A hard sell
What is the Panasonic DX600?This Ultra HD TV isn’t one of your fancy, new High Range Dynamic (HDR) sets, for that you’ll need to look up the range to at least the DX750B. In fact, the 55DX600B actually represents the gateway in to Panasonic’s UHD TV range but, for many, it will still tick all the right boxes. There’s quad-core processing with the Firefox Smart TV platform, USB hard drive recording and compatibility with Freeview Play, in addition to HEVC & VP9 decoding for a spot of future-proofing. The 600 Series comes in three screen sizes, ranging from 40-inches to 49- and 55-inches with the TX-55DX600B reviewed here currently (July 2016) available at £849 online. Let’s see if the lack of HDR and entry-level status holds it back.
Design, Connections & ControlThe real talking point, or points, about the DX600’s design is the base-stand, or stands, the otherwise prosaic chassis sits upon. It’s a two-way design, you see, meaning you get a choice on how it looks when placed on your AV furniture. Position ‘A’ has the chrome effect feet jutting forwards at only a slight slant, while Position ‘B’ is a more curved, almost scimitar-like, option but without the sharp edge. We’ve no real preference but if you have a centre speaker to accommodate on the same piece of furniture, Position ‘A’ wins it for us.
As we said, the rest is fairly plain, with a very narrow black bezel surrounding the screen and, encapsulating that, a chrome-effect trim; there’s no real metal on show here but it’s not too cheap looking a television. The chassis isn’t the slimmest at nearly 7cm in depth but if it makes for good screen uniformity, we’re not too bothered.
The connections are placed mostly on the back but there is a side-facing HDMI 1.4 port along with a pair of USB inputs – one version 2, the other version 3.0 and that’s the one recommended if you want to attach a hard drive to act as a personal video recorder. On the rear panel there’s an Ethernet port, a digital terrestrial aerial input, legacy video and audio connections, a Toslink digital audio output and two HDMI 2, HDCP 2.2 compliant ports, including one for Audio Return Channel enabled equipment – soundbars, AV Receivers and the like.
The supplied remote control is of stock Panasonic design, although the quality of plastic isn’t as high-grade as some; corners have to be cut somewhere, we guess. It’s fairly large, coloured in black and features an assortment of well mapped buttons that are nice and large and easy to find. The largest of them all is one dedicated to launching Netflix and we’ve no problem with that!
Features & SpecsThe TX-55DX600B sports an 8-bit native 50Hz Ultra HD panel and includes 800Hz BMR (Backlight Motion Rate) for clearer motion. Panasonic has stuck with the Firefox operating system for the Smart TV features and it’s one of the easiest, and intuitive platforms out there, in fact, it’s probably the easiest to use and that counts for a lot. The default home screen has three initial default ‘cards’ or ‘pins’ for Live TV, Apps and Devices. The Live TV option integrates with the internal digital terrestrial tuner and 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 icon takes you to all your downloaded apps as well as the apps market where you can install more. The devices card covers everything else, including all the source inputs, networked and locally attached storage devices. You can pin pretty much anything you like to the home screen, including individual channels and apps by pressing the Options button on the remote when they’re highlighted. The DX600 has Ultra HD 4k streaming via Netflix, Amazon and YouTube which we will be checking on below.
Best picture settings video
Picture Settings: Out of the boxThe most accurate picture mode, as ever with non-top-tier Panasonic’s, proved to be True Cinema but it’s a fair way from either being picture perfect or, indeed, even remotely attractive to the end-user scrolling through the modes to find the ‘best’ one. The dimming system (Adaptive Backlight Control) is on by default and if said user happens to catch a glimpse when there’s an even remotely dark scene on, the DX600 will look very murky and drab indeed. More on this later but we’d suggest to Panasonic that the dimming is deactivated by default in True Cinema for this model.
Perhaps worse, at least in the review sample, was a very heavy green-yellow tinge to just about everything and we weren’t at all surprised to note the excess of red, and especially green, in the greyscale with a commensurate lack of blue energy, except in black and dark greys where there was far too much of it. The gamma tracking was pretty close to the 2.4 preset, which is good for a darkened room and colours were tracking quite well to the Rec.709 colour gamut, although there were slight under-saturation issues in the red and blue primaries.
