Just what the director intended
What is the Panasonic CX802?The CX802 is Panasonic’s current flagship Ultra HD 4K LCD TV and it has been designed to incorporate as much of the manufacturer’s proprietary technology as possible. Panasonic’s ambition is to deliver images 'just as the content creators intended' by building TVs that adhere to the industry standards. To do this the manufacturer has developed their 4K Studio Master processing to deliver greyscale and colour accuracy that can consistently match the standards used by film and TV makers the world over.
Panasonic have also reacted to some of the criticisms aimed at last year’s AX902 and whilst the 55- and 65-inch versions of the CX802 also have a direct LED backlight, they now use a VA panel rather than the AX902’s IPS panel. Panasonic have also tried to keep the price down, another criticism of the AX902, so the CX802 has local dimming but with less zones. We’ll see how much practical difference that makes during testing. Surprisingly the CX802 uses an 8-bit panel but it will support High Dynamic Range (HDR) and it has a wider colour gamut, although it can’t reach full DCI.
In other respects the CX802 is every inch the flagship model with an attractive design and a new stand, which is good news because last year’s version weighed a ton. There are two remote controls, one of which is a new touch pad controller that is designed to be used in conjunction with Panasonic’s Firefox powered smart platform. The CX802 also supports Freeview Play and active shutter 3D, although there are no glasses included as standard.
We have already reviewed the 50-inch TX-50CX802B, which can be picked up for around £1,700 and now we’re taking a look at the 55-inch TX-55CX802B which should set you back about £2,200 at the time of writing (July 2015). There is also a 65-inch model, the TX-65CX802B which retails for around £3,200. So let’s get out our measuring equipment and favourite test material and see if the 55CX802 really can deliver what the director intended.
DesignThe CX802 uses a minimalist but attractive design, with a simple flat screen surrounded by a 1cm wide bezel with a dark brushed metal finish. There is a silver trim around the outer edge and the sides use the same dark brushed metal finish as the bezel. The bottom of the panel measures 2cm wide and includes the Panasonic logo and the IR receiver. The panel itself is 5cm deep and uses hardened black plastic at the rear.
The CX802 sits on Panasonic’s new ‘arc’ stand that uses the same dark metal finish as the rest of the TV. The stand measures the entire length of the TV (123cm) so you’ll need a wide surface to put it on and it can’t be swivelled. If you plan on using a soundbar it’s worth noting there is only 6 cm of clearance beneath the screen. The TV sits at a slight angle when using the stand but there is also the option of wall mounting using standard 400 x 400 VESA mounts.
The design is minimalist but attractive with a wide stand and a slight incline.
Connections & ControlThe connections are all at the left rear of the TV with a combination of sideways, rearwards and downwards facing inputs. Facing downwards are two HDMI 2.0 inputs, one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel), along with dual tuners for both Freeview and satellite. There’s also an Ethernet port, although the CX802 has built-in WiFi, and an optical digital output. The sideways facing inputs are only 10cm from the edge of the screen and here you’ll find another HDMI 2.0 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.
The CX802 comes with two remote controls, the first of which is a standard Panasonic remote. It uses a silver finish and includes a backlight and, whilst it is quite large, it includes all the buttons you’ll need and fits comfortably in your hand. Alternatively there’s the new touch pad controller that has been designed to compliment this year’s smart TV platform. The touch pad remote is small and curved, it also sits comfortably in your hand and is very useful for navigating the Firefox powered smart TV platform. It also 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 & SpecsThe CX802 incorporates at lot of Panasonic’s proprietary technology, as well as a number of new features this year. It is of course an Ultra HD 4K TV with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 but it also uses a VA panel which means a narrower optimal viewing distance but better native blacks. The 55-inch model uses a direct LED back light and includes local dimming with 9 x 2 zones. The CX802 only uses an 8-bit panel but it does include Studio Master Colour for a wider colour space (using phosphors rather than quantum dots) and it will support High Dynamic Range (HDR). The CX802 includes a Quad Core Pro engine and a 4K Studio Master Processor for superior picture processing that is designed to deliver images as the director intended.
This year Panasonic has introduced the Firefox operating system to the majority of its Ultra HD 4K TVs and overall we like it. There’s a nicely designed graphical interface, it’s open source for easier development and it's very intuitive to use. The newly designed home screen is pleasingly simple, with three default decks – Live TV, Apps and Devices. However you can personalise your home 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.
