Episode 4K: A New Hope?
What is the Panasonic TX-L65WT600?
Where to start with the Panasonic WT600?OK, from the top - this is Panasonic’s first Ultra HD TV, although, just like their compatriot company, Sony, they would prefer you term the next instalment of the ‘Resolution Resolution’ as 4K. We’ve no problem with that, per se, but since just about all the rest are going with Ultra HD (UHD), the possibility of causing consumer confusion early in the formats’ lifespan is there. We expect both Sony and Panasonic will grudgingly fall in to line with the CEA, at some point, although we tend to agree, and it’s something of a lost opportunity, in terms of branding.
Moving on. Not only is this Panasonic’s first 4K TV, when announced at IFA 2013, it became the first to include a HDMI 2.0 input. This is significant because the last HDMI specification was only capable of delivering a 3840 x 2160 resolution at a maximum of 30 frames per second. With all these extra pixels, this isn’t going to be sufficient, so the WT600 has a degree of future-proofing not present in some of the competition. Furthermore, it’s the first TV to include DisplayPort connectivity, which might mean it could find favour with ‘creatives’ out there, as a display monitor.As if all those firsts weren’t enough, the WT600 was also front of the queue with its 4K capable M-PEG 4 decoders, which is of benefit for certain websites, including some natively shot footage hosted on YouTube.
But that’s all relatively old news now. In between receiving the sample and this review going live, we were hit with the confirmation that Panasonic are getting out of the Plasma TV manufacturing business. We’ll not lament its imminent passing here, but it is pertinent, as it leaves the 65WT600 as the standard bearer for Panasonic picture quality – at least for the time being. There’s OLED waiting in the wings but, in the meantime, it’s up to this display to fill the boots of the outgoing VT and ZT plasmas – which were outstanding. Not only that, it also has to go toe-to-toe with the excellent F9000, from Samsung, and the almost equally impressive Sony X9005, which are available at approximately £500 less.
There’s a lot riding on this TV, both for Panasonic and the format, as a whole, let’s see if it can carry the weight of expectations on its broad frame.
There's a lot riding on this TV for Panasonic.
Design & Connections
No surprises, here, in terms of the styling. Just as with the 1080p WT60/W65 it replaces at the top of the Panasonic food chain, the WT600 comes with a micro-slim silver bezel, although it’s a tad thicker at around 7cm in depth. Just behind the bezel, at the top, sits a retractable video camera which springs automatically in to action when the Skype app is opened. The included ‘Metal Air’ base-stand might not be to everyone’s tastes. It’ supposed to give the impression of a display floating on air - and it succeeds in this somewhat - but it doesn’t look good with anything placed in front. So your soundbar, centre speaker, Kinect sensor, or whatever, is going to spoil the cosmetic intent. It’s a brave design, certainly, but probably not the most versatile.
We’ll come to the stars of the show in a moment but, Panasonic, really, did you need to place the 3 side-facing HDMI ports so close to the edge of a 65-inch panel? At just 10cm from the bezel, you’ll need either cables with angled inputs, or to buy adapters for your existing, to maintain the clean lines. A shocking design decision, we say, and we don’t care what the engineering department tell you, it's something that needs changing. The aforementioned headlining connections, namely the HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.4a inputs, are placed far more sensibly on the back in a recess, pointing downwards, not far from the centre of the panel. There’s also provision for legacy Scart, Component and Composite devices but, c’mon, this is the revolution, get with the times.
Greetings HDMI 2.0, we've been expecting you
To maintain the colour scheme, the accompanying standard remote and , space-age, Touch Pad controller also come in silver. We found the conventional controller to be typically excellent and the inclusion of a backlight is definitely a plus. The Touch Pad features a trigger controller at the rear, which we really like, and, as the name suggests, a touch-sensitive surface used to scroll around content, apps and internet features. There’s also a built-in microphone offering its own command interface which actually works much better than you’d think. We wouldn’t consider the Touch Pad as a viable total replacement, just yet, but it does come in to its own when using the Smart TV features.
MenusDespite the increased resolution, there’s nothing new in the Picture Menus but there’s still a wealth of options in there. A lot of those, like ‘Black Expander’ or ‘Brilliance Enhancer’ are largely superfluous and disengaged, in any case, when the Professional Modes are used; these are activated from the Setup Menu and we’d advise you to make it your first port of call following setup. Panasonic’s set of calibration controls are now the most expansive in the business and include full 3 axis control of the colour gamut as well as 10 point Gamma and White Balance adjustments and, with the right software and equipment, it’s (theoretically) possible to perform an automated calibration.
