Panasonic Beats Plasma Picture Quality with TC-AX800U Series - AVS Forum
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Old 05-16-2014, 12:31 PM - Thread Starter
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* OK, it beats plasma under certain conditions...

If there's one company that continues to cater to videophiles obsessed with image quality, it's Panasonic. While many people lamented the loss of the reference-quality VT60 and ZT60 plasmas, Panasonic clearly saw a need to move on to UHD-resolution LED-lit LCDs. At CES 2014, I saw the first fruits of its labor—what the company calls "Studio Master Drive." I contemplated the title of this post for hours; I know it's going to ruffle some feathers, but I'm convinced of the validity of what I saw. Yesterday, I went to Manhattan to attend a press briefing that covered the 2014 Viera TV lineup. When I arrived, I was surprised to find that I was the only person in the room who was not from Panasonic. It was an exclusive presentation; I did not have to share the room with any other press! I seized the opportunity to discuss what AVS members overwhelmingly want out of their TVs. I mentioned that those priorities include deep blacks, high motion resolution, wide viewing angles, a flat screen, high contrast, saturated colors, and full compatibility with the latest HDMI standards and codecs. A reasonable price is a bonus. 

Update: I posted a review which offers a more accurate and detailed overview of the AX800U: Panasonic TC-65AX800U LED-LCD UHDTV

Panasonics TC-65AX800U looked astonishing when displaying native UHD/4K content. If you want to see an un-resized jpeg, click here. 

The Panasonic reps joked about being a company full of engineers, not marketing types. Well, it was only half-joking, because the contrast between Panasonic's NY event and the Samsung event I attended a month ago was stark. Whereas Samsung invited hundreds of reporters to the Guggenheim in Manhattan to discuss the added-value and artistic merit of curved-screen LED-edgelit LCD TVs, Panasonic was talking to me directly about how its THX-certified TVs exceed the Rec. 709 color gamut by 122%. The company detailed how the inclusion of a DisplayPort UHD/4K 60p input provides a low-latency hookup for PC gamers. There were a few moments when I had to endure demonstrations of smart features—face and voice recognition, for example. Somehow, I managed to survive that part—I cared much more about the inclusion of HDMI 2.0 with support for 4:4:4 color and UHD/4K 60p. 

Project Cars, a driving game, showed off what UHD/4K can do for gaming. It looked real. One feature that stood out was built-in calibration software that's fully controllable from an iPad. It was quite a trip to see adjustments show up on-screen in real time—quite a contrast to the TVs I worked on when I took the THX video-calibration class last February. 

The AX800U even has built-in software to assist with calibration. It allows real-time adjustments using an iPad or Android tablet
 I looked closely at the image on a TC-65AX800U ($4500) displaying native UHD/4K footage. It was a sunny day; huge windows flooded the room with ambient light that matched what I've seen in modern living rooms. In such bright light, the TV's picture was gorgeous; to be frank, it looked as nice as the LG UHD/4K OLEDs I saw at CES. Color saturation was exemplary, as was screen uniformity. Off-angle viewing posed no problems whatsoever within a 90-degree cone, however the viewing angle for plasma-like performance is narrower. In a bright room, viewed from a reasonable angle, Panasonic's (current) best LCD offers an image that's competitive with OLED TVs I've seen. 

Room reflections notwithstanding, the AX800 maintained image quality when viewed off-axis 

However, I know that AVS members do not buy plasmas for bright-room viewing. Thankfully, Panasonic also had a TC-65AX800U in a totally blacked-out space along with two more TVs. To the left of the AX800U, there was a TC-P65ZT60. To the right was a TC-L65WT600 (last year's flagship LCD), and all three TVs were the same distance from—and facing toward—the spot where I was standing. I'd seen a similar demo at CES, but this time, Panasonic used footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Panasonic wanted to show off the AX800U's capabilities using challenging footage from a well-known movie played at 1080p from Blu-ray. The movie is full of dark scenes that contain a ton of shadow detail. In a black room, the ZT60 edged out the AX800U in terms of ultimate black levels, but the difference was tiny. When it came to detail rendition, I saw no real benefit to the UHD/4K upscaling on the AX800U; however, it was at least as sharp and detailed as the ZT60. Aside from that, the AX800U looked better. Deep shadows contained more color and more definition than what the ZT60 was able to muster. When scenes got bright, the ZT60 fell behind in terms of contrast. Both TVs looked far superior to the WT600. 