Finally there’s the new Freeview Play service, which is exclusive to Panasonic’s 2015 line-up. This service offers all the major catch-up TV players such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5. It also combines all the catch-up services along with on-demand and live TV to make it easy to watch what you want, when you want. You can read a more detailed review of Panasonic's Smart TV system for 2015 here.
The new Firefox-powered smart platform is simple, effective and intuitive to use.
Picture SettingsIn terms of the most accurate out-of-the-box performance we found that the THX Cinema mode performed best, so if you’re not planning on getting your CX802 calibrated, we’d recommend this setting. All you need to do is use a test disc to set the Brightness and Contrast controls to suit your viewing environment and you’re good to go. There’s also a THX Bright Room mode for using during the day if there’s a lot of ambient light and a THX 3D mode if you’re a fan of added dimensionality.
In the included video we go through all these settings and also the detailed white balance and colour management settings but we would warn against just copying these because very TV and environment is different. So just copying detailed settings doesn't guarantee a better picture and might make things worse; instead we would suggest that you also follow our Picture Perfect guide to set your TV for your room and lighting correctly.
You can see our suggested picture settings for the sample of the 55CX802B we reviewed in this video:
CalibrationAs we mentioned in the previous section, we found that the THX Cinema mode delivered the most accurate out-of-the-box performance, although we used one of the ISF Professional modes for our calibrated settings.
Pre-CalibrationAs the graph above shows the greyscale performance was excellent with all three primary colours tracking close to each other and the errors all below the visible threshold of three. The gamma was also tracking close to 2.2 and overall this is a great performance. This level of accuracy also extended to the colour gamut, where most of the luminance measurements were spot on and the same was true for the saturation and hue performance as well. The overall errors were below the threshold of three for all the colours except blue, which had some minor errors in luminance and saturation. However this is an impressive out-of-the-box performance.
Post CalibrationThe CX802 includes a full set of calibration controls including 2- and 10-point white balance controls, a full six-axis colour management system (CMS) and a gamma control. So we had no problems fine tuning the greyscale to get a reference performance with errors all below one and the gamma tracking 2.4 precisely. The same was true of the colour gamut and after a few adjustments on the CMS, mainly to blue, we had a reference colour performance as well, with errors well below one. This means that the CX802 was hitting the current video standards of D65 and Rec709 exactly and as such it is reproducing the content creator’s intent.The before and after colour measurements are taken at 100% saturation but obviously we don’t watch fully saturated images all the time, so it’s important that a TV can also remain accurate at lower saturation points. It is often the case that a TV that measures very well at 100% isn’t as impressive at lower saturation points. That wasn’t a problem with the CX802 and it delivered a superb level of colour accuracy at all saturation points. In fact it was one of the most accurate TVs we’ve ever measured. This is primarily due to Panasonic’s use of professional-level 3D look-up tables with 8,000 registry points and the results speak for themselves.Things weren’t quite as impressive when it came to colour gamuts wider than the current standard of Rec709. In the future 4K broadcast, 4K Blu-ray and 4K streaming services will probably use the DCI colour space and despite Panasonic’s claims of reaching 90% of DCI with their Wide Colour Phosphor technology, that didn’t prove to be the case with the 55CX802. In fact the colour space wasn’t as wide as the 50CX802 we reviewed and based on our measurements it looks more like 80% of DCI which is a disappointment. We tried every control to see if we could get the native colour gamut any higher but this was the best we could do. However aside from this, the CX802 delivers a stellar colour performance.
The CX802 delivered some of the most accurate colours we have measured on a TV.
Input LagThe input lag on this year’s Ultra HD 4K TVs has been much improved over previous years, with Samsung the current champions. They managed to get their lag down into the 20ms and whilst the CX802 isn’t quite that good, we did measure it at 39ms which is certainly good enough for most people. Interestingly selecting the Game mode didn’t really make any difference, probably because we already had most of the unnecessary features turned off. As it was we found gaming on the CX802 to be a thoroughly enjoyable affair, with bright detailed images and a responsive performance. Whilst everyone is different and we’ll admit to not being the most demanding gamer, we doubt anyone will have any issues gaming on the CX802.