Panasonic introduced their prettied-up new interface with the first models in 2013 and the WT600 picks up and runs with it by debuting a new pale grey colour scheme in the apps menu. It now co-ordinates much better with the My Home Screen interface which, in itself, provides a slick, convenient gateway to the apps and connected features on offer. You don’t have to use My Home Screen but if you like to utilise the Smart features on-board, it makes sense and the WT600 comes complete with a new set of templates, including dedicated offerings from YouTube and EuroSport.
New, custom my Home Screen templates available.
FeaturesPanasonic are, understandably, placing a lot of emphasis on the unique 4K features aboard the WT600. Aside from the new connectivity options, there’s a 4K Media Player, a 4K capable Web Browser as well as 4K online playback, and some new 4K picture processing capabilities. We can comment on the media player and we had no problems in playing Ultra HD footage stored on a USB 2.0 stick via the inputs to the side. The material we used was encoded at 50Mbps and also playable over our home network via power-line adapters and a wired connection so a thumbs up here. We were also able to view Google Maps in 4K, which is actually very impressive in action, although of limited real world use. You’re not going to be taking the WT600 with you when out and about!
We are, however, unable to vouch for the 4K online playback capability. Our paltry 20 meg connection just isn’t up to it but we have no reason to suspect it won’t work. In fact, had our connection been 50Mbps, or above, we might just have been the first members of the public to access the test 4K footage Netflix US is currently holding on its servers. It was tantalisingly close. Netflix is just one of the video on demand/streaming service available through the WT600 with others such as iPlayer, Wuaki and YouTube bolstering the ranks. Panasonic has also been good enough to provide their own 4K Video Channel, accessible from the Apps screen and it did actually function with our connection. It certainly didn’t look quite so pristine as the demo material we’ve been supplied on hard drive or USB memory but was excellent by the standards of internet streamed video.
More mundanely, the WT600 includes an excellent Media Server which plays very nicely with Windows 7 and there’s built-in Wi-Fi to aid ease of connectivity. The inclusion of a built-in camera opens up the Skype video calling and dual Freeview and Freesat tuners mean the PVR functions become a lot less limited than once they were: watch one record another – just like a ‘real’ PVR. Naturally there’s a an app for mobile devices, with Viera Remote 2 available to iOS and Android users on operating systems 4.0 and 5.0, or above, respectively. New in this year’s app is Swipe and Share 2.0 that not only allows for photo, music (not iOS) and video content to be shared to the TV but also permits it to be shared back to other tablets and smartphones. The app also uses the DIAL (Discover and Launch) protocol, meaning some apps can be launched from your phone or tablet to your TV. This presently only works with Netflix and YouTube, on the Panasonics, but is very cool and a view in to the future.
The yellowish tinges we could pick up on certain tones were reflected in the fact that the white balance contained an excess of green and red and a corresponding deficit of blue energy. Results are reasonable for an out-of-box default but with delta Errors generally over five, improvements should be readily noticeable. Colours were very good prior to any calibration, as we would expect from a top-tier product, but we’d like to see red more fully saturated once we’d finished.
As you can see from the charts below, greyscale and gamma tracking was perfect, post-calibration, and the effects were immediately obvious. A greyscale ramp looked completely neutral and skin-tones were now devoid of the yellow peril.
We can see on the chart above right that we stopped short of fully saturating red with the CMS, although we were able to, because, as we can see from the CIE chart below, it was over-saturating at lower stimuli, throwing other elements of the picture off. By minimising the over-saturation at 25 and 50%, we were able to make images just that bit more natural in appearance. There were no other real issues to report and colour tracking can be pegged in the ‘excellent’ category.
Contrast, Black Levels & Screen Uniformity
IPS panels aren’t known for impressive native black levels but, as we’ve just seen with the LG LA970, there was room for improvement in the technology. Somehow LG (who we presume manufacture the panel for Panasonic) has managed to drag better raw black performance with these 4K panels and we’re not complaining. It has come at the expense of viewing angles however and colours will now wash out much closer to the centre than previously. For reasons we’ll discuss later on, Panasonic’s Adaptive Backlight Control was left disengaged for our contrast measurements but since the WT600 has a native black level of around 0.05cd./m2, that’s not such a huge deal. In fact, it averaged 0.054cd/m2 on a checkerboard pattern, which is much better than most current 1080p Panasonic LED/LCD TVs.