Panasonic's ZT60 is on the left, the AX800 is in the center, and the WT600 is on the right 

After yesterday's experience, I've become a believer in LCD's ability to perform well. According to Panasonic, an 85-inch version of the same panel will come out in less than a year, potentially as early as this fall. The company has delivered on its promise to preserve plasma image quality as it transitions to an all-LCD lineup. It's engineers managed to distill what was great about its 1080p premium plasmas and put those qualities to work in a LED-lit LCD TV. Stay tuned for an upcoming report in Latest Industry News about Panasonic's entire 2014 TV lineup. It's time to start the debate, which centers on a simple premise—that well-implemented LCD can look better than plasma in both dark and bright environments; it can even compete with OLED picture quality when viewed in a bright room. Based on what I saw, Panasonic has pulled it off. 

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Last edited by imagic; 09-27-2014 at 10:22 AM.
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Old 05-16-2014, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post

If there's one company that continues to cater to videophiles obsessed with image quality, it's Panasonic. While many people lamented the loss of the reference-quality VT60 and ZT60 plasmas, Panasonic clearly saw a need to move on to UHD-resolution LED-lit LCDs. At CES 2014, I saw the first fruits of its labor—what the company calls "Studio Master Drive."

I contemplated the title of this post for hours; I know it's going to ruffle some feathers, but I'm convinced of the validity of what I saw. Yesterday, I went to Manhattan to attend a press briefing that covered the 2014 Viera TV lineup. When I arrived, I was surprised to find that I was the only person in the room who was not from Panasonic. It was an exclusive presentation; I did not have to share the room with any other press!

I seized the opportunity to discuss what AVS members overwhelmingly want out of their TVs. I mentioned that those priorities include deep blacks, high motion resolution, wide viewing angles, a flat screen, high contrast, saturated colors, and full compatibility with the latest HDMI standards and codecs. A reasonable price is a bonus.

The Panasonic reps joked about being a company full of engineers, not marketing types. Well, it was only half-joking, because the contrast between Panasonic's NY event and the Samsung event I attended a month ago was stark. Whereas Samsung invited hundreds of reporters to the Guggenheim in Manhattan to discuss the added-value and artistic merit of curved-screen LED-edgelit LCD TVs, Panasonic was talking to me directly about how its THX-certified TVs exceed the Rec. 709 color gamut by 122%. The company detailed how the inclusion of a DisplayPort UHD/4K 60p input provides a low-latency hookup for PC gamers. There were a few moments when I had to endure demonstrations of smart features—face and voice recognition, for example. Somehow, I managed to survive that part—I cared much more about the inclusion of HDMI 2.0 with support for 4:4:4 color and UHD/4K 60p.

One feature that stood out was built-in calibration software that's fully controllable from an iPad. According to Panasonic, the TC-AX800U series is compatible with third-party colorimeters and requires no additional software to achieve a proper calibration that includes 10-point gamma correction. It was quite a trip to see adjustments show up on-screen in real time—quite a contrast to the TVs I worked on when I took the THX video-calibration class last February.

I looked closely at the image on a TC-65AX800U ($4500), which provides full-array LED backlighting with local dimming (FALD), displaying native UHD/4K footage. It was a sunny day; huge windows flooded the room with ambient light that matched what I've seen in modern living rooms. In such bright light, the TV's picture was gorgeous; to be frank, it looked as nice as the LG UHD/4K OLEDs I saw at CES. Color saturation was exemplary, as was screen uniformity. Off-angle viewing posed no problems whatsoever within a 90-degree cone. I tried to find fault, but I must confess I could not. In a bright room, Panasonic's best LCD offers an image that's competitive with OLED TVs I've seen.

