Do Panasonic really believe in the value of the curve?
What is the Panasonic TX-55CR852B?The CR852 is Panasonic’s latest curved Ultra HD 4K LED LCD TV and represents one of their higher-end models. As with many manufacturers these days, Panasonic want to offer consumers a choice of styles and whilst most of their screens are flat, the CR852B provides a curved offering as well. It comes in two screen sizes, the 55-inch TX-55CR852B that costs £1,999 and the 65-inch TX-65CR852B which will set you back £3,199 as at the time of writing (October 2015).
Along with the curved VA panel that Panasonic are using, the TV delivers many of the same features as their other higher-end TVs this year. So you get 4K Ultra HD resolution and a quad-core processor with Panasonic’s 4K Studio Master Processor. There’s also Local Dimming Pro, Studio Master Colour and my Home Screen 2.0 powered by Firefox OS. However is that enough for the CR852 to compete with the kings of the curved screen - Samsung - or are Panasonic just going through the motions?
DesignThe CR852 uses a curved screen but the curve itself is very mild and, as is often the case with curved screens, you quickly forget about it. The curve might be more noticeable when wall mounted due to the juxtaposition against a flat surface but when stand mounted it really is a moot point. The curve certainly didn't result in any noticeable geometry issues when watching from the sides and it also managed to avoid the problem of unwanted reflections that plagued earlier curved screens. Aside from the curved screen, the CR852 uses a similar design to Panasonic's high-end CX802. So the entire panel is at a slight incline and sits on a stand that is composed of two dark silver feet positioned at either end and joined by a curved section. There is a 1cm wide dark silver bezel with a brushed metal effect and a matching trim around the outer edge.
Due to the nature of the stand it obviously can’t be swivelled and the feet are 123cm apart, so you’re going to need a wide surface on which to position the TV. The incline might also be an issue if you position the TV too high up, so bear that in mind. There’s 6cm of clearance beneath the screen itself, for those thinking of placing a soundbar directly in front of the panel, although you could wall mount the 55CR852 instead. It includes 400 x 400 VESA mounts for this purpose, eliminating any issues with the stand and allowing you to fit a soundbar underneath. At the rear right, as you face the screen, there are a simple set of controls and a three-pin socket for the power cable, whilst all the connections are at the rear left. The 55CR852B measures 1,236 x 764 x 275mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 26kg including the stand.
Curved screen aside, the CR852 shares the same attractive design and build quality of the CX802.
Connections & ControlAs mentioned in the previous section, the connections are all at the left rear of the TV and use a combination of sideways, rearwards and downwards facing inputs. Facing downwards are two HDMI 2.0a inputs, one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel), along with dual tuners for both Freeview HD and satellite. There’s also an Ethernet port, although the CR852 has built-in WiFi, and an optical digital output.
The sideways facing inputs are only 14cm from the edge of the screen and here you’ll find another HDMI 2.0a input, three USB ports (one of which can be used with an external HDD for using the TV as a PVR), a headphone jack, an SD card slot and a CI (Common Interface) slot. Facing rearwards are the legacy inputs and here you’ll find SCART, component and composite video, along with an analogue stereo input.
At the rear, along with the connections, there are some basic controls with on/off, volume up/down, channel up/down and an input/OK button. These are handy should you ever misplace the remote but you shouldn't since the CR852 comes with two controllers. The first is a standard Panasonic remote which has a silver finish and includes a backlight for use in the dark. Whilst it is quite large, it includes all the buttons you’ll need, fits comfortably in your hand and is easy to use.
Alternatively there’s the new touch pad controller which is small and curved but also sits comfortably in your hand and is very useful for navigating the Firefox powered smart TV platform. It includes a microphone for voice control and whilst not as sophisticated as the motion controllers from some of the competition, it is an effective little remote. Of course if you’d rather use your smart device as a controller, there are also free remote apps for both iOS and Android.
Features & SpecsAlthough the big selling point of the CR852 is its curved screen, it includes all the same features as Panasonic's flagship flat screen LCD TV - the CX802. So along with an Ultra HD 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160, there's a VA panel which means better native blacks, although it does also mean a narrower optimal viewing angle. The 55CR852 also uses a direct LED back light and includes local dimming with 9 x 2 zones. Whilst the panel is only 8-bit the Panasonic does include Studio Master Colour for a wider colour space (using phosphors rather than quantum dots) and it will support High Dynamic Range (HDR) when a firmware update is released later in the year. The CR852B includes a Quad Core Pro engine for faster performance and a 4K Studio Master Processor for superior picture processing.
