DCI-P3. There are HDMI 2.0a inputs with support for HDCP 2.2 and the TV includes quad-core processing and Panasonic's simple but effective Firefox Smart TV platform. The built-in sound is very good and for a TV this big and bright, it is surprisingly economic when it comes to energy consumption. In fact our only disappointment was the high input lag but then this TV isn't designed for gaming.
It's been designed from the ground up to deliver a level of image accuracy and performance that can almost match a professional studio monitor, making the DX902 ideal for watching movies. This certainly proved to be the case in testing, with the TV delivering among the best out-of-the-box and calibrated measurements we have seen from a domestic display. It also managed to repeat this performance for DCI-P3, adding to the TV's future-proofed qualifications. The other big feature on the DX902B is the full array backlight with improved local dimming and here Panasonic's work really paid dividends. The black level and contrast performance was superb for an LCD TV, the backlight uniformity was excellent and there was almost no haloing.
Since the DX902 uses a VA panel, the optimal viewing angle is relatively narrow, and haloing became more apparent as you moved off-axis, but this is largely unavoidable with that panel technology. There was also the slightest banding on fast camera pans across football pitches but overall this is the best backlight performance that we have seen from a TV using full array local dimming. The same was true for the rest of the performance, with Panasonic's usual superb image processing delivering lovely images regardless of the source resolution.
Of course if you're watching Ultra HD then the images can be breathtaking and what little HDR content we currently have looked stunning. However Full HD content also looked fantastic, with detailed and natural images thanks to the TV's inherent accuracy. Motion handling was also very good for an LCD TV and there really was very little for us to fault the DX902B on, aside from some crosstalk with 3D content. However at least Panasonic are still supporting 3D and overall the TX-65DX902B delivered the best looking images that we have seen from an LED LCD TV to date. The only way you're likely to get a more accurate picture is if you buy a $30,000 OLED studio monitor and that's only got a 25-inch screen!
What are my alternatives?
Since Panasonic is the first manufacturer out of the gates this year, that's a difficult question to answer. We have yet to see any of the LED LCD TVs from the other major brands but based upon our experiences with the 65DX902B we certainly think they've got their work cut out for them. The obvious alternatives will either be the Samsung KS9500 or the Sony XD94 but of course there is also LG's new range of OLED TVs that certainly looked impressive at CES. However when you consider its combination of performance, features and price, the Panasonic DX902 is going to be a tough act to follow and naturally comes highly recommended.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
3D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box10
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money10
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