We’re sad and excited. Sad because we’re still not quite over the demise of Panasonic’s plasma TVs, but excited to see what’s next. What’s next?
The Panasonic TX-58AX802B, that’s what.
The stand is roughly the size of the Oxford English Dictionary and the screen itself is unusually heavy.
It’s well equipped though, complete with a pop-up camera and a generous set of connections including four HDMI 2.0, three USBs (one rated 3.0), an SD card slot and Freeview HD and Freesat.
Wi-fi is built in, although you get an ethernet socket too. It’s worth noting that of the four HDMI slots, only one can handle 4K. The bigger worry here is that the AX802 cannot handle Netflix 4K streams.
This is a shame, because in many areas the AX802 is rather good. We’ve long been fans of Panasonic’s smart TV interface, but this year it’s even better.
The ‘My Home Screen’ system makes a return, letting you choose from pre-set screens or build your own, and the Freetime TV guide lets you scroll back on primary channels to watch shows broadcast up to seven days ago.
‘My Stream’ offers suggestions for online and tuner content based on things you’ve marked as favourites.
The flashiest element here is the Info Bar. The TV goes from standby to a semi-conscious state, showing a band of data at the bottom of the screen – it’s activated by a proximity sensor and is a neat idea, although the sensor can be triggered by bright lights or wandering pets.
We managed to activate it just by drinking a cup of tea. Thankfully you can turn it off, although it’s tempting to keep it on and see how the cat reacts.
Slightly more useful is TV Anywhere, which lets you stream live or USB-based content to your smartphone or tablet.
More after the break
The Panasonic looks great, but it's inability to stream 4K from Netflix puts it at a serious disadvantage
Start watching it and this screen feels much like a Panasonic plasma of old, right down to the warm colour reproduction and ink-deep blacks.
Flicking through our server of 4K stock video and film clips, it’s hard not to be amazed by the colour reproduction. While the richness of the palette may not be entirely lifelike, the wide range of hues breathes real life into the picture.
When it gets dark it is properly dark, although the normally sky-high levels of detail are occasionally compromised in the darker areas.
Contrast is excellent throughout. In terms of outright sharpness, the Panasonic’s subdued approach feels nice and natural.
The main handset's lovely metal finish and clear layout instantly make it one of our favourites.
Blu-rays and Freeview HD are upscaled with skill, although it is not as crisp a screen as rivals. As for 3D, you get two pairs of active-shutter glasses.
There’s an inevitable degree of image instability in action scenes, but we like the sense of depth. It’s not perfect, however.
Viewing angles aren’t particularly wide, and you don’t need to go far off axis before the contrast and colours start to wash out.
The simplified smart remote felt unituitive in our time with it. Sadly, both remotes suffer from a degree of lag with menus.
The main handset’s lovely metal finish and clear layout instantly make it one of our favourites, but a simplified smart remote is unintuitive.
Sadly, both seem to suffer from a degree of lag with menus, too.
We have mixed feelings about the TX-58AX802B. We admire its features, and we’re very impressed by its picture.
But we can’t ignore its inability to stream Netflix in 4K, especially at this price. As things stand, not doing Netflix 4K essentially means not doing 4K at all.
There may come a time when 4K content is readily available, and antennas and HDMI inputs will suffice. If that happens, we would be happy to reconsider our verdict.
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