We like my Home Screen 2.0 which is now powered by the Firefox operating system. It has a nicely designed graphical interface, it’s open source for easier development and it's very intuitive to use. The home screen is pleasingly simple, with three default decks – Live TV, Apps and Devices. However you can personalise the screen by pinning your favourite content and apps to it. The platform also includes a new search tool, allowing you to easily locate content from a variety of video services, websites and any external devices you may have connected to your TV. The new Freeview Play service has also finally been launched, although sadly it was just too late for this review. This service is exclusive to Panasonic’s 2015 line-up and offers all the major catch-up TV players such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5. You can read a more detailed review of Panasonic's Smart TV system for 2015 here.
We remain impressed by my Home Screen 2.0 with Firefox - it's simple, intuitive and it works!
Picture Settings Out-of-the-BoxAs with any Panasonic TV you can get a long way towards an accurate image purely by selecting the correct Viewing Mode. The True Cinema mode is certainly a good starting point, although if you're feeling a bit more confident then the two ISF professional modes are even better. We found in testing that these modes offered the most accurate starting point out-of-the-box and given that there are two, it provides an opportunity to create day and night settings.
These modes default to the settings that best approximate the industry standards and they also turn off most of the special features, so all you need to do is set the backlight, contrast and brightness controls to suit your particular viewing environment. We would recommend turn the Adaptive Backlight Control off and the same goes for IFC or 24p Smooth Film. Also make sure that 16:9 Overscan is turned off in Screen Settings to avoid any unwanted scaling.
For more information about how to get the most out of any TV, take a look at our PicturePerfect page.
As you can see in the graphs above, just following these few simple steps will give you a highly accurate picture that is very close to the current industry standards. The greyscale performance is impressive, with all three primary colours tracking close to one another and the overall errors are well below the visible threshold of three. There's a tiny excess of blue and deficit of red at 80-100 IRE but it really isn't noticeable. The gamma is largely tracking around 2.3, with some minor bumps up to 2.4 at 10 and 90 IRE.
The colour performance was equally as impressive with all the colours at or very close to their targets for Rec.709. The overall errors are again below the visible threshold of three and the only errors worth mentioning are in the saturation of blue and magenta. Overall this is a great out-of-the-box performance from the CR852 and even if you did get the Panasonic calibrated, it's unlikely you'd actually notice any real difference to the greyscale and colour gamut.
Picture Settings CalibratedAlthough its unlikely that you would get many perceivable benefits from calibrating the CR852, since all the TV reviewers here at AVForums are fully qualified and experienced THX and ISF calibrators, we're in position to establish just how accurate it can be after calibration. We expect the majority of owners will only watch the 55CR852B in its optimal out-of-the-box settings but by calibrating the image we can establish its full potential. As with all of Panasonic's TVs, the CR852B includes an extensive set of calibration features with both two- and ten-point White Balance controls and a full Colour Management System (CMS), so we would expect a reference performance after calibration.
Which is exactly what we got, as you can see from the graphs above. The greyscale was already so accurate that we didn't touch the two-point and merely fine-tuned 80-100 IRE using the ten-point control. We then used the detailed Gamma controls to fine tune the curve until it tracked 2.3 exactly. The result was a reference greyscale and gamma performance, with the colour temperature of white hitting the industry standard of D65.
All the colour gamut required was a few minor adjustments on the CMS and we had an equally reference performance in terms of colour accuracy. This accuracy applied at lower saturation points as well, with most of the colours measuring close to their targets, aside from some minor under-saturation in red and blue. Unfortunately the native colour gamut of the CR852 is only slightly larger than Rec.709 and thus falls short of the DCI colour space.
It delivered a wonderfully accurate image right out of the box, making calibration largely superfluous.
Panasonic TX-55CR852B Picture Settings
Well in terms of image accuracy the out-of-the-box performance was superb, as proven by the graphs in the previous two sections. As a result the images produced by the CR852 had a lovely natural appearance. Of course there are plenty of other aspects that make up a good picture but this is a great start and clearly good news for owners who don’t want to get a professional calibration. The use of a direct backlight is another important aspect, resulting in a decent level of uniformity although it wasn’t quite as good as the CX802. Perhaps it was due to the curve but there was was some slight clouding visible in a completely dark room, although thanks to the deeper chassis, the CR852B was at least free of banding caused by the LEDs being visible, which is good news.