We can see from the bottom row of the checkerboard that uniformity with dark scenes was not perfect, with some milky patches here and there but we’ve seen much worse. The biggest uniformity issue, however, was in the form of panel banding clearly visible on any shots with uniform colour or light in nature. There were two parallel bars – each around 4cm in width, running vertically either side of the Panasonic logo, which were the worst culprits and seen far too often for our liking but there were others besides. We can begin to forgive these kinds of shortcomings on less costly TVs but this is unacceptable for a TV costing around £5,500.
Native black levels are impressive for IPS tech.
Of course, with Ultra HD TVs, at this time, scaling of more lowly signals is of paramount importance. There is, after all, virtually nothing to watch in native resolution so it’s a welcome relief that the WT6000 performs this task very well. Don’t expect your standard definition channels to be palatable though, there’s no genie inside but a good DVD transfer can still look surprisingly watchable. The fact that the WT can lock on the PAL 2:2 film cadence also helps there.
Full HD – if you can really call it that any more – signals fared well too but although it did well on the 1080i deinterlacing tests, there’s clearly some problems when viewing sports at 1080i50, i.e broadcast TV standard. We could sometimes see the pitch lines breaking up but it’s more the fact that it blurs very noticeably. The IFC interpolation engine doesn’t really help with the blur either but a setting of Mid cures the line break up. The unnatural motion IFC induced at Mid & High made it unusable for us, as it turns out, but we’d encourage owners to experiment.
To get the most responsive gaming performance from the WT600 necessitates activation of the Game Mode from the Options sub menu in the main Picture Menu. It’s worth the small effort involved though as it brings input lag down to between 34 and 38 milliseconds, which is fine for us. With Game Mode operative, the fastest picture preset is actually THX Daytime, for reasons that aren’t fully clear, but we’d advise either THX Cinema or one of the Professional Modes as they look nicer and have better detail in the shadows. In terms of scaling, games looked generally good but we did see some edges breaking and doubling up, here and there. And the last word - a 65-inch screen is magnificent for gaming!
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
•Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 168W
•Calibrated 2D Mode: 182W
•Calibrated 3D Mode: 275W.
Panasonic TX-L65WT600 Picture Quality 4KOur collection of Ultra HD Material is growing, although thematically there seems to be a lot of common ground with what demo content the manufacturers supply: lots of travelogue and nature shots, liquids with small bubbles, close-ups of skin showing pore detail. You know the sort of thing and it all looks crisp and splendid. As I found with the Samsung 65F9000, I needed to be within around 6ft to resolve all the details present but the textural quality of the image was still great from slightly further out. Most of the test material used was encoded at 50Mbps, which didn’t seem to introduce any compression artefacts and motion resolution seemed quite good. Some of the textures would definitely blur under panning, and we do worry that if LED continues, in the long term, as the chief technology propping up UHD that it won’t be up to the higher framerates needed but things aren’t too bad as they stand. As an aside, this is the first time we’ve had DCI 4K (4096 × 2160) resolution in the home, which was thanks to the presence of a DisplayPort connection, so there’s no disputing Panasonic’s claims that this is a 4K TV. Ok, so it scales it down but you get the point.
bona fide 4k!
Picture Quality HD & SD
If you’re intent on buying a 65-inch Ultra HD TV, we would hope that you have a readily available supply of high quality, high definition material to give it a chance to shine. Seven million, eight hundred and seventy thousand and six hundred and eighty is an awful lot of pixels to ‘guesstimate’ for any scaling engine so don’t go expecting miracles with standard definition content. To put it another way, for every 1 pixel of information, the TV has to interpolate 19 surrounding it to fill the screen which makes the fact the very good DVDs (particularly animation) could look near-HD surprisingly impressive. We have to say we couldn’t find a single SD TV channel – whether native, through Freeview, or scaled to 1080i/p by our TiVo or YouView boxes - that we could tolerate for more than a couple of minutes but that’s probably just as much the dreadful bitrates as the panel resolution to blame.