Sound QualityAnother area that has seen significant improvement this year is the sound quality of the latest TVs. Perhaps manufacturers have realised that, along with picture quality, the sound of a TV is still important and so have developed better audio components. Or perhaps the ultra-thin arms race has reached its inevitable conclusion as manufacturers realise they still need somewhere to put the speakers, electronics and connections. Whatever the reason, the CX802 actually sounds quite good, no doubt helped by a slightly deeper chassis and a decent sized screen for improved 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. We’d always recommended getting an outboard audio solution but for basic TV watching the CX802 performs admirably.
Panasonic TX-55CX802B Video Review
The natural, detailed and accurate images make the CX802 a great all-round TV.
Picture QualityThe 55-inch CX802, along with the 65-inch version, uses a full direct LED backlight and this meant that the uniformity was superior to anything you would get with edge-lit LED TVs. In fact the backlight uniformity was excellent with no evidence of clouding or bright corners or edges. There was also no banding or dirty screen effect that sometimes causes issues with TVs that use a direct backlight. This might be in part because Panasonic are using a slightly deeper chassis but the overall backlight performance was excellent.
Video ProcessingPanasonic have always made TVs with great video processing and the CX802 is no exception, handling all of our tests with ease. Despite the gradual move towards an Ultra HD 4K future, good video processing remains vital because much of the content you’ll be watching will still be upscaled Full HD and even sometimes standard definition content. As such, the better the video processing, the more impressive the image and the CX802 delivered a fantastic performance, scaling content effectively without introducing any obvious artefacts. The CX802B passed all of our usual video processing tests and overall the quality of the deinterlacing and scaling was excellent thanks to the Quad Core and Studio Master processing.
Motion HandlingThe native motion handling of the CX802 was actually quite good with up to 400 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. However as is always the case with this kind of feature, the motion becomes overly smooth and takes on a video-like appearance. So for film-based content or TV dramas we would always recommend turning IFC off. However for fast sports-based content, which is shot on video cameras anyway, there is room for experimentation.
Black Levels & Contrast RatiosPanasonic have clearly taken the criticism they received last year to heart and this year they are using VA panels on all their UK models. As a result the native back performance is excellent for an LCD panel, measuring 0.04cd/m2 on both a 0IRE window and a 0IRE full raster. Interestingly when presented with a 0IRE full raster the LEDs don’t completely switch off, which is a good thing in our book as we find this form of global dimming really annoying. The CX802 is bright as well, easily hitting our target of 120cd/m2, giving us an on/off contrast ratio of 3,000:1. The CX802 could go a lot brighter, hitting 422cd/m2 with everything maxed out and it will also support HDR. The performance was just as good in terms of the ANSI contrast and we got an average black reading of 0.04cd.m2 and an overall ratio of 2,372:1. These were excellent measurements and we hadn’t even turned the local dimming on yet. Once we did the black level measurement dropped to 0.009cd/m2 in Low, 0.005cd/m2 in Mid and 0.002cd/m2 in High.
There has been a lot of talk about the number of zones on the 55-inch CX802 and whilst it’s true that there are only 9 x 2 zones this doesn’t tell the whole story. We certainly didn’t notice any obvious artefacts caused by the limited number of zones and overall found the Adaptive Backlight Control (Panasonic’s name for their local dimming system) to be reasonably effective. It isn’t as good as the local dimming on Samsung’s TVs but in Low mode it delivered deeper blacks, although there was some haloing and backlight pumping apparent, especially when watching at night. These effects became more obvious as we increased the setting and there was a significant amount of crush in the highest setting. However in Low the shadow detail remained impressive and Panasonic’s Black Gradation Drive is clearly paying dividends. The use of a VA panel does mean that, like the Samsung TVs this year, the optimal viewing angle is limited and whilst colours and contrast remain excellent up to about 40 degrees, things begin to drop off after that
Ultra HD 4K PerformanceOur selection of 4K content remains limited and unfortunately we are currently unable to take advantage of the Ultra HD content available on Netflix and Amazon Prime. Both those services have also started to stream 4K content with HDR, so for those with a fast enough broadband connection the immediate future looks better. The rest of us will have to pin our hopes on the upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray format. However we do have a selection of specially produced 4K test material and the CX802 did a superb job, taking full advantage of the native 4K resolution and the wonderful picture accuracy. As we went through the various test footage we were always impressed by the level of detail and the natural looking images.