Picture Settings: CalibratedThere definitely is a much better image to be had from the DX600’s True Cinema mode but it requires some work. The first thing we did was disable Adaptive Backlight Control as it’s a very crude dimming system that just darkens the whole image rather than individual portions of it, i.e. it’s global and not local and the higher the setting, the more it crushes detail. We then upped the backlight to give a peak light output of 140nits on a full-screen white pattern and set about tackling the greyscale issues.
As we can see from the RGB Balance chart above, the mix of the primary colours is now near perfect across the scale, expect for an untameable surfeit of blue in black and 10% grey. That can be mitigated, at least at black, by engaging the dimming but for the reasons stated previously, we didn’t want to do that. However, with delta Errors mostly below 0.5, where 2 is the target, it’s not too bad a result.
The 2016 Panasonics we’ve seen, so far, have been mostly absolutely outstanding in the colour accuracy stakes. The TX-55DX600 doesn’t quite live up to them but, following calibration, it still makes a good job of adhering to the Rec.709 colour standard. We couldn’t quite get red to fully saturate at all levels, at least not without introducing more serious luminance errors, but overall the results were pretty pleasing.
It's not without its redeeming features but the DX600 produces lackluster images
Black Levels and Contrast RatiosThe black levels of the 55-inch DX600 wouldn’t have been quite such a let-down were we not left with the impression it would have a VA panel, that produces good blacks and contrast, but it doesn’t. The panel equipped is of the IPS variety which have their good points but, considering most of the TVs we’ve seen in 2016, an average black level of 0.19 nits is disappointing. Our calibrated results produced an ANSI contrast ratio of less than 750:1 which is pretty low and resulted in images that lacked pop and impact, especially coming off the back of viewing an HDR TV. The dimming system is no help either and actually succeeded in reducing the dynamic range by throttling all the shadow detail out of the image.
Backlight Uniformity & Viewing AnglesIn darker scenes, solid backlight uniformity was one of the strengths of the 55DX600, with just some evidence of over-brightness visible in the bottom right and top left corners but it was nothing troubling. The Panasonic didn’t fare so well on brighter content, however, with a noticeable dirty screen effect easy to spot on panning shots, especially on paler colours. In terms of viewing angles, the DX600 is pretty strong with colours remaining accurate even up to 60 degrees off-axis but those weak black levels and less than mediocre contrast levels suffered further out of the sweet-spot.
Motion HandlingSubjectively, we had no real issues with the motion handling of the TX-55DX600. Euro 2016, (England’s humiliating exit notwithstanding), has provided us with plenty of opportunity to see the Panasonic with fast paced action and, although there’s the usual spot of LCD blur, there are no other surprises like the stuttering motion processing we saw from the DX750 with 50Hz content and similar with some of the high-end Samsung SUHD TVs. We wouldn’t object to folks using Intelligent Frame Creation, at minimum levels, with the likes of the football, either, as it’s fairly gentle on video based content. That’s not the case with film, or material shot at 23.976/24 frames per second, however, where it introduces a noticeable ‘soapiness’ to motion.
Standard and High DefinitionThe DX600 is blessed with strong video processing capabilities so there are no issues with scaling content that is sub Ultra HD in resolution, at least from 720p and up. Like all Ultra HD televisions, asking the Panasonic to pull off a miracle with standard definition material is too tall an order and we would advise giving SD broadcast channels a particularly wide berth as they will look shabby. That’s not the fault of the processing chip, they look bad on Full HD TVs, but their problems are even more manifest with all those extra pixels of information missing. We would assume that most people interested enough in picture quality to read a television review would know this and, likewise, would be seeking out the best quality sources available but it warrants putting down on record nevertheless. The 55DX600 continues the general improvements we’ve seen in 2016 with the deinterlacing of 1080i material, although it’s not quite as sharp as it is with some so we could sometimes see the odd jagged edge on fast pans.