The 55CR852B uses a VA panel so it's the usual trade-off between decent blacks and limited viewing angles. In fact we actually measured the blacks at 0.06cd/m2 which is good for an LCD TV, although not quite as good as the CX802, and might tell us from where Panasonic are sourcing their curved panels. The CR852 is certainly bright, hitting a maximum of 454cd/m2 on a full screen, so it had no problems reaching our target of 120cd/m2. As a result the Panasonic had an on/off contrast ratio of 2,000:1 but more importantly it also delivered an ANSI contrast ratio of 1,930:1. The additional brightness will also come in handy when the CR852B receives a firmware update later this year in order to add support for High Dynamic Range (HDR).
The CR852 includes Panasonic's Adaptive Backlight Control (local dimming) and, like the CX802, it uses 9 x 2 zones. However whilst this seemed to work reasonably well on the CX802, it struggles on the curved screen of the CR852. The local dimming proved to be something of a disappointment and even in the Low mode the local dimming caused haloing and sudden changes in brightness. This was especially noticeable whilst watching Star Wars Rebels and, as the action switched to outer space, the star fields would suddenly change from black to dark grey, although it was also obvious in other content. Since the native blacks are actually quite good, we would recommend turning the local dimming off and perhaps just using some bias lighting during the evening.
As we would expect from a Panasonic TV, the CR852 handled all of our image scaling tests with ease, scaling content effectively without introducing any obvious artefacts. It also passed all of our video processing tests and overall the quality of the deinterlacing and scaling was excellent thanks to the Quad Core and Studio Master processing. The native motion handling was also quite good with up to 300 lines of motion resolution in our benchmark test. You can improve this to the full 1080 lines of motion resolution by using the frame interpolation feature that Panasonic call Intelligent Frame Creation. For film-based content or TV dramas we would always recommend turning it off but there is room for experimentation with sporting content.
When it came to actually watching content on the 55CR852B, it's inherent image accuracy was apparent almost immediately and confirmed in our measurements. When watching high definition broadcasts the CR852 did a wonderful job of delivering natural-looking and detailed images that made full use of the native 4K panel. The excellent video processing meant that high definition images are being shown to their full potential and once we switched to Blu-ray we could see what a great image the CR852B was able to deliver. Of course if you do have access to native 4K content then you can see just what the TV is capable of when allowed to take full advantage of its native resolution.
Although it doesn't come with any active shutter glasses, the CR852 does support 3D and, thanks to a degree of standardisation with RF glasses, we were able to use a pair of Samsung glasses to test the Panasonic. Overall the 3D performance was very good, with the CR852B delivering detailed and natural looking 3D images that had plenty of brightness and depth. The motion handling was reasonably good and the picture was generally free of artefacts like crosstalk. However it wasn't a perfect performance and there was some evidence of crosstalk at the top of the image, especially with objects in strong negative or positive parallax. Although this wasn't often apparent because when watching 3D content the eyes are usually drawn to the centre of the screen.
In terms of picture quality much of what we discussed above (black levels, dynamic range, local dimming, backlight uniformity, video processing and motion handling) is applicable regardless of whether we're looking at the out-of-the-box or the calibrated image. So in this section all we’re really comparing is the greyscale and colour accuracy after calibration. Since the out-of-the-box performance was so accurate, it’s unlikely you would even notice the difference after calibration. So it proved in our testing and whilst all the positive aspects of the CR852 still applied after calibration, the reality is that the subtle improvements in accuracy would only be apparent to a trained professional with test material they were familiar with. Ultimately, regardless of the source content and whether you're using an optimised out-of-the-box picture or even a calibrated one, the Panasonic 55CR852B still manages deliver a great looking picture.
Sound QualityAs has often been the case this year, the CR852 actually sounded reasonably good and although we would still recommend that you consider an outboard sound solution for a better audio experience, the Panasonic can certainly handle the day-to-day demands rather well. The audio performance is undoubtedly helped by a deeper chassis and the 55-inch screen also improves the amount of stereo separation. The bass is limited but otherwise the Panasonic did a good job of delivering an open front soundstage with clear dialogue, well rendered music and some nice placement of effects. As a result news programmes, documentaries and TV shows all sounded very good and even movies and dramas were passable, if not quite the sound experience that the creators intended. The CR852B can also go quite loud without distorting, so it can handle even a large-sized living room.