However, I know that AVS members do not buy plasmas for bright-room viewing. Thankfully, Panasonic also had a TC-65AX800U in a totally blacked-out space—along with two more TVs. To the left of the TC-65AX800U, there was a TC-P65ZT60. To the right, there was an LCD from last year (I'm working on getting the exact model number), and all three TVs were the same distance from—and facing toward—the spot where I was standing.

I'd seen a similar demo at CES, but this time, Panasonic used footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Panasonic wanted to show off the AX800U's capabilities using challenging footage from a well-known movie, off of Blu-ray. The movie is full of dark scenes that contain a ton of shadow detail. In a black room, the ZT60 edged out the AX800U in terms of ultimate black levels, but the difference was tiny. When it came to detail rendition, I saw no real benefit to the UHD/4K upscaling on the AX800U; however, it was at least as sharp and detailed as the ZT60. Aside from that, the AX800U looked better. Deep shadows contained more color and more definition than what the ZT60 was able to muster. When scenes got bright, the ZT60 fell behind in terms of contrast. Both TVs looked far superior to the 2013 LCD.

After yesterday's experience, I've turned into a believer—in LCD's ability to perform well. According to Panasonic, an 85-inch version of the same panel will come out in less than a year, potentially as early as this fall. The company has delivered on its promise to preserve plasma image quality as it transitions to an all-LCD lineup. It's engineers managed to distill what was great about its 1080p premium plasmas, and put those qualities to work in a LED-backlit LCD TV. Stay tuned for an upcoming latest industry news piece about Panasonic's 2014 TV lineup.

It's time to start the debate, which centers on a simple premise—that well-implemented LCD can look better than plasma in both dark and bright environments; it can even compete with OLED picture quality when viewed in a bright room. Based on what I saw, Panasonic has pulled it off. 

Mark,

impressive review, but I am pretty sure the AX800 is edge-lit. The AX900 coming at the end of this year is supposed to be full array (FALD) and is the productized version of the 'plasma-beating' panel Panasonic showed at CES.

So either you saw an AX800 and it was edge-lit or you saw an early sample of an AX900 (or the CES prototype again).

[EDIT: Confirmation here: http://www.hdtvtest.co.uk/news/ax900-201403243688.htm]
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Old 05-16-2014, 01:05 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post

If there's one company that continues to cater to videophiles obsessed with image quality, it's Panasonic. While many people lamented the loss of the reference-quality VT60 and ZT60 plasmas, Panasonic clearly saw a need to move on to UHD-resolution LED-lit LCDs. At CES 2014, I saw the first fruits of its labor—what the company calls "Studio Master Drive."

I contemplated the title of this post for hours; I know it's going to ruffle some feathers, but I'm convinced of the validity of what I saw. Yesterday, I went to Manhattan to attend a press briefing that covered the 2014 Viera TV lineup. When I arrived, I was surprised to find that I was the only person in the room who was not from Panasonic. It was an exclusive presentation; I did not have to share the room with any other press!

I seized the opportunity to discuss what AVS members overwhelmingly want out of their TVs. I mentioned that those priorities include deep blacks, high motion resolution, wide viewing angles, a flat screen, high contrast, saturated colors, and full compatibility with the latest HDMI standards and codecs. A reasonable price is a bonus.

The Panasonic reps joked about being a company full of engineers, not marketing types. Well, it was only half-joking, because the contrast between Panasonic's NY event and the Samsung event I attended a month ago was stark. Whereas Samsung invited hundreds of reporters to the Guggenheim in Manhattan to discuss the added-value and artistic merit of curved-screen LED-edgelit LCD TVs, Panasonic was talking to me directly about how its THX-certified TVs exceed the Rec. 709 color gamut by 122%. The company detailed how the inclusion of a DisplayPort UHD/4K 60p input provides a low-latency hookup for PC gamers. There were a few moments when I had to endure demonstrations of smart features—face and voice recognition, for example. Somehow, I managed to survive that part—I cared much more about the inclusion of HDMI 2.0 with support for 4:4:4 color and UHD/4K 60p.

