Panasonic has officially announced its second generation of 4K Ultra HD TVs at the company’s annual European convention in Amsterdam today as part of its . The Viera AX802 series (otherwise marketed as the AX800 in the USA and continental Europe) will succeed the Japanese manufacturer’s breakout 4K TV, namely the Panasonic WT600 which was launched at IFA 2013.
While the outgoing Viera WT600 comes in only one screen size, i.e. the 65-inch TX-L65WT600B (here’s our full review), the new AX802 range will be available in three sizes: the 50in Panasonic TX-50AX802B, the 58-inch TX-58AX802B, and the 65in TX-65AX802B. Of course, now that Panasonic has pulled the plug on its plasma TV business, there’s no longer any need to differentiate between plasma and LED LCD models, hence the dropping of the “L” prefix on the model numbers.
Like the TXL65WT600, the Panasonic AX802/AX800 features a VA-type LCD panel illuminated by edge LED backlight, Displayport 1.2a, active 3D capabilities, THX 4K Certification, and the highest level of HDMI 2.0 support, meaning that it can accept and display 4K@60Hz/50Hz video signal at 8-bit, 4:4:4 precision. New specifications upgrades over the Panasonic WT600 include integrated HEVC H.265 decoder (allowing owners to watch Netflix 4K streaming when it goes live), and HDCP 2.2 compatibility (which is important for the playback of future encrypted disc-based material such as 4K Blu-ray).
Panasonic also showed off its AS800 series of flagship full HD TV, and a top-of-the-line AX900 (marketed as AX902 series in the United Kingdom) 4K Ultra HD television boasting direct LED local dimming technology – probably incorporating the plasma-equalling technology first seen at CES earlier this year – which the brand believes will provide the best picture quality from an LED LCD display on the market. It’s also being touted as the world’s first TV to be compliant with ITU.BT1886 EOTF (electro-optical transfer function) at the touch of a remote button.
Commenting on other display technologies, a senior Panasonic spokesperson said that engineers at their now-shuttered plasma division have been reassigned to the LED LCD manufacturing unit, bringing all their expertise to help improve the image quality of their LED televisions. Regarding OLED, the company doesn’t think the time is right to commercialise large-sized OLED panels, but will be exhibiting a curved 4K OLED prototype that curves both ways (the same one seen at CES earlier this year) at this week’s event.
The Panasonic AX800/AX802 and AS800/AS802 will go on sale at the end of April, whereas the top-range Viera AX902 is scheduled to hit the market in autumn, probably coinciding with an announcement at IFA 2014. Pricing remains undetermined, but the smallest 4KTV, the Panasonic TX50AX802B, is rumoured to cost only just north of £2000.