Panasonic TX-L65WT600 £5499
8th Oct 2013 | 12:10
Panasonic's first 4K TV is simply brilliant
The Panasonic TX-L65WT600, at £5,499 (about US$8,859 and AU$9,346) is the shape of 4K Ultra HD TVs to come.
In truth, it's actually shaped much like any other well-heeled 65-inch 8 million pixel screen, the real difference being the inclusion of an HDMI 2.0 input and DisplayPort 1.2 connectivity.
Effectively, what we have here is the first genuinely future-proofed Next Gen TV.
And with 4K TV standards still a broiling soup, that's a trump card that can't be ignored.
Features wise, the TX-L65WT600 mirrors what you'll find on Panasonic's high-end LED LCD and plasma offerings.
The user experience is built around the brand's My Home Screen portal, which peppers the launch screen with preferred apps. There's a fair range of connected services to choose from, from YouTube to subscription VOD.
The Panasonic TX-L65WT600 is also undeniably gorgeous. It embraces the glass and metal aesthetic seen on the brand's DT and ZT screens, and features a pop-up webcam and artful pedestal. The panel itself is reassuringly hefty, although it's a bugger to lift as the bottom of the screen has a transparent lip that cuts into your hand like a plastic machete.
Connections comprise four HDMIs (one of which is flagged 4K compatible), three USBs, inputs for Scart and component/composite video (adaptors provided), Ethernet and DisplayPort 1.2.
The latter is the first time we've seen this on a consumer TV, and can be used to deliver audio plus 4096 x 2160 at 50/60Hz. There's also an SD card reader, optical digital output for use with a soundbar and suchlike and (redundant) CI card slot. Wi-Fi is integrated.
As with the rest of Panasonic's business-class fleet, there are two Freeview HD tuners and two Freesat HD tuners. With a USB hard drive connected, you can cache live TV. The panel is Active Shutter 3D ready; two pairs of RF shuttering glasses are included in the box.
The WT600 mirrors the feature bouquet of Panasonic's Full HD crowd. There's the same Dragon powered speech tutorial and user interface, and My Home Screen is beguiling in its simplicity. The set comes with a secondary Bluetooth touchpad with integrated microphone.
Panasonic's Internet connected TVs aren't strong when it comes to catch-up though, offering just BBC iPlayer.
However, there are other diversions available, including Netflix, YouTube, iConcerts, Skype, DailyMotion and EuroSport. The VIERA Connect Market offers more, including Crunchyroll, Woomi, Vimeo and Viewster, but you'll need to create a VIERA Connect account before you can download them. There's also Facebook and Twitter for socially addicted telly addicts.
As a media player, the TV is excellent when it comes to USB. The stick reader can play most popular codecs and containers. Across a network, though, the set ignores MKVs.
3D may appear a fizzled fad, but in the context of 4K it suddenly becomes rather interesting again.
The smoothness of image that an Ultra HD panel brings to stereoscopic pictures is rather compelling. The WT600 employs Active Shutter rather than Passive 3D technology; two pairs of shuttering glasses are bundled.
With upscaled Full HD 3D Blu-rays, the panel delivers a bright, detailed performance. There's some low level of crosstalk double imaging, but it's not overly distracting.
However the use of Active Shuttering does mean that flickering is an issue when viewing amid multiple light sources, though. Sky's 3D channel, which can look rough on Full HD Passive sets, here displays usually good detail and image integrity.
2D image quality
Any doubts about the relevance of a large 4K TV in a Full HD world are swiftly put to bed by the TX-L65WT600.
Its upscaled images have a substance and depth which is little short of mesmerising. There's a pristine clarity to up-rezzed 4K that proves supremely comfortable to watch.
And occasionally, its picture processor clicks with content in a fashion that's just dazzling; detail, texture and contrast find a UHD synchronicity that's jaw-dropping. Lauded US sitcom Louie on Fox may seem an unnatural 4K demo star, but that thing upscales like a trooper.
The set offers a wide variety of image presets: Dynamic, Normal, Cinema, THX Cinema, THX bright Room, Monitor and Custom, in addition to two ISFccc modes.
While the presets cover off the majority of viewing conditions, you can dig deep to calibrate if required. Once a setting has been fine-tuned you can copy it across to specific inputs, be it the DVB tuner or HDMIs. This is quite a handy time-saver.
Inevitably, the set incorporates Panasonic's proprietary Intelligent Frame Creation processing.
The natural inclination is to turn this off immediately, although it can prove interesting. On Minimum, there are no overt motion artefacts and for general TV watching it's fine.
Both the Mid and Max setting optimise motion resolution but introduce artefacts. If you engage them, consider your content carefully: a soaring 4K Eagle appeared to have deployed Starfleet shields for protection during our audition, however Sky's F1 coverage came through unscathed, with IFC giving the upscaled, weaving racers astonishing fluidly.
The set's dark level performance is generally very good, and back-light uniformity fine; the set looks its best in low ambient light, when blacks take on profound depth and richness. Colour fidelity is deep and vibrant, however off axis viewing leads to a noticeable drop in saturation and contrast.
While 1080p upscaling looks good, the panel really comes into its own with native 4K. It's only then that the laser-like precision of its eight million pixel image structure truly becomes apparent. And this Panasonic has one further talent currently unmatched by any other 4K display: it is high frame rate compatible.