One feature that stood out was built-in calibration software that's fully controllable from an iPad. According to Panasonic, the TC-AX800U series is compatible with third-party colorimeters and requires no additional software to achieve a proper calibration that includes 10-point gamma correction. It was quite a trip to see adjustments show up on-screen in real time—quite a contrast to the TVs I worked on when I took the THX video-calibration class last February.

I looked closely at the image on a TC-65AX800U ($4500), which provides full-array LED backlighting with local dimming (FALD), displaying native UHD/4K footage. It was a sunny day; huge windows flooded the room with ambient light that matched what I've seen in modern living rooms. In such bright light, the TV's picture was gorgeous; to be frank, it looked as nice as the LG UHD/4K OLEDs I saw at CES. Color saturation was exemplary, as was screen uniformity. Off-angle viewing posed no problems whatsoever within a 90-degree cone. I tried to find fault, but I must confess I could not. In a bright room, Panasonic's best LCD offers an image that's competitive with OLED TVs I've seen.

However, I know that AVS members do not buy plasmas for bright-room viewing. Thankfully, Panasonic also had a TC-65AX800U in a totally blacked-out space—along with two more TVs. To the left of the TC-65AX800U, there was a TC-P65ZT60. To the right, there was an LCD from last year (I'm working on getting the exact model number), and all three TVs were the same distance from—and facing toward—the spot where I was standing.

I'd seen a similar demo at CES, but this time, Panasonic used footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Panasonic wanted to show off the AX800U's capabilities using challenging footage from a well-known movie, off of Blu-ray. The movie is full of dark scenes that contain a ton of shadow detail. In a black room, the ZT60 edged out the AX800U in terms of ultimate black levels, but the difference was tiny. When it came to detail rendition, I saw no real benefit to the UHD/4K upscaling on the AX800U; however, it was at least as sharp and detailed as the ZT60. Aside from that, the AX800U looked better. Deep shadows contained more color and more definition than what the ZT60 was able to muster. When scenes got bright, the ZT60 fell behind in terms of contrast. Both TVs looked far superior to the 2013 LCD.

After yesterday's experience, I've turned into a believer—in LCD's ability to perform well. According to Panasonic, an 85-inch version of the same panel will come out in less than a year, potentially as early as this fall. The company has delivered on its promise to preserve plasma image quality as it transitions to an all-LCD lineup. It's engineers managed to distill what was great about its 1080p premium plasmas, and put those qualities to work in a LED-backlit LCD TV. Stay tuned for an upcoming latest industry news piece about Panasonic's 2014 TV lineup.

It's time to start the debate, which centers on a simple premise—that well-implemented LCD can look better than plasma in both dark and bright environments; it can even compete with OLED picture quality when viewed in a bright room. Based on what I saw, Panasonic has pulled it off. 

Mark,

impressive review, but I am pretty sure the AX800 is edge-lit. The AX900 coming at the end of this year is supposed to be full array (FALD) and is the productized version of the 'plasma-beating' panel Panasonic showed at CES.

So either you saw an AX800 and it was edge-lit or you saw an early sample of an AX900 (or the CES prototype again).

[EDIT: Confirmation here: http://www.hdtvtest.co.uk/news/ax900-201403243688.htm]

 

Thank you for that. Article edited accordingly! I'm impressed by what Panasonic achieved with its edgelit panel.

 

 

Panasonic said the AX800 still features "Studio Master Drive" that has the qualities Panasonic was promoting in its Studio Master Panel demo at CES. The pitch has changed, now the AX800 also goes up against the ZT60! Panasonic specifically noted that local dimming was turned off during the LCD vs. plasma dark room demo, which is why the image looked so solid to my eyes.

 

I re-confirmed that the dark room demo I saw used an AX800. I gotta say, I would never have guessed I was looking at an edgelit TV, but I was.

