Panasonic Expands UHDTV Lineup at IFA 2014

Panasonic used IFA 2014 to introduce three new UHDTV models, including the long-awaited AX900 flagship. The company also introduced its 85-inch X940 as well as the AX630 line. All these new TVs join the existing AX800 to give Panasonic a UHDTV lineup that ranges from 40 to 85 inches. In addition to the new models, Panasonic announced that all of its UHDTVs will support UHD/4K streaming from Netflix and Amazon—including the AX800U.

Panasonic’s entire 2014 UHDTV lineup features HDMI with support for UHD/4K 60p and HDCP 2.2. The AX800, AX900, and X940 also include a DisplayPort input. The AX630 line comes in screen sizes of 40, 48, and 55 inches. The AX900 comes in 55 and 65-inch sizes, while the X940 is 85 inches.

The AX630 is a new addition to Panasonic’s UHDTV lineup.

Panasonic has promised that the AX900 will be a new reference, an LCD that could take the place of its highly regarded plasmas, namely the ZT60. I saw a prototype of the display at CES 2014, and it remains the most convincing example I’ve seen of an LCD with plasma-like image quality. A lot of that has to do with how seamlessly the AX900’s full-array local-dimming (FALD) backlighting operates.

The AX900 is a new reference-quality UHDTV from Panasonic.

According to Panasonic, “In order to deliver best-in-class black performance, the AX900 uses a Direct LED with full-array local dimming complemented with Panasonic-unique Local Dimming Ultra technologies. Other full array local dimming systems suffer from a ‘halo’ effect around moving bright objects because their local dimming fields lack sufficient brightness control or are either entirely on or off. The AX900 analyzes the incoming video signal not in traditional 3 x 3matrices, but across 5 x 5 matrices of local dimming fields and adjusts the brightness level of each individual field by extremely fine degrees (i.e., not just on/off), providing smooth motion of bright objects, a high contrast ratio, deep, rich blacks, and extremely fine gradation that retains detail even in the darkest scenes.”

The X940 comes in only one size, 85 inches. From a feature perspective, it has a lot more in common with the AX800 than it does with the AX900. There’s no mention of FALD, and the X940 only includes one HDMI 2.0 input, compared to four on the AX900. Those compromises—and others—will probably help keep the X940’s price down. It is worth noting that Panasonic’s 9-series nomenclature does not mean that the X940 is a reference-level television; the company is reserving that designation for the AX900.

The X940 is Panasonic’s jumbo-sized UHDTV offering.

Panasonic’s specialty is meticulously engineered televisions that achieve remarkable color accuracy. Until last year,Panasonic achieved reference-quality performance with plasma—its LCD offerings were not taken seriously. However, the very same engineers who worked on the ZT60 are responsible for the AX900. I hope that the shipping version of the AX900 is as good as or better than the prototype I saw at CES 2014.