Unfortunately, while the set boasts an HDMI 2.0 input capable of displaying UHD up to 2160 50/60Hz, there's no output device available to partner with it.
However, the screen also has a DisplayPort 1.2 input, also supportive of 4096 x 2160Hz. This is intended for use with PCs equipped with 4K capable graphics cards, but we used it to hook up a 4K media server, running ultra high definition content at 60fps.
Ultra HD picture quality
The clarity of this next-next gen Ultra HD material is mind-blowing. Our flighty frame-rate footage comprised a travelogue shot in and around California, with come classic cars thrown in for 4K bling, plus test footage shot by Eurosport comprising European Rally highlights and Equestrian clips.
While seals basking on pontoons at Fisherman's Wharf where beguiling in their detail, it was the sports material which really rammed home the benefits of high-frame rate Ultra HD. The astonishing depth and clarity of image, combined with an effortless smoothness, creates an unparalleled illusion of reality.
While the broadcast specification for 4K TV transmission is still under consideration, there's no doubt that the likes of Sky intend to shoot 4K sport at 50/60Hz. If this groundbreaking Panasonic is the first indication of what that will look like, sign us up right now.
The provision of DisplayPort 1.2 would appear to have ramification for gaming as well; a laced-up high-spec PC should be able to comfortably outperform both the PS4 and Xbox One when it comes to video output quality.
The only caveat is the nature of DisplayPort itself. During our audition, we experienced a number of issues that would frankly leave most consumers despairing. The set had profound handshaking issues with our server; as soon as we strayed from the DisplayPort input, the signal was lost and that PC had to be rebooted to resysnc.
We'll take these as early firmware flibbles, and keep our fingers crossed that all will be resolved in due course.
Sound, usability and value
While the TX-L65WT600 offers premium league video, it's audio performance is less noteworthy.
The screen features a rear-firing woofer and 'invisible' downward stereo drivers. The audio system is actually quiet adept, reaching up from 50Hz. However, it has absolutely no volume.
The stereo speakers are rated at 2x4w, with 10w thrown to the woofer. And making matters worse, no speaker is pointed at the viewer. It's like listening to a mouse with laryngitis. There's a bass boost option but it just adds a gloopy sonic thickness which isn't appealing.
A selection of user and DSP modes (Standard, Music, Ambience and user, with Stadium, Hall, Natural) don't improve matters. Indeed, they're best left alone. More useful is the Automatic Gain Control which can at least be used to iron out volume differences between channels.
So the upshot of this is that you'll need to pair this TV with a separate sound system.
Living with this set is a joy. Panasonic's current user interface is wonderfully intuitive. We've admired Panasonic's My Home Screen GUI on a variety of screen sizes, and it's no less valued here.
The ability to create a launch page featuring preferred apps and services is boon. The option of then offering other users their own Home Page iteration is a classy refinement.
Of course, with nascent tech like 4K Ultra HD, there's always a concern that early adopters will ultimately be shortchanged as technology rapidly evolves. That's not going to be the case with this set.
As the world's first HDMI 2.0 display, Panasonic offers a guarantee that other brands are now scrambling to match.
The addition of DisplayPort (in truth, somewhat flaky) is another forward thinking addition to the spec which could be transformative for PC gamers, as well as those seeking to view online Ultra HD content from YouTube's 4K channel. These facts alone conspire to make the £5,499 price point appear solid value.
The Panasonic TX-L65WT600 is the real deal when it comes to 4K UHD.
It's upscaling performance puts it in line with other 4K debutants, and its native 4K performance is nothing short of jawdropping.
But what truly sets it apart from the competition is its support for higher-frame rates. Panasonic has stolen a march on the competition with the provision of HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2, and this alone should be enough to persuade many early adopters to jump onboard the UHD bandwagon.
We may have reservations about the set's sonic performance, but with a great UI and strong connected experience, it'll take a lot more than whispering woofers to that to dampen our enthusiasm for this beautiful TV.
Sky may still be trialling 4K acquisition, but thanks to the provision of HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2, this debut 4K offering from Panasonic is already prepared for a high frame rate broadcast future.
With stunning levels of fine detail, sumptuous build quality and an easy to live with user interface, this big-screen is looking like a great bet.
Despite all its inherent luxury, the WT600 fails to impress on the audio front. It just doesn't have the volume or presence to get by on its own.
A soundbar solution or full 5.1 theatre system will be an inevitable upgrade. The set is also sensitive to off axis viewing, with colour and contrast falling away rapidly when viewed from the side.
Panasonic's TX-L65WT600 offers the first sighting of tomorrow's high frame rate 4K, and it's a thrilling display.
Astonishingly clear images that are eye-soothingly easy to watch, 4K at 60Hz looks likely to transform sports coverage.
Not that all 4K is destined to be at 60Hz; movies for the most part look likely to remain at 24fps, and this set seems fine with that too. Early adopters looking for a forward-looking UHD TV need look no further. It looks like the future has arrived ahead of schedule.
The TX-L65WT600's biggest rival is the Sony KD-65X9005A. Unquestionably Sony's best TV in a decade, the X9 combines audacious design with superb audio and excellent performance.
Sony is planning a firmware update to bring 50/60Hz compatibility to the set later this year. If you're looking for rather more affordable 4K, consider Toshiba's 58-inch L9, priced at £2,999.