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Old 05-16-2014, 01:14 PM
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Thanks for sharing! Very promising indeed! As the owner of a 65VT60, a year ago I wouldn't have wasted a nanosecond considering an LCD TV as an option. But this, in addition to equally promising reports coming from various camps regarding Vizio's new line-up, makes me think that I was right in not purchasing a second 65VT60 as "a back up" back when Amazon had them on sale. Things are moving much too quick. Color me intrigued.
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Old 05-16-2014, 02:09 PM
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That's exciting news for LCD. Looking forward to more pro reviews using regular off the manufacturing line units. Can't wait to see it when it hits the stores.
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Old 05-16-2014, 02:17 PM
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The edge lit X800U doesn't look so hot in that comparison pic.
Look at the very left side of the picture, where there is a black hallway.
It's near black on the plasma & light grey on both of the LCDs.
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Old 05-16-2014, 02:27 PM
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The edge lit X800U doesn't look so hot in that comparison pic.
Look at the very left side of the picture, where there is a black hallway.
It's near black on the plasma & light grey on both of the LCDs.
Sorry, totally disagree with you on that one. I see nothing favorable on that plasma pic but then again we all bring our bias to the table perhaps.

I trust his expertise and opinion above an internet pic displayed on a PC with variables inherently impacting the pic and each persons PC/video graphics that we would not see in person.
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Old 05-16-2014, 02:27 PM - Thread Starter
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The edge lit X800U doesn't look so hot in that comparison pic.
Look at the very left side of the picture, where there is a black hallway.
It's near black on the plasma & light grey on both of the LCDs.

 

Don't judge a thing based on that photo. All that shows is that my camera's kit lens tends to vignette towards the edges when I shoot it wide-open. If anything, the ZT60 generally had less shadow detail than the AX800U. The real difference was the added contrast the AX800U achieved while maintaining the saturation and color accuracy of the ZT60.

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Old 05-16-2014, 03:20 PM
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Yesterday, I went to Manhattan to attend a press briefing that covered the 2014 Viera TV lineup. When I arrived, I was surprised to find that I was the only person in the room who was not from Panasonic. It was an exclusive presentation; I did not have to share the room with any other press!
Who has a press briefing with no press? Seems like it was an imagic briefing. tongue.gif
Quote:
The Panasonic reps joked about being a company full of engineers, not marketing types.
So that's why they couldn't make any money on plasma TVs. It all makes sense now!
Quote:
Panasonic was talking to me directly about how its THX-certified TVs exceed the Rec. 709 color gamut by 122%.
I'd guess they meant it exceeded it by 22%, not 122%, unless the TV has 222% Rec.709 coverage.
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Old 05-16-2014, 03:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagic View Post

Yesterday, I went to Manhattan to attend a press briefing that covered the 2014 Viera TV lineup. When I arrived, I was surprised to find that I was the only person in the room who was not from Panasonic. It was an exclusive presentation; I did not have to share the room with any other press!
Who has a press briefing with no press? Seems like it was an imagic briefing. tongue.gif
Quote:
The Panasonic reps joked about being a company full of engineers, not marketing types.
So that's why they couldn't make any money on plasma TVs. It all makes sense now!
Quote:
Panasonic was talking to me directly about how its THX-certified TVs exceed the Rec. 709 color gamut by 122%.
I'd guess they meant it exceeded it by 22%, not 122%, unless the TV has 222% Rec.709 coverage.

 

The Panasonic folks acknowledged the importance of AVS Forum. It was a briefing for AVS.

I know what you are saying about the percentages. 


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Old 05-16-2014, 05:01 PM
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I'm curious, was any 3D content viewed? The TC-AX800U is on my short list for a new LCD in the next month or two and I'm a big fan of 3D movies. Thanks! smile.gif
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Old 05-16-2014, 05:06 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm curious, was any 3D content viewed? The TC-AX800U is on my short list for a new LCD in the next month or two and I'm a big fan of 3D movies. Thanks! smile.gif

 

I did not view any 3D content; I merely confirmed it does have active 3D capability, since the feature wasn't really touted.


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Old 05-16-2014, 05:29 PM
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Thanks for the reply. Seems like 3D is thrown in as an after thought by manufacturers this year, if it is included at all. frown.gif I'm hoping the Panasonic will show up in one of the big box stores in the area so I can check it out. I enjoy using my current TV as a monitor for my HTPC and the addition of the Display Port would be a plus for me. smile.gif Too bad it doesn't use passive 3D. Maybe active technology has improved this year. My 2010 Sharp LC-60LE925UN had active and it was horrible. I now use a Vizio with passive 3D for 3D movies and computer games and it provides a great 3D experience.

