Monday, September 16, 2013

Hands-on review: Panasonic TX-L65WT600

Hands-on review: Panasonic TX-L65WT600

Hands-on review: Panasonic TX-L65WT600

How can two identically sized Ultra HD TVs have such different price tags? Panasonic's first Ultra HD telly, the 65-inch TX-L65WT600 LED TV, is set to cost around £5,499 when it goes on sale in the UK within weeks.

Philips 65PFL9708, however, is already on sale for £4,500. So what's Panasonic got that Philips hasn't?

The answer is that the TX-L65WT600 is future-proof. While the likes of Philips have unleashed their latest sets with the promise of upgrades and converters to come when 4K sources are revealed, Panasonic has packed its debut set with inputs that comply with the very latest â€" as in, revealed this week â€" HDMI 2.0 specification.

Panasonic LED Tv

Technically the licensees of HDMI aren't supposed to use it as a selling point, but the TX-L65WT600 definitely has one over the competition because HDMI 2.0 is now all set to be used on future 4K products of all kinds â€" including TVs, set-top boxes, games consoles and any future 4K-ready Blu-ray players.

None of those 4k sources are yet confirmed, but the TX-L65WT600 has much more up its sleeve in terms of 4K-readiness. Aligned to those HDMI 2.0 inputs is this TV's ability to accept â€" and uniquely so â€" progressive pictures at 50Hz, which is exactly the signal range that Sky plans to use for its test Ultra HD broadcasts.

Another broadcaster-centric feature is the inclusion of a Display Port 1.2a input, which can take 4K feeds from a PC. The eyes of home cinema aficionados, meanwhile, will go straight to the TX-L65WT600's b adge reading 4K THX Certified.

Design and performance

The TX-L65WT600 is dressed nicely, too â€" in fact it's one of the best-looking TVs at this year's IFA. A silver bezel a mere 5mm wide rings its 65-inch hulk, nicely rounded on both edges to look even tinnier, though there is a 6mm black space to the edge of the image.

The bezel is wider at the bottom, but it cleverly slopes inward and is slightly recessed, while there's a plastic transparent rim along the bottom of the set that sports a white Panasonic logo at its centre. It's clever stuff. Gone are the days of Panasonic's mostly industrial-looking TVs.

For now, Ultra HDTV appear only to come with 100Hz panels, but that hasn't stopped Panasonic engineers, who have fitted the TX-L65WT600 with a backlight blinking mode that's said to equate to a 2,000Hz mode. That does seem unlikely, though the demos we saw suggested a pretty high level of motion sharpness and all-round fluidity.

That's par tly down to the rebirth of Panasonic's impressive frame interpolation system, which is here called 4K Intelligent Frame Creation. Dolled-up with four times the processing power, 4K IFC can pan at up to 1,200 frames per second with all sources â€" including 4K. All this is part of a Hexa processing engine that also includes Infinite Contrast and an ambient light sensor.

In one demo this appeared to come into play, along with the progressive input. A TX-L65WT600 showed a football match in 60p, while a screen alongside played 'conventional' 30p. No prizes for guessing which one was rather exceptionally smoother and clearer.


Not that the TX-L65WT600 is all about the future of 4K. Conscious that no-one has any native 4K for now, buyers of this TV get some pretty advanced 4K chroma upscaling thanks to a new Uniphier processor. However, there was a suggestion on the stand that a Panasonic DIGA Blu-ray Recorder could do an identical job at upscaling, suggesting that 4K-capable machines are being readied as we write. Our guess is spring 2014.

Ins and outs

Ins and outs are dominated by the side-panel's three HDMI 2.0 inputs â€" there's another one on a down-facing section â€" along with an optical digital audio output, SD Card slot and three USB slots, one of which can make recordings from its Freeview HD and Freesat HD twin tuners.

Thanks to a HD.264 decoder inside, it should be possible to play 4K files from a USB stick, too. Thankfully this side panel is well recessed so you won't get cables poking out from the sides.

Panasonic was also showing off what it was calling Swipe & Share 4K, in which 4K-resolution files can be sent to the screen from a tablet or smartphone. Fine, though th at's not a new feature at all â€" 4K equates to about 8 megapixels.

Does anyone have photos that aren't 8 megapixels? With the 4K resolution in mind, however, the web browser on the TX-L65WT600 will go full-screen for displaying maps and satellite photos in ever-greater visibility.

Early verdict

It's been a long time coming, and it's not cheap, but Panasonic's entry into the Ultra HD fray is one serious and feature-packed affair. Now all we need is something to watch in 4K …


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