Premium performance at a not-so-premium price
What is the Panasonic DX902?The DX902 is Panasonic's flagship Ultra HD LED LCD TV for 2016 and includes all the features that you'd expect from a high-end 4K model. There's a full array local dimming backlight with 512 zones and a unique honeycomb structure that is designed to minimise haloing. There's support for Wider Colour Gamut (WCG), High Dynamic Range (HDR 10) and even active shutter 3D, although you'll have to buy the glasses separately. There's also THX and Ultra HD Premium certification, a full set of calibration controls, two remotes and Panasonic's excellent Firefox Smart TV platform.
We reviewed the 65-inch TX-65DX902B at the end of January and were hugely impressed by the performance. However at the time HDR hadn't been launched yet, so reviewing the 58-inch TX-58DX902B provides the perfect opportunity to see just how good this TV is when it comes to the latest technological innovations. Panasonic have also reduced the price of the range recently and as at the time of writing (August 2016) you can pick up the 58DX902 for just £1,999. So if the 58DX902B is as good as its larger sibling, we could be looking at real bargain. Let's find out...
DesignWhilst not exactly unattractive, the DX902 is more a case of function over form and we doubt it will be winning any design awards. Of course the Panasonic is all about image quality, so the fact it looks a little old-fashioned is missing the point. Besides there are some nice touches that add a bit of flair to what is otherwise a rather plain TV. The feet have a dark metallic finish, there's a textured silver strip around the outside edge and the screen is surrounded by a 1cm wide black bezel. Due to the full array backlight the panel is surprisingly deep for a modern TV and there are fans at the top rear of the panel, which you can hear with the sound down.
The overall build quality is excellent and the entire panel sits at a slight angle on a wide stand that has two feet at the front and a pedestal at the rear. The feet are 1170mm apart, so you'll need a fairly 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. The 58DX902 measures 1297 x 759 x 64mm and weighs 27.5kg without the stand and with it, the TV measures 1297 x 804 x 334mm and weighs in at 32.5kg.
The overall design is fairly simple but there are some nice touches and the build quality is excellent
Connections & ControlAt the rear left as you face the screen you'll find all the connections, which sit behind a removable panel for tidier cable management. The DX902 has four HDMI 2.0a inputs with two facing downwards 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 also has built-in WiFi. Finally, facing rearwards, are legacy component, composite and analogue inputs.
There are some basic controls on the TV itself, at the right rear edge of the panel but the DX902 comes with two remotes included. The first is an attractive silver model, 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.
The second remote is a 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. It is small and curved, sits comfortably in your hand and is very simple to use. 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.
The DX902 comes feature-packed with support for HDR10, active shutter 3D and the Firefox OS
Features & SpecsThe DX902 is a 4K Pro Studio Master UHD model and aside from the features already mentioned, it uses a 10-bit VA panel and Panasonic's Studio Master HCX+ processor. The DX902B includes HEVC decoding and since it is Ultra HD Premium certified, it can also deliver 0.05-1,000 nits of dynamic range and at least 90% of DCI-P3. So the Panasonic should have no problems getting the best from HDR10 content, whether via video streaming services or Ultra HD Blu-ray. 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 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.
Panasonic TX-58DX902B Picture Settings
Picture Settings Out-of-the-BoxWe performed a basic setup on the DX902, which essentially meant selecting one of the Professional viewing modes and then setting the backlight, Contrast and Brightness to suit our particular environment. We also turned the Sharpness control down to zero and turned off Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) with any film-based content. When watching Standard Dynamic Range content, make sure you have selected the Rec. 709 colour space and the Warm2 colour temperature and set the Adaptive Backlight Control to Min.The out-of-the-box performance of the 58DX902 was surprisingly inaccurate for a Panasonic and, as you can see in the graph above, there was an excess of blue energy and a deficit of red across most of the scale. The 65DX902 was better in this respect with DeltaEs (errors) that were all at or below one, whilst the 58DX902 has noticeable errors in the brighter part of the image. The gamma performance was almost identical between the two models, with a peak at 10IRE and a dip at 90IRE, although the mid-section was tracking 2.4 quite closely. It's still a reasonably good out-of-the-box performance but frankly we expect better from Panasonic.The colour performance also wasn't as good as we were expecting from a Panasonic flagship TV but the errors were almost entirely due to the excess of blue energy in the greyscale. This excess energy was dragging everything towards blue, as you can see in the graph above. However despite this, the colours actually tracked quite closely to their saturation targets and it was clear that once the greyscale had been calibrated, the colour accuracy would be much improved.