One other question. Is this a 10 bit panel?
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:07 PM
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Thanks Mark, for sharing your valuable review on AX800/4K ... This shows that with Panasonic, is fulfilling its promise to deliver quality Plasma in their LCD LED ... although we know that the flagship AX900/4K (FALD) is the most anticipated in September (for purists image) is that, next to take the throne of ZT60... Hopefully you can check this beauty; at launch :




Greetings
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:11 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks Mark, for sharing your valuable review on AX800/4K ... This shows that with Panasonic, is fulfilling its promise to deliver quality Plasma in their LCD LED ... although we know that the flagship AX900/4K (FALD) is the most anticipated in September (for purists image) is that, next to take the throne of ZT60... Hopefully you can check this beauty; at launch :




Greetings

 

I will likely make a special trip to Panasonic in North Jersey to hang out with one of those for a day, or perhaps get one into my studio for an in-depth review.


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Old 05-16-2014, 06:18 PM
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Mark - in the picture of the three sets side by side what's going on with the color differences of the red chair in the approximate center of the image - it's significantly different on each of the sets?
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:26 PM
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Impressive!

Im really curious about the viewing angles....Mark you say they were maintained within a 90" cone? Whats a 90" cone in viewing angles?
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:28 PM - Thread Starter
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Impressive!

Im really curious about the viewing angles....Mark you say they were maintained within a 90" cone? Whats a 90" cone in viewing angles?

 

The viewing angle exceeds 90 degrees without noticeable degradation


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Old 05-16-2014, 06:28 PM
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We will have to wait for a full blown review to be sure how well this tv performs however. But Im definately interested in this tv! I guess I could sacrifice a little black level for overall picture superiority and LCD brightness with 4k upscaling
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:29 PM
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The viewing angle exceeds 90 degrees without noticeable degradation

90 degrees from where? The main seating position? How do the black levels hold on the extreme viewing angle? Do they slightly suffer or hold on like a plasma?
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:29 PM
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I will likely make a special trip to Panasonic in North Jersey to hang out with one of those for a day, or perhaps get one into my studio for an in-depth review.

It would be great smile.gif I would wish you success in your trip....

Thanks
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:35 PM
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I'd seen a similar demo at CES, but this time, Panasonic used footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Panasonic wanted to show off the AX800U's capabilities using challenging footage from a well-known movie played at 1080p from Blu-ray. The movie is full of dark scenes that contain a ton of shadow detail. In a black room, the ZT60 edged out the AX800U in terms of ultimate black levels, but the difference was tiny. When it came to detail rendition, I saw no real benefit to the UHD/4K upscaling on the AX800U; however, it was at least as sharp and detailed as the ZT60. Aside from that, the AX800U looked better. Deep shadows contained more color and more definition than what the ZT60 was able to muster. When scenes got bright, the ZT60 fell behind in terms of contrast. Both TVs looked far superior to the WT600

Just for the record....we dont know if the ZT60 was calibrated....other picture modes can yield slightly or signigicantly worse picture quality.

I wonder how the zt60 would've faired if it was calibrated in panel mode HIGH considering some panels are able to get up to the low 50's in fL
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:44 PM
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Mark - in the picture of the three sets side by side what's going on with the color differences of the red chair in the approximate center of the image - it's significantly different on each of the sets?

I agree. The red chair becomes a terrible orange with AX800, and that's with the camera facing directly into the AX800. Perhaps because the contrast is set way too high? With all 3 side by side, it looks like the ZT is still the best.
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:45 PM - Thread Starter
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I'd seen a similar demo at CES, but this time, Panasonic used footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Panasonic wanted to show off the AX800U's capabilities using challenging footage from a well-known movie played at 1080p from Blu-ray. The movie is full of dark scenes that contain a ton of shadow detail. In a black room, the ZT60 edged out the AX800U in terms of ultimate black levels, but the difference was tiny. When it came to detail rendition, I saw no real benefit to the UHD/4K upscaling on the AX800U; however, it was at least as sharp and detailed as the ZT60. Aside from that, the AX800U looked better. Deep shadows contained more color and more definition than what the ZT60 was able to muster. When scenes got bright, the ZT60 fell behind in terms of contrast. Both TVs looked far superior to the WT600

Just for the record....we dont know if the ZT60 was calibrated....other picture modes can yield slightly or signigicantly worse picture quality.

