Back at CES earlier this year, Panasonic showed off its plasma-equalling LED TV prototype which the company was confident enough to exhibit in a dark-room side-by-side comparison against the finest plasma it’s ever made, namely the Viera ZT. Now, this mouthwatering flat-screen television has been given a model number, and is scheduled to launch in autumn later this year, probably coinciding with IFA 2014.
The Panasonic AX900 (marketed as AX902 in the UK) will come in three screen sizes: the 55-inch Panasonic TX-55AX900, the 65-inch TX-65AX900 and the 85-inch TX-85AX900. The corresponding model numbers for the British market are TX-55AX902B, TX-65AX902B and TX-85AX902B respectively.
Updated 25 March 2014:: Correct info supplied by senior Panasonic TV engineer from Japan added.
Today, we also learnt about the difference between the AX900/AX902 and the step-down AX800/AX802 4K Ultra HD TVs. The Panasonic AX800 – comprising the 50in TX-50AX800, the 58in TX-58AX800 and the 65in TX-65AX800 – features edge LED backlight with pseudo-local dimming (branded as “Local Dimming PRO” by the Japanese manufacturer). The LCD panel type is VA with active 3D capability.
The range-topping Viera AX900 gets full-array direct LED local dimming, meaning that its LED clusters can be switched on or off independently of each other to achieve deeper blacks and brighter whites at the same time on screen. The 55″ TX55AX900 and the 65″ TX65AX900 direct LED televisions will feature IPS LCD panel and 128 dimming zones (16×8), carrying a moniker of “Local Dimming ULTRA”. Strangely, the largest 85″ TX85AX900 will be equipped with only 32 dimming zones: perhaps it’s a limitation of the VA-type LCD panel used? Does the same 4K LCD panel grace Samsung’s UHD (ultra high-definition) 85S9 or Sony’s KD-85X9505 4K TV too? One can only speculate.
At this week’s Panasonic Convention 2014, the company put on the same side-by-side comparison between the Viera TX-65AX900, a TX-P65ZT60 plasma, and last year’s TX-L65WT600 Ultra HD television. We managed to confirm that the ZT60 used in this demo was operating with [Panel Brightness] set to “Low“, resulting in shallower blacks (roughly double the MLL compared with if [Panel Brightness] was “Mid“).
While some readers will cry foul at this sort of handicapping, we were still very impressed with black-level performance and shadow detailing on the AX900. We noticed some circumferential halos surrounding brighter objects on dark background, but it’s an inevitable side effect of local dimming (unless the number of dimming zones comes close to the number of pixels on screen), and was in any case quite minor especially considering that the underlying LCD panel was IPS. The viewing angle was very good for an LED LCD, blowing the WT600 out of the water, and giving the ZT a decent run for its money within 50° off-axis.
We’ll have to wait until IFA 2014 to learn about the pricing of the AX902/AX900, but we sure hope that it’s quasi-affordable, because this is one of the most exciting developments we’ve seen in the LED LCD arena for some time.