The out-of-box performance could have been better but the accuracy was reference after calibration
Picture Settings CalibratedWe actually used the Professional 2 viewing mode for a Night setting and the True Cinema mode for a Day setting, leaving the Professional 1 mode to be used for an optimised HDR setting. As always we calibrated the 58DX902 using our Klein K10-A colour meter, our Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN 2016 calibration software. We started by calibrating the greyscale using the two- and ten-point White Balance controls, then we calibrated the gamma using the provided parametric controls before adjusting the colours using the Colour Management System (CMS).We started by reducing the amount of blue and increasing the amount of red using the two-point white balance control. The greyscale immediately snapped into place and, with errors of less than one, we really didn't need to actually use the ten-point but since it was there we did. The result was an absolutely reference greyscale performance with all three primary colours tracking each other precisely and the errors now non-existent. We also corrected the gamma and it was now tracking our 2.4 target precisely, resulting in a superb overall performance.As we suspected, as soon as we calibrated the greyscale the colours fell back into place and the level of accuracy was already excellent. We then fine-tuned the colour performance using the CMS and we quickly had a reference level of accuracy. The luminance measurements were spot-on and as you can see from the graph above the primary and secondary colours were tracking their saturation targets precisely. In fact, in terms of its calibrated greyscale, gamma and colour gamut performance, the DX902 is currently the most accurate TV you can buy.
Picture Settings HDRWhen we reviewed the 65DX902 at the end of January High Dynamic Range was in its infancy. At that point there was hardly any HDR streaming, Ultra HD Blu-ray hadn't been released yet, we had no established test patterns and the best we could do was a short clip of The Lego Movie on a USB thumb drive. So we were glad to get the 58DX902 in for review because it finally gave us a chance to fully test the TV's capabilities when it came to HDR. As we mentioned earlier, we used the Professional 1 viewing mode for HDR, with the backlight and contrast set to 100, the colour gamut set to Rec. 2020 and the Adaptive Backlight Control on Mid.The DX902 impressed almost immediately by tracking the PQ EOTF very closely and delivering an accurate greyscale, especially after some fine-tuning using the two-point white balance control. The overall errors are mostly below the threshold of three, with the exception of 60 and 70IRE which measured at four where the curve began to roll off. However these are probably the most accurate HDR measurements we have taken so far. The 58DX902 measured a peak brightness of 1,278 nits on a 10% window, so it had no problems at all with content mastered at 1,000 nits. However, like every HDR TV except for the Samsung KS range, the DX902 did clip content that was mastered at 4,000 nits.The impressive accuracy didn't stop with the greyscale and EOTF, it also extended to the colour measurements. Starting with the Rec. 2020 saturation points, the DX902 tracked them within its native colour gamut closer than any other TV we have measured to date. In terms of that native colour gamut, the DX902 delivered 75% of Rec. 2020 and 98% of DCI-P3.
Speaking of DCI-P3, the DX902 tracked that colour gamut within Rec. 2020 almost precisely, suggesting that the Panasonic delivers the most accurate colours of any HDR TV that we have seen this year. It would seem that involving Hollywood colourists in the development of the DX902 has really paid dividends..
The DX902 delivered the most accurate HDR measurements that we have seen to date
Black Levels and Contrast Ratios
The DX902 uses a VA (Vertical Alignment) panel and whilst this technology has it's limitations in terms of viewing angles it does deliver great blacks for an LCD panel. We measured the black level at 0.027 nits, which is an excellent performance, and naturally the DX902B had absolutely no problems hitting our target of 120 nits. That resulted in an on/off contrast ratio of 4,444:1 but the more meaningful ANSI contrast ratio was an equally impressive 3,396:1. The DX902 uses a full array backlight with 512 local dimming zones and a honeycomb construction that minimises haloing.
Panasonic call their local dimming system the Adaptive Backlight Control (ABC) and it works very well, producing deep blacks and bright highlights to help increase the dynamic range. We measured the black level at 0.000 nits with the ABC set to Min, so you won't need to set it any higher than that for Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) content and the algorithm delivered precise dimming without introducing unwanted artefacts or haloing. We found that the Mid setting was preferable for HDR content and was equally as impressive, delivering deep blacks, great shadow detail and bright highlights with very little haloing.
Screen Uniformity and Viewing Angles
The screen uniformity on our sample was excellent, with absolutely no issues in terms of dirty screen effect, clouding or bright edges and corners. Thanks the the full array backlight, the honeycomb structure and the 512 zones, the overall backlight uniformity was impressive. The only issue we could see was that on very rare occasions the LEDs behind the screen would sometimes create banding on horizontal pans but this was fleeting and required a uniform background like a football pitch. It was very rarely apparent but if you do watch a lot of sport, especially football, it might be worth bearing in mind.