I wonder how the zt60 would've faired if it was calibrated in panel mode HIGH considering some panels are able to get up to the low 50's in fL

 

I agree and stated as much when I was there. That's why I plan to investigate the performance of these panels on an ongoing basis. I fully understand how easy it is to create a false comparison. If you want my candid opinion, the engineers at Panasonic are too proud to BS it. Just sayin', they are proud of actually making the best-performing TVs.

 

I don't know how a real shootout between a ZT60 and a AX800U would turn out. I do know that there's no comparison between a 2013 LCD and a 2014 LCD. This is the year every videophile's least-favorite display technology makes the leap into the big-leagues. This year's LCDs are quite impressive.

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Old 05-16-2014, 06:53 PM
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After reading this I am impressed with Panasonic. Their 4K tv looks very nice and I cant believe I am saying that about a 4K tv! I'll be keeping my eye on this tv that's for sure.
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Old 05-16-2014, 06:53 PM
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I'm glad to see Panasonic cranking up the quality. Only time will tell. Comparison between plasma and LED will become moot as plasma will cease to exist most likely in a few years. The real comparison will have to shift to how the new LED tv's will compare to the OLED's on the market. The purists who still have plasma, especially those with the Kuro Elites, will still be able to brag for at least one more year.
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Old 05-16-2014, 07:11 PM
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If there's one company that continues to cater to videophiles obsessed with image quality, it's Panasonic. While many people lamented the loss of the reference-quality VT60 and ZT60 plasmas, Panasonic clearly saw a need to move on to UHD-resolution LED-lit LCDs. At CES 2014, I saw the first fruits of its labor—what the company calls "Studio Master Drive."

I contemplated the title of this post for hours; I know it's going to ruffle some feathers, but I'm convinced of the validity of what I saw. Yesterday, I went to Manhattan to attend a press briefing that covered the 2014 Viera TV lineup. When I arrived, I was surprised to find that I was the only person in the room who was not from Panasonic. It was an exclusive presentation; I did not have to share the room with any other press!

I seized the opportunity to discuss what AVS members overwhelmingly want out of their TVs. I mentioned that those priorities include deep blacks, high motion resolution, wide viewing angles, a flat screen, high contrast, saturated colors, and full compatibility with the latest HDMI standards and codecs. A reasonable price is a bonus.



Panasonics TC-65AX800U looked astonishing when displaying native UHD/4K content. If you want to see an un-resized jpeg, click here.

The Panasonic reps joked about being a company full of engineers, not marketing types. Well, it was only half-joking, because the contrast between Panasonic's NY event and the Samsung event I attended a month ago was stark. Whereas Samsung invited hundreds of reporters to the Guggenheim in Manhattan to discuss the added-value and artistic merit of curved-screen LED-edgelit LCD TVs, Panasonic was talking to me directly about how its THX-certified TVs exceed the Rec. 709 color gamut by 122%. The company detailed how the inclusion of a DisplayPort UHD/4K 60p input provides a low-latency hookup for PC gamers. There were a few moments when I had to endure demonstrations of smart features—face and voice recognition, for example. Somehow, I managed to survive that part—I cared much more about the inclusion of HDMI 2.0 with support for 4:4:4 color and UHD/4K 60p.



Project Cars, a driving game, showed off what UHD/4K can do for gaming. It looked real.

One feature that stood out was built-in calibration software that's fully controllable from an iPad. According to Panasonic, the TC-AX800U series is compatible with third-party colorimeters and requires no additional software to achieve a proper calibration that includes 10-point gamma correction. It was quite a trip to see adjustments show up on-screen in real time—quite a contrast to the TVs I worked on when I took the THX video-calibration class last February.