Panasonic TX-55CR852B Video Review
Image accuracy and processing is excellent but the local dimming is disappointing and best left off.
Input LagAlthough the input lags on Ultra HD 4K TVs this year have been improving, the CR852 proved to be something of a disappointment. We measured the lag at 60ms, which is higher than the 39ms we got from the CX802 and considerably more than the lag we've seen on Samsung's TVs this year. It should be noted that the input lag was the same regardless of whether we engaged the Game mode, as the only changes are made to the image settings, not the lag. Whilst a lag of 60ms is undoubtedly too high for serious gamers it probably won't make any difference to the more casual player and we generally found gaming to be quite enjoyable on the CR852B. The images were certainly bright and detailed on the 55-inch screen and the motion handling was good, although you might want to experiment with the IFC feature. If you're sat close to the screen when gaming, as we often do, the curved screen also helps to create a greater sense of immersion.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best) 80% 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?
- Highly accurate out-of-the-box
- Decent native blacks
- Reference calibration controls
- Excellent video processing
- Firefox Smart TV is effective
- Attractive design
- Great build quality
- Local dimming is disappointing
- Minor backlight clouding
- Limited viewing angles
- Colour space could be wider
- Only an 8-bit panel
- Input lag too high
Panasonic TX-55CR852B (CR852) 4K UHD TV Review
Should I buy one?
There is certainly a lot to like about the TX-55CR852B - it's nicely designed and well made, with Panasonic's usual attention to detail. The TV sits at a slight angle, which could be an issue if you position it too high up, and the stand might be a little wide for some but there's always the option to wall mount. There are plenty of connections at the rear, including three HDMI 2.0a inputs with support for HDCP2.2. The TV comes with two remote controls, both of which are effective, and it supports 3D although you'll need to buy the glasses separately. The new Firefox smart TV platform keeps things simple and intuitive, whilst retaining everything you need to take full advantage of the TV's capabilities. The Freeview Play feature has finally been added, although sadly it was just too late for this review. The CR852 includes Panasonic's usual menu system and a comprehensive set of calibration controls.
If you're considering the 55CR852 then you presumably don't have an issue with curved screens and the curve itself was quite mild, so it didn't cause any unwanted issues with geometry or reflections. Although Panasonic have sourced the panel from elsewhere, they have still brought their usual picture expertise to bear on the performance. As such the CR852B delivered one of the most accurate out-of-the-box performances we have seen, so if you can't afford to get it professionally calibrated it probably won't matter. Having said that the calibration controls are superb and the TV can deliver a reference performance after calibration. The natural and accurate image, coupled with excellent processing, delivered a lovely image regardless of the source. The use of a VA panel might result in a narrower optimal viewing angle but it does deliver better native blacks and the backlight uniformity was also reasonably good, aside from some slight clouding.
So what isn't so good? Well the local dimming was a disappointment and we would recommend just turning it off for the best viewing experience. In terms of future proofing the 55CR852B is a mixed bag, with support for Ultra HD 4K resolution, HDMI2.0a, HDCP2.2 and HDR to be added soon. However it only uses an 8-bit panel and the colour gamut is only slightly wider than Rec.709 although, as with the CX802, Panasonic are making a deliberate trade-off between value and features. The other area of disappointment was the input lag, which measured at 60ms. This is higher than the CX802 and whilst not necessarily an issue for the casual gamer, it will be too high for the more hardcore amongst you. Ultimately though, the TX-55CR852B does enough to warrant a recommendation, even if we don't feel that Panasonic's heart is really into curved screens.
What are my alternatives?
The obvious alternative when it comes to curved TVs is just about anything from Samsung. The Korean manufacturer has obviously been a huge proponent of curved screens and they have delivered some impressive TVs this year. In terms of matching the price point of the Panasonic, the Samsung UE55JS8500 fits the bill perfectly. It has everything you could want from a curved Ultra HD 4K TV including a 10-bit panel, wider colour space, HDMI 2.0a, HDCP2.2 and support for HDR. The TV is attractively designed, well built and boasts a comprehensive smart platform. It has excellent processing, an accurate picture and great calibration controls. In terms of comparing it directly with the CR852, it also has a much lower input lag and superior local dimming, making the Samsung the curved model to beat at this price point.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality8
3D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box9
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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