The big downside to VA panels are their viewing angles and the DX902 is a good example of this limitation. We found that only moving off axis by 30 degrees would result in the contrast performance dropping off significantly and the haloing around bright objects appearing more obvious. If you're sat dead centre it won't be an issue but if you have a large family or plan on watching the DX902B from an angle, then you should probably demo the TV first to make sure it isn't an issue. It's also worth remembering that this limitation in viewing angles can also apply to the vertical plane, so check that if wall mounting.
Motion Handling and Video Processing
In general the motion handling was good for an LCD panel, with the TV delivering over 300 lines of motion resolution in our tests. How we perceive motion can vary from person to person but we certainly had no problems with the DX902. There have been reports of dark blurring on moving objects in certain images and whilst we have seen this using a specific demo clip, we have never noticed this issue when watching normal content. As we mentioned earlier we would never use the Intelligent Frame Creation feature with film-based content but feel free to experiment when watching sport.
As we've already pointed out, 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. The video processing was excellent with very impressive deinterlacing and scaling, so whether the source is Ultra HD, Full HD or even standard definition, the DX902 is perfectly capable of producing detailed and accurate images with a lovely natural appearance.
Standard and High Definition
We rarely watch standard definition content these days, other than to test TVs but the DX902 handled this lower resolution material well. It effectively deinterlaced the standard definition signal and scaled it to match the Ultra HD resolution panel. Overall we found that the Panasonic could deliver very watchable pictures and any problems were usually due to excessive compression on the part of the broadcasters. This was evident when we watched some decent DVDs on the DX902 and the images looked very good, even on a screen this big. We would still rather stick to high definition content however and once we moved on to higher resolution material the D902 had a chance to show its full potential.
As usual nature documentaries looked particular impressive, with recent series about New Zealand and the Scottish Highlands really benefiting from the Panasonic's superb colour accuracy. The VA panel combined with the full array back light and local dimming really got a chance to shine in the new Netflix series Stranger Things. There are a number of scenes that take place inside a girl's mind as she floats in an isolation tank. These scenes comprise of a completely black environment with just the character visible and anything she sees. The DX902 did a marvellous job of displaying these tricky scenes with deep blacks and absolutely no haloing. It was an impressive performance, although as mentioned earlier, you need to be sat fairly central to get the best from the DX902.
Unsurprisingly Blu-rays looked superb, with the high quality images of a disc like Tomorrowland looking absolutely stunning on the DX902. All the TV's strengths came in play and the combination of image accuracy, excellent processing, good motion handling and the impressive local dimming resulted in some truly excellent pictures. Even if you haven't made the move to Ultra HD streaming and Ultra HD Blu-ray yet, you certainly won't be disappointed with the capabilities of the DX902B.
If there was one area where the DX902 did disappoint slightly, it was in terms of 3D. That isn't to say that the 3D was bad because the Panasonic was certainly able to deliver a decent 3D performance in most respects, with bright, detailed and natural looking pictures. There was also plenty of depth and nice definition to the three dimensional images. However there was more crosstalk than we would have liked, which was particularly obvious on the Spears and Munsil torture tests but also there in classic scenes like the 'seeds of the sacred tree' in Avatar. On the whole the 3D was very watchable and a new film like The Jungle Book could often look stunning but there was still crosstalk in evidence during scenes that used a lot of positive or negative parallax. If you're a 3D fan your choices are limited this year and the Panasonic was certainly better than Sony's latest 3D TVs but LG's OLEDs remain the best 3D performers by miles.
High Dynamic Range
As you will probably have surmised from the test results already discussed in this review, Panasonic have taken a no-compromise approach to the image performance of the DX902 and this was especially true of High Dynamic Range (HDR) content. The colour accuracy with Ultra HD Blu-ray was the best we have seen, with the TV not only taking full advantage of the wider colour gamut on offer from the new format but also actually delivering it correctly. The excellent PQ EOTF tracking was also evident, with images that had deep blacks, excellent shadow detail and highlights that really popped. When watching reference Ultra HD Blu-rays like The Revenant and Sicario the results were often spectacular.
The local dimming was highly effective and although there was occasionally some minor haloing, in general the increased number of zones and honeycomb construction did exactly what it was designed to do. For the best results you will need to sit centrally to the screen but on the best Ultra HD Blu-rays the DX902B can deliver images that are full of detail, impact and wonderful colour saturation. When it comes to HDR content mastered at 1,000 nits the DX902 had absolutely no issues but with a 4,000 or 10,000 nits HDR signal the DX902 was unable to correctly tone map the higher graded content to its native peak brightness capabilities. We weren't surprised though, as the only TVs that we have tested this year that can correctly tone map higher graded content are Samsung's KS models.
