Panasonic 4K Ultra HD TX-65DX902B HDR TV review

Inside CI 5 Rating

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posted on Saturday, 23rd April 2016 by Steve May

home cinema  Panasonic  4K  AWE Europe  HDR 

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The TX-65DX902 is the first Ultra HD Premium HDR screen in Panasonic’s 4K Pro fleet. It’s able to produce peak highlights in excess of 1000 nits. Also known as the DX900 Series, the high-end set comes in 58- and 65-inch sizes; here we audition the latter. The TV is also certified for 4K by THX.

Panasonic TX-65DX902 4K HDR TV: Build quality and features
The DX902 is an extremely well made, elegantly designed 4K screen. It’s not overly designed, but looks classy and rewards close inspection. The screen embraces Panasonic's Italian-inspired Art & Interior philosophy (joined by the altogether fancier DX802). If you’re looking to park it on furniture, note that the feet are placed to the edge of the panel, which means you’ll need significant width. It’s flat, so wall-mounting is a sensible option, but there’s some weight to contend with here – the TV tips the scales at 34.5kg.

Connections include four HDMIs, three USBs, plus component and phono AV inputs. There’s also an optical audio output, Ethernet and dual band Wi-Fi. There are tuners for terrestrial TV and satellite (Freesat). All the HDMI inputs are HDCP 2.2 compatible, which allows them to function with any external 4K source.

TX_65DX900_frame

TX_65DX900_feet

The set ships with two remote controls, one a nicely finished IR pointer, the other a Bluetooth touchpad. The DX902 is also compatible with Control4, and there's talk of Crestron support as well.

User Interface aspects are terrific. The screen employs Panasonic’s Firefox TV OS platform, which is minimalist but intuitive. It launches with a trio of circular tabs, Live TV, Apps, Devices, which you can be added to, by 'pinning' other items (channels, sources). 

The Devices tab pulls up networked DLNA gadgets (file compatibility is excellent) as well as locally connected STBs or disc spinners. Navigation around the menus is fast and snappy, courtesy of a Quad Core Pro processor.

The DX902 also features Freeview Play, the refreshed version of the terrestrial TV service, which has integrated catch-up for all the main terrestrial channels (iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, Demand 5 and the BBC news and sport apps), accessed via a roll-back epg. There’s good enough selection of streaming app content on tap. In addition to must-haves 4K Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and YouTube apps, there’s Wuaki TV, Chili Cinema and Freesat Freetime.

Rear Panel (6)

Backlight

Panasonic TX-65DX902 4K HDR TV: Performance
The pictures produced by the DX902 are extraordinary. At times I felt this screen delivered probably the best picture from any consumer display I’ve ever had in for review – detail, gradation, nuance, vibrancy are all exceptional...but there are also caveats and complications.

The screen utilises a new direct LED backlight structure, calling Local Dimming Ultra. 512 LEDs are divided into a grid of honeycomb-cells. These 7x7 clusters are designed to combat light leakage, and thereby improve contrast. It’s clever stuff, but it can produce a halo around bright objects on certain dark backgrounds (pictured above). And you don't need HDR programmes to see it. 

HDR completely rewrites the rule book when it comes to picture optimisation. HDR screens automatically optimize to HDR content using the metadata in the HDR10 source. Key image parameters are locked down. This is good news for installers, as it means that there’s no need for additional calibration, and by and large users can’t accidentally detune the screen. But there are often complications in the basic set up that need to be addressed.

Using the set with a Panasonic UB900 4K Blu-ray player, required HDMI inputs to be manually assigned for HDR. The screen doesn’t automatically handshake with the player, although Panasonic told Inside CI that this would be addressed via a firmware update.

The DX902 is compatible with HDR10, the open HDR standard supported by UHD Blu-ray and broadcasters. This HDR content can be viewed on Normal, Professional 1 or True Cinema modes, and there are slight differences between them. In both Normal and professional 1, the Adaptive backlight Control is set to Min. In True Cinema it moves to Mid. Selecting any automatically selects the correct EOTF and colour space.

The Lego Movie is a great example of the set’s dynamic delivery and expanded colour space. This is supreme eye candy, full of vibrant hues, deep blacks and glinting peak highlights. Panasonic’s 10-bit Wide Colour Phosphor panel outperforms rival Quantum Dot screens, at least on paper. The brand says it covers some 98 per cent of the DCI spectrum.

There are two THX viewing modes, THX Cinema and THX Bright Room, for those that want to replicate that old school Rec709 look with conventional Blu-rays.

One area which still requires some manual setting is motion control. Intelligent Frame Creation is now available in a custom mode, along with the usual three presets, which allows you to manually set Blur reduction and smoothing. Typivcally, IFC Min would be my default setting, or IFC Custom with Blur reduction set to 7 and Film Smooth set to 0, for a more cinematic feel.

The audio system is reasonably boisterous, but a screen of this caliber should always be used with a separate sound system. The TV is 3D compatible, but no Active Shutter glasses are provided in the box.

Freeview Play

Firefox Home Page

Panasonic TX-65DX902 4K HDR TV: Verdict
There’s no doubt that the DX902 is a fantastic screen. The use of a direct, rather than edge-lit, LED backlight, gives fantastic peak luminosity, with fine tonal gradations for shadow detail. At times though, backlight halos do become intrusive. The Firefox OS, coupled to Freeview Play, makes for excellent usability. Build and design quality are top notch. Overall, we think this screen is a knockout. If you’re looking to install a best in class display, then the DX902 has got to be a top contender.

The Panasonic TX-65DX902B is available now
Retail price: £3,299
The Panasonic 4K HDR DX900 Series is available through AWE. For more stories about AWE’s product portfolio and services, visit our partner page here.

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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