The AX800U even has built-in calibration software and accepts industry-standard measurement tools. It allows real-time adjustments using an iPad or Android tablet

I looked closely at the image on a TC-65AX800U ($4500) displaying native UHD/4K footage. It was a sunny day; huge windows flooded the room with ambient light that matched what I've seen in modern living rooms. In such bright light, the TV's picture was gorgeous; to be frank, it looked as nice as the LG UHD/4K OLEDs I saw at CES. Color saturation was exemplary, as was screen uniformity. Off-angle viewing posed no problems whatsoever within a 90-degree cone. I tried to find fault, but I must confess I could not. In a bright room, Panasonic's best LCD offers an image that's competitive with OLED TVs I've seen.



Room reflections notwithstanding, the AX800 maintained image quality when viewed off-axis

However, I know that AVS members do not buy plasmas for bright-room viewing. Thankfully, Panasonic also had a TC-65AX800U in a totally blacked-out space along with two more TVs. To the left of the AX800U, there was a TC-P65ZT60. To the right was a TC-L65WT600 (last year's flagship LCD), and all three TVs were the same distance from—and facing toward—the spot where I was standing.

I'd seen a similar demo at CES, but this time, Panasonic used footage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. Panasonic wanted to show off the AX800U's capabilities using challenging footage from a well-known movie played at 1080p from Blu-ray. The movie is full of dark scenes that contain a ton of shadow detail. In a black room, the ZT60 edged out the AX800U in terms of ultimate black levels, but the difference was tiny. When it came to detail rendition, I saw no real benefit to the UHD/4K upscaling on the AX800U; however, it was at least as sharp and detailed as the ZT60. Aside from that, the AX800U looked better. Deep shadows contained more color and more definition than what the ZT60 was able to muster. When scenes got bright, the ZT60 fell behind in terms of contrast. Both TVs looked far superior to the WT600.



Panasonic's ZT60 is on the left, the AX800 is in the center, and the WT600 is on the right

After yesterday's experience, I've become a believer in LCD's ability to perform well. According to Panasonic, an 85-inch version of the same panel will come out in less than a year, potentially as early as this fall. The company has delivered on its promise to preserve plasma image quality as it transitions to an all-LCD lineup. It's engineers managed to distill what was great about its 1080p premium plasmas and put those qualities to work in a LED-lit LCD TV. Stay tuned for an upcoming report in Latest Industry News about Panasonic's entire 2014 TV lineup.

It's time to start the debate, which centers on a simple premise—that well-implemented LCD can look better than plasma in both dark and bright environments; it can even compete with OLED picture quality when viewed in a bright room. Based on what I saw, Panasonic has pulled it off. 
This great news, But I have see one for myself, the WT600 is horrible.
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Old 05-16-2014, 07:14 PM
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I agree. The red chair becomes a terrible orange with AX800, and that's with the camera facing directly into the AX800. Perhaps because the contrast is set way too high? With all 3 side by side, it looks like the ZT is still the best.

I don't understand what you guys don't understand?

It is just a picture taken off 3 monitors showing a movie. The pictures before of after probably looked different. And it is shown on the internet as mentioned above. Sorry for you ZT supporters, but it seems Panasonic did their job. The most important part in his review is for me that the picture was better IN REALITY! Mike would have been probably better off NOT to show a picture of the three screens.

Good job. Looking forward to the new TV series.
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Old 05-16-2014, 07:18 PM
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zT on the left looks better in these photos. I hope Scott Wilkinson will be able to review the ax900 for us.
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Old 05-16-2014, 07:18 PM
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I don't understand what you guys don't understand?

It is just a picture taken off 3 monitors showing a movie. The pictures before of after probably looked different. And it is shown on the internet as mentioned above. Sorry for you ZT supporters, but it seems Panasonic did their job. The most important part in his review is for me that the picture was better IN REALITY! Mike would have been probably better off NOT to show a picture of the three screens.

Good job. Looking forward to the new TV series.

I would bet when it comes to the shootout, it will come close, but not beat the ZT.
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