The picture quality in SDR and HDR was superb, with only some crosstalk in 3D letting the DX902 down
Sound QualityOne of the benefits of the DX902 having a reasonably deep chassis is that 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 probably use some form of outboard sound solution, should you decide to use the built-in audio you won't be disappointed. The 58-inch screen size results in a decent amount 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-58DX902B Video Review
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionWe measured the input lag on the 58DX902 at 42ms with everything turned off including the Adaptive Backlight Control (ABC) and Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC), although setting the ABC to Min actually made no difference to the measurements. As is usual for a Panasonic TV, 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.
Although the 58DX902B has an Energy Rating of B, we actually found it to be quite efficient in testing. We measured a 50% full screen raster in Normal viewing mode (which is what the TV ships in) at 109W, which is well below the number Panasonic quote in their specifications. Our calibrated Night viewing mode measured just 100W, which is impressive for a 58-inch TV, although things were a bit different when it came to HDR. When sending an HDR signal to the TV, the increased brightness resulted in the amount of energy usage jumping up to 372W, which would explain why there are fans at the rear of the panel.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 75% 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) 8 What do these mean?
- Reference greyscale and colour accuracy
- Superb contrast performance
- Effective local dimming
- Uniform backlighting
- Impressive HDR performance
- Excellent video processing
- Solidly constructed
- Good sound performance
- Great value
- Occasional minor banding
- Some crosstalk with 3D content
- Limited viewing angles
- Stand may be too wide for some
Panasonic DX902 (TX-58DX902B) UHD 4K TV Review
Should I buy one?
If you're in the market for a great all-round Ultra HD 4K TV that can not only deliver an excellent standard dynamic range picture but also a superb high dynamic range image then the DX902 should be on your very short list. The fact that you can currently pick up the 58DX902B for £1,999 makes it an even easier decision. The Panasonic is well made, has a great set of features, sounds good and delivers the best colour accuracy of any TV we have measured. The local dimming and video processing are also excellent and whether we were watching standard, high or ultra high definition content, the DX902B always delivered in terms of detail and image fidelity.
It isn't perfect of course and due to the use of a VA panel the optimal viewing angle is fairly small, whilst there was occasional banding on horizontal pans. There was also some crosstalk in 3D content and serious gamers might prefer a lower input lag. The panel is fairly deep for a modern TV and the large stand might also be a bit too wide for some people but there is always the option of wall mounting. However these minor points aside, the Panasonic TX-58DX902B delivered a superb all-round performance and when you take into account all of the positives, the 58-inch screen size and the price, it's a worthy winner of a Best Buy badge.
What are my alternatives?
When it comes to alternatives, the 58-inch screen size makes direct comparison difficult and with most manufacturers you'll be looking at a slightly smaller 55-inch model or a slightly larger 65-inch version. The LG 55E6 OLED is an obvious alternative, it's an Ultra HD 4K TV with support for HDR, including Dolby Vision, and passive 3D. It includes LG's excellent WebOS and a gorgeous design that makes the DX902 look particularly old-fashioned. However, it will set you back £3,299 which is a hefty price differential and although the E6 has the better SDR image, the DX902 beats the OLED in terms of HDR.
If you're happy to consider edge-lit Ultra HD 4K TVs you could go for the Samsung UE55KS9000 (£1,999) or the UE55KS8000 (£1,799) if you prefer a flat screen. There's no 3D but both offer gorgeous design and state-of-the-art features, with a great SDR picture and an impressive HDR performance. The video processing and local dimming on Samsung TVs are both superb but the use of edge lighting will always be a limitation when it comes the higher brightness of HDR. Another edge-lit alternative would be Sony's KD-55XD9305 which not only sports a gorgeous design and some very clever edge backlighting but can currently be picked up for just £1,675. The SDR and HDR images were impressive but edge lighting is still an issue for HDR, the 3D was a bit of a let down and we find the Android Smart TV platform a constant source of annoyance.
Finally, if you're looking for a TV with a full array backlight then you could go for the excellent Samsung UE65KS9500. It doesn't come any smaller than 65 inches, it has a curved screen and no 3D but in terms of HDR performance the KS9500 is the current top dog. The SDR performance is equally as impressive and Samsung's local dimming is second to none, despite using less zones than the Panasonic. It will cost you quite a bit more at £3,799 but you do get a lot of excellent big screen performance for your money. Of course if you can fit a 65-inch screen into your lounge then the TX-65DX902B has to be worth considering. It's got the same fantastic performance as its 58-inch sibling and at £2,899, or less, Panasonic are practically giving it away!
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
2D Picture Quality9
3D Picture Quality8
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box8
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money10
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