Full HD PerformanceFor the foreseeable future this is the most important section of the review because we still be watching Full HD content for a long time. Here the CX802 proved to be an excellent performer taking full advantage of its inherent accuracy and using its superior video processing to scale content to the 4K panel. High definition TV broadcasts looked impressive, with the CX802 handling the detail in the crowds and grass at Wimbledon and the fast moving tennis action with ease. When it came to drama’s such as True Detective, the CX802 delivered beautiful images that were clearly as the content creators intended. A show like Daredevil which takes place predominantly at night is more challenging for any local dimming system but the CX802 just about managed to hold its own in the Low setting. The same was true with Blu-ray, with recent purchases like Whiplash and Jupiter Ascending, both of which looked extremely good on the CX802. The scene where Sandra Bullock tumbles off into space in Gravity is a tough test for any local dimming system but it looked well rendered on the CX802 and the same is true for the infamous scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, where Voldemort’s army amass on a hill above Hogwarts.
3D PerformanceThe popularity of 3D may be waning but for those that are still fans of the format the CX802 supports active 3D. It doesn’t actually come with any glasses and Panasonic neglected to send any with the review sample. We had a spare pair of Panasonic RF glasses but they were an older model that didn’t appear to work with the CX802. Luckily we also had a spare pair of Samsung RF glasses and they did work, so thank goodness for standardisation. Overall the CX802 delivered a great 3D performance, with the THX 3D mode proving especially effective. There was plenty of brightness, a natural image, loads of detail, acres of depth and a minimal amount of crosstalk. The motion handling could have been better but when watching our favourite 3D test Blu-rays such as Gravity and Avatar, the CX802 was able to produce immersive images that had plenty of pop.
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?
- Superb colours accuracy
- Excellent blacks
- Impressive screen uniformity
- Very good video processing
- Easy to use Smart features
- Flexible connectivity
- Ultra HD Streaming services
- Local dimming could be better
- Limited viewing angles
- Colour space could be wider
- Only an 8-bit panel
Panasonic TX-55CX802B (CX802) UHD 4K LED TV Review
Should I buy one?There's certainly a lot to recommend about the 55CX802B and it's good to see that Panasonic have been listening to feedback and made positive changes. The design is minimalist but attractive, there are plenty of connections and the new Firefox-powered smart platform is simple, effective and intuitive to use. There are two remote controls but although the CX802B supports 3D there are no glasses included. The sound quality is reasonably good and the input lag is quite low at 39ms, making it a good TV for gaming.
The CX802 has a flat VA panel, which is a welcome sight, and the use of a direct LED backlight results in great uniformity with no unwelcome banding problems. The native black levels are excellent for an LCD TV and the contrast performance was also impressive, although the optimal viewing angle is limited. The local dimming only uses 9 x 2 zones but works reasonably well, with good shadow detail; although it isn't as good as competing systems, occasionally suffering from haloing and backlight pumping.
The motion handling on the CX802 was good for an LCD TV, so don't be tempted to use the intelligent frame creation feature, except possibly for fast-paced sports action. The greyscale and colour accuracy was superb, the calibration controls were highly effective and the overall measurements among the best we have seen for a TV. The use of an 8-bit panel was a surprise and the native colour space wasn't as wide as we expected but the 55CX802 is bright and will support HDR.
The performance of the 55CX802 with 4K content was great, with natural and detailed images, whilst lower resolution content also looked very good thanks to some excellent video processing. The 3D performance was equally as impressive and overall the Panasonic TX-55CX802B makes for a fantastic all-round performer.
What are my alternatives?At the moment the main competitors to Panasonic are Samsung and LG because both Sony and Philips have been delayed due to issues with their Android TV operating systems. So, in terms of price, the current direct competitors are the Samsung UE55JS8500 and the LG 55UF950V. The JS8500 has better future proofing and a more effective local dimming system but otherwise it is very similar to the CX802, so you're decision might come down to how you feel about the Samsung's curved screen. The UF950 is also very similar in terms of performance and features, aside from the use of an IPS panel, but the ultra-thin chassis affects the backlight uniformity and the local dimming. So whilst there are a number of excellent alternatives available this year, the Panasonic TX-55CX802B should definitely be on your short list thanks to its combination of performance, features and price.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality9
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box9
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money8
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