Designed to let HDR shine

Panasonic Viera TH-65DX900S. By Ng Chong Seng.

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Panasonic Viera TH-65DX900S. By Ng Chong Seng.

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DISPLAY 65-inch, 3,840x2,160 pixels, 4K LCD
PRICE $6,999

Spearheading Panasonic’s TV lineup this year is the Viera DX900, a 4K TV crammed with the best TV tech Panasonic could muster. Available in Singapore only in a 65- inch screen size and with features like a quad-core processor, Firefox OS, and active 3D support, the DX900 is (expectedly) a different beast compared to the super-affordable and frill-less DX400 that sits on the opposite end of the lineup.

In fact, the DX900 represents quite a step up too from the nextin- line DX700. For one, it’s the only one in all the series to use direct LED backlighting and support fullarray local dimming (FALD). Ceteris paribus, FALD TVs usually outperform LED edge-lit TVs in areas like black level and have better control over lighting-related artifacts (e.g. halo/ bloom), simply because they’re able to exert more granular control over the LEDs behind the LCD panel. And in the DX900’s case, there are 512 local dimming zones, easily the most I’ve come across in any FALD set.

The DX900 is also the sole wearer of the Ultra HD Premium badge in Panasonic’s 2016 lineup. Panasonic didn’t reveal exact numbers, but the fact that the DX900 passed the stringent criteria set out by the UHD Alliance leaves no doubt that this 4K TV supports a 10-bit color depth, and is able to hit a peak brightness of at least 1,000 nits and a black level of less than 0.05 nits. And while many of Panasonic’s 4K TVs this year are able to process HDR, notice that “Ultra Bright Panel”, “HDR Premium”, and “Hexa Chroma Drive Pro” are some of the words exclusively used to describe the DX900’s features, further allusions by Panasonic that the DX900 is in a league of its own (compared to its DX series siblings) when it comes to brightness and color reproduction.

If Samsung has a history of trying bold new designs to wow consumers, Panasonic has a history of playing it safe. The DX900 is first and foremost a flat TV, and the whole of its 1.46m width sits on a non-adjustable pedestal that’s about just as long. Thankfully, most of this stand can only be seen from the back; what you see from the front are two wedge-like feet at the ends and their starburst texture.

Unlike Samsung’s SUHD TVs that use a breakout box to house some of the terminals, all of the DX900’s I/Os are found on the TV itself. The more pertinent ones include four HDMI inputs (all of which are 60/50p and HDCP 2.2 compatible), three USB ports, and a LAN port (wireless LAN is also supported). The TV ships with two remote controls, one that’s longer with many buttons, and one that’s shorter and curved and has a touchpad.

Without local dimming, the DX900 already exhibited very good black level performance. With Adaptive Backlight Control at the strongest setting, black measurements plunged deeper into sub-0.02cd/m2 readings. Blooming effects, while not totally eliminated, were extremely well controlled. I won’t say the DX900’s black levels and contrast are as good as OLED’s, but as far as LCD TVs go, its full-array local dimming system clearly works a treat.

Expectedly, the DX900 shines when it came to HDR, hitting a peak luminosity of 1,300cd/m2 and about 97% DCI-P3 coverage. In layman’s terms, expect vivid colors and specular highlights that pop. If you aren’t into TV calibration, the DX900’s THX Cinema and THX Bright Room presets are very good for regular movie content. For those with the tools and watch HDR, the Professional 1 preset is my preferred starting point.

Of course, the DX900 isn’t without its share of problems. The occasional blooming effects aside, due to its VA-type panel, the TV’s viewing angles aren’t very wide, which means blooming, contrast dips, and color shifts will be more noticeable when you veer more than 20 degrees from the center sweet spot. Also, motion resolution performance isn’t great out of the box, though if you can afford the time, that can be remedied by playing with the Intelligent Frame Creation settings.

At the end of the day, credit where credit’s due: the Panasonic DX900 is a great 4K LCD TV. It may not look as sexy as some of the other edge-lit TVs (it measures 64mm at its thickest point and even emits some fan noise), but that’s really for a good cause, because its full array local dimming system results in a picture quality that’s among the best I’ve seen all year. At this point, probably the only thing that betters it is an OLED TV.


The DX900’s direct LED system enables it to one-up most Ultra HD Premium 4K LCD TVs in the picture quality department.

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The DX900 comes with a classic remote and this smaller remote that does away with the number buttons but includes a touchpad.

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The DX900 runs Firefox OS. The UI is mostly easy to understand and navigate.

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