Panasonic TX-50CX802B review

Definitive proof that beauty is in the detail

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Our Verdict

While there's room for improvement with its backlight and motion handling, the 50CX802 is far and away Panasonic's best LCD TV to date. Its pictures benefit from a unique focus on colour and greyscale nuances that give it a genuine USP.


  • Superbly detailed, natural pictures
  • Excellent value
  • Firefox OS works well
  • Exceptional colour rendition


  • Slight motion blur
  • Occasional backlight flaws
  • Average sonics
  • Calibrated pictures lack brightness

While it's certainly managed one or two LCD TV hits over the past couple of years, Panasonic has overall felt like it's been running to catch up with some of its rivals in the years since it pulled the plug on its ever-reliable plasma TV division.

Given how much of a picture quality leap we've seen from its rivals this year, I couldn't help but fear for Panasonic's latest high-end CX802 models - despite the brand going into more technical detail than anyone else in its bid to sell its new TVs' virtues.

Without getting too far ahead of myself, though, I'm happy to say right at the start of this review of the 50-inch, 4K Ultra HD Panasonic TX-50CX802 my concerns prove largely unfounded.


The 50CX802 hits the ground running with a highly attractive design. It combines an ultra-thin, opulently finished deep grey metallic screen frame with an unusual arced-back, bar-style stand that becomes practically invisible when you look at the TV straight on. It means the screen appear to hang in mid air.

This is an effect Panasonic has tried for with previous designs too, but it's got closer to achieving it with the 50CX802 than it has before.

The only catch with the design is that you'll need a stand for the TV that's at least as wide as the TV, otherwise you'll find your precious new 4K UHD TV crashing forwards…

Connections on the 50CX802 are solid rather than brilliant, chiefly on account of there only being three HDMIs when sets near the top of a brand's range ought to be getting at least four now.

The 50CX802 does cater admirably for today's multimedia needs though, as three USBs (one 3.0, two 2.0) are joined by a very handy SD card slot and the now pretty much universal integrated Wi-Fi and wired networking options.

Network options

Exploring these network options reveals that they deliver streaming of multimedia from networked DLNA devices, as well as access to Panasonic's 'walled garden' of online content.

You can even access the TV through your tablet or smartphone when you're away from home - even outside the country - to either set recordings on it or, remarkably, stream to your smart device live broadcasts or shows you may have recorded onto an attached USB drive.

The set additionally supports Bluetooth connectivity with smart devices for simple file sharing, and the available sharing features include the facility to stream video from the TV to your smartphones and tablets for multi-room viewing.

Panasonic's online functionality is impressive.

Or at least it will be once the new Freeview Play 'app' is added via a firmware update in the next few weeks. This app will open up the potential for catch-up TV from all of the UK's main TV terrestrial broadcasting platforms using a strikingly straightforward interface.

Panasonic TX 50CX802B

Firefox for your TV

Freeview Play is far from the 50CX802's only smart attraction, though.

Its main smart features are delivered, in fact, by an all-new Firefox interface, designed in conjunction with Mozilla.

Having been distinctly underwhelmed by Sony's tie-up with the new Android TV platform recently, I have to admit I started using the Firefox system with a feeling of dread.

Within seconds, though, I'd taken to the Firefox approach like a duck to water.

Unlike Android TV, the Firefox system shows a real understanding of what a typical TV - as opposed to smartphone or tablet - user wants from a smart interface. It combines a graphically rich design with a brilliantly simple structure and, best of all, reams of customisation options to help you quickly get to just the apps you most like to use/watch.

Aside from not being quite as efficient with its use of screen real estate, the Panasonic Firefox TV system is almost as effective as LG's class-leading webOS platform.

Let's just hope looking ahead that the TV version of Firefox applies really strong quality control to apps that might come through from the Mozilla community, so the currently slick experience doesn't start to get weighed down by clutter.

It's good to discover that the apps already supported on Firefox OS include the 4K versions of Amazon Prime and Netflix.

While Firefox gives you the most up-front sign of change from Panasonic's 2014 TVs, the most important steps forward are actually less obvious.

Panasonic TX 50CX802B

New picture technologies

Where the hardware side of things is concerned, the panel inside the 50CX802 ditches the IPS type used by last year's (and actually currently continuing) AX9 models in favour of a VA-style one. This has resulted in a marginally reduced viewing angle, but as we'll see it's had a profoundly beneficial impact on the TV's contrast performance.

Panasonic has also introduced new wide colour gamut phosphors to the 50CX802 that can allegedly reproduce up to 98% of the Digital Cinema Initiative colourscape - a colourscape previously only found in digital cinemas that's much wider than the 'old' Rec709 colour standard that's followed us around since the days of CRT TVs (remember those?!).

The 50CX802 further enhances its colour rendering potential by using a 10-bit panel rather than the typical 8-bit affair, a feature which enables it to reproduce 64 times more colour gradation.

The 50CX802's LCD panel also features a new highly transmissive 4K UHD panel design to enable it to produce more brightness while consuming less power, and its edge LED system is enhanced by a local dimming system that can adjust the brightness of segments of the lighting individually, to boost contrast.

4K Studio Master processing

These hardware innovations are joined/harnessed by a new proprietary '4K Studio Master' Panasonic video processing system.

The highlight trick among the numerous picture enhancement features subsumed under this umbrella title is the use of 3D Look Up tables - taken from Panasonic's professional monitors division - that enable the screen to render colours against 8000 registry points.

Typical LCD TVs, by comparison, draw their colour palettes from just 100 reference points.

The 4K Studio Master processing also draws on know-how inherited from Panasonic's plasma division to supposedly enhance shadow detail reproduction during dark scenes.

This feature works by combining the 10-bit panel with joined-up control of the backlight and gain settings (typical LCD TVs address these completely separately), resulting in a claimed 1024 steps of gradation versus the normal 8-bit 256 steps.

One other key - if, potentially, controversial for some AV enthusiasts - feature is the 50CX802's Dynamic Range Remaster system.

This works to a) put back into sources the original source brightness that tends to get lost in the video mastering and distribution processes, and b) convert any source into something closer to the contrast-expanded, colour-enriched high dynamic range (HDR) format set to make waves with the arrival of UHD Blu-ray and expected Amazon and Netflix HDR streams.

Today remastered

Some picture enthusiasts won't like the notion of the 50CX802 essentially 'souping up' the look of today's sources - and Panasonic acknowledges this by providing the tools to turn its remastering processing off. But it seems to us that most people will prefer to unlock the capabilities of the futuristic screen they've paid good money for - so long, at least, as the remastering processing doesn't make an unholy mess of things.

It should be reiterated before leaving this section that unfortunately the 50CX802 doesn't yet carry its key HDR playback and Youview Play features - which means we haven't been able to test them. But they are both definitely coming.