Ultra HDWe’ll preface this by saying a lot of what we’re about to impart is wholly perceptual and, seen through another pair of eyes, could have been quite different. In this case, I should probably step from under the umbrella of the editorial ‘we’ also. The fact was, I could see a flicker/pulsing effect with some UHD content, make that all Ultra HD that was streamed via Netflix and Amazon Video. I thought, the first time I witnessed it, that it was possibly the source material – in this case the excellent Bloodline but it wasn’t peculiar to that and every ‘4k’ title I watched through either service suffered the effect and, frankly, it drove me to distraction. The reason for it is not altogether clear but effectively what I was seeing was the modulation of the backlight not being fast enough to ‘fool’ the eye but it’s perhaps something that Panasonic needs to look at. Strangely, or not, it wasn’t anything like so noticeable with Ultra HD Blu-rays which managed to look stunning, despite the lack of HDR, and I would have to go looking to see it, so it wasn’t distracting. As we said at the beginning, please take all this as perceptual as your eyes may very well not see it – I’m personally sensitive to it – but a demo might well be advised to see if it’s something you’ll pick up on.
Sound QualityThe audio output from the pair of built-in 10w speakers of the DX600B is serviceable but nothing more. There’s very little low-end but the panel size is sufficient to give a sense of stereo imaging and dialogue was clear enough. The best Sound Mode was Music which had a more rounded signature than the default Standard option, which we found overly bright and a tad brittle.
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionThe TX-55DX600B is not the ideal option for ardent gamers who value low latency. Even with the Game Mode activated our dedicated Leo Bodnar measuring device recorded input lag at 50.3 milliseconds, which presents no real issues to this ageing gamer but those with sharper reflexes are likely to feel different. Panasonic is beginning to fall behind in this area to other manufacturers, especially Samsung and Sony, so they should consider upping their game, if you’ll forgive the pun.
Using a full window 50% white pattern, in the out of box Normal mode, we measured energy consumption at 99W, which is decent for a 55-inch 4K TV but if you take the time to move in to True Cinema and adjust the settings a little, consumption drops to below 90W and it looks better, as well, in to the bargain.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support 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) 7 What do these mean?
- Decent colour accuracy
- Firefox OS is easy to use and has plenty of apps
- Freeview Play included
- Good viewing angles
- Poor blacks & contrast levels
- Flickering with Ultra HD streaming services
- Out-of-box True Cinema mode looks bad
- Terrible dimming system
Panasonic DX600 (TX-55DX600B) Ultra HD 4K TV Review
Should I buy oneAt its full suggested retail price of a penny under £1,000, the Panasonic TX-55DX600B is a bit of a hard sell, as far as we’re concerned. The build quality is mediocre and the design is also nothing special, other than it having a choice of two pedestal feet placements, either. Connectivity options are adequate and include a couple of HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 inputs, while the supplied remote control is also workmanlike.
We do like the Firefox Smart TV platform, however, both for its simplicity and range of apps, including Ultra HD streaming, from Netflix and Amazon. The DX600B also benefits from the inclusion of Freeview Play, bringing with it all the major UK catch-up services and a seven-day scroll back electronic programme guide to make finding content to catch up on that bit easier.
The out of box True Cinema mode, while being the most accurate alternative, does little to sell itself with a backlight setting that’s too low to suit the panel and a very noticeable green/yellow tinge to images. A full calibration of the 55DX600 did see matters improve quite a lot but there won’t be many owners who will go the expense of that.
Unlike others higher in the pecking order, this particular Panasonic has weak black levels and contrast performance, owing to the IPS panel, and the dimming system is equally as poor as it does nothing but crush detail from the images. We also noticed a flickering effect on streamed Ultra HD content, although you may very well not and UHD Blu-ray looked very good. Also, on the plus side, motion handling is decent and viewing angles comparably strong for the LCD LED market but it’s not enough to merit an AVForums recommendation.
What else is there?For obvious reasons, the various manufacturers have been keener to send out review samples of their HDR TVs than those without the feature. In fact, aside from the Philips PUS8601, it’s the only one and the Philips was getting a software update to make it HDR ready too. So, in other words, we’re struggling for real alternatives we have reviewed and can recommend.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level6
2D Picture Quality7
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box6
Picture Quality Calibrated7
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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