As you would expect, material with a native 1920 x 1080 resolution came off a whole lot better, especially in the case of 1080p24 Blu-ray. I’m continuing my odyssey through the Game of Thrones Blu-ray collection and there were times when the WT600 made it look utterly sublime. When things were fairly static, there was even a sense of extra resolution being added but that all gets lost when the action sped up. Not that the 4K Panasonic is doing anything wrong, just the low framerate isn’t doing the panel any justice. As we said in the Test Results section, sports broadcasts at 1080i50 proved particularly challenging for the the WT600 and left us slightly disheartened about what lies ahead in the immediate future. Plasma isn’t perfect and, for that matter, nor is OLED, but it’s better than this.
Sports broadcasts at 1080i50 proved particularly challenging for the the WT600
And that’s not the only issue we encountered. Whilst, in some ways, the WT600 is undoubtedly a bleeding-edge television, some familiar problems of the technology have unfortunately made the resolution leap along with it. Chief amongst the bogeymen was a very unpleasant example of panel banding, which we detailed above, but warrants mention again, here, as it was an almost constant blight. Four dirty great bands running vertically either side of the Panasonic logo were near ever-present with others appearing on panning shots. We’d speculate that the most visible lines had some correlation with the mounting plate on the back panel but, whatever the cause, it's not something we could tolerate in a TV costing nearly £5,500.
With or without the Active Backlight ‘local’ dimming control engaged there was also a lot of haloing around bright objects on dark backgrounds, which worsened as you moved off-centre from the picture. The dimming system is poor, in any case, and rendered anything containing dark scenes virtually unwatchable as the processing struggled to track moving objects. A scene would look great one moment but as soon as something stirred, the image would be subject to erratic and inaccurate flashes which obscured detail. Aside from the haloing problem, viewing angles were also poor for an IPS panel, with colours fading noticeably when more than 20-25 degrees off-axis. We appreciate the boost in black levels but it seems to have come at the expense of one of IPS’s core strengths.
We expect better for this ticket-price
Panasonic TX-L65WT600 Picture Quality 3DWe were very worried when preparing to watch what has become one of our reference 3D Blu-rays, Life of Pi, as the opening menu screen displayed an unnerving amount of ghosting behind the text; but our fears subsided once the action started.The WT600 is actually a superb 3D TV and is capable of delivering stunningly impactful action in the added dimension.A special word for the Professional 3D Mode which looked extremely accurate straight from the box and, make no bones about it, size matters just as much with 3D as it does 4K, so a 65-inch panel is ideal from around 8-10 feet. A word of warning for those that suffer with flicker on active shutter 3D systems - we did find the WT600 quite challenging in that regard so a demo is strongly advised for the three-d-ers out there. Flicker aside, the glasses provided are very comfortable to wear and have a very neutral tint to the lenses so no complaints there.
- Impressive blacks and contrast
- Very accurate colours
- Top-notch 3D
- Lovely user interface
- Built-in access to 4K material
- Nice set of smart features
- Very noticeable panel banding
- Poor viewing angles
- Inadequate dimming system
- Unavoidable haloing
- Blurring with broadcast sports
Panasonic TX-L65WT600 (WT600) Ultra HD 4K TV ReviewThe Panasonic WT600 has a number of unique cards up its sleeve. It’s currently the only TV in existence blessed with a HDMI 2.0 capable input as well as carrying a DisplayPort connection. It can also browse and stream MPEG-4 video from the web in 4K and the styling can also be ranked as state of the art. The mobile app is also superb, making your phone or tablet in to the ultimate remote controller. The package is co-ordinated and well thought out, even down to a matching colour scheme between the hardware and software interfaces and it even comes with its own built-in 4K ecosystem.
And, if you were sensing a ‘but’, full marks because the WT600 comes complete with a number of caveats. Despite all the new technology on offer, we were left to bemoan some of the old. Screen uniformity has always been a particular bugbear with LED/LCD and unfortunately this TV displayed some very unpleasant banding, slap-bang in the centre of the screen, which was almost an ever-present and wholly unacceptable for a TV of such lofty standing. We can add in some unavoidable haloing coupled with an inadequate dimming system to the list of irks too and, for that matter, viewing angles are restrictive for IPS technology.
It’s a shame about the uniformity issues as, otherwise, the WT600 has plenty to commend. Native contrast and black levels are very good for the technology, colours look pure and natural and the handling of decent HD signals is also very impressive – save for some blurring with fast paced broadcast 1080i action. It could have been a different story but, as things stand, we’re going to be waiting for OLED before Panasonic produces another videophile-grade consumer TV.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
2D Picture Quality6
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money5
Our Review Ethos
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