It's lunchtime and the sun is out. How do we know? An 85-inch telly told us so at IFA 2014. Walk by the TX-85X940 even when it's in standby and an Info Bar pops-up automatically to display the time and the weather. All that can be tailored to an individual – or, rather, an individual face. Info Bar is powered by an integrated camera, a proximity sensor and face recognition algorithms, but there's a lot more to this flagship ultra-bigscreen telly.
We won't lie to you; the TX-85X940 looks like a plasma. Perhaps it's the particularly heavy duty desktop stand that comes from underneath it to act as a support for this massive product that gives it away, though it's certainly true that Panasonic's AX900 Series of LED TVs – to which the TX-85X940 is a very close relation – was produced by the same engineers that were responsible for the last batch of world-beating (but not well-selling) Reference plasmas from Panasonic. That desktop stand stretches almost all the way along the front.
The TX-85X940 doesn't have a particularly slim screen surround, with at least an inch of bezel all around, but at least the pop-up camera is completely invisible when it's not being used.
All flagship TVs at IFA 2014 – and perhaps all TVs above 50 inches by the time of the annual TV refresh next spring – have 4K Ultra HD panels, and the TX-85X940 is no different. What is different, for Panasonic at least, is that its new flagship TV for 2014 isn't a plasma.
Instead it uses an LED-backlit LCD panel that boasts some new tech; 2,000Hz Back Light Scanning (BLS) is an algorithm rather than a slab of hardware, but it should help dampen any motion blur by blinking the TX-85X940's backlight imperceptibly on and off. Its refresh rate tech actually puts the TX-85X940 just behind Panasonic's AX900 Series in the pecking order, with the latter claiming 3,000 BLS as well as Local Dimming Ultra.
The TX-85X940 has only Local Dimming Pro, which analyses video in real-time to add more detail to both dark and bright areas of images. However, with step-down tech inside it, this is clearly a telly more about maximum size than an effort to make the best-ever post-plasma TV image.
4K-wise, the TX-85X940 is ready for any frame rate you can throw at it. It supports 4K at 60p via its HDMI 2.0 slots, while it's also compatible with the High-bandwidth Digital Content Protection (HDCP) 2.2 protocol. On a side-panel we spotted three USB slots, three HDMI 2.0 inputs and an optical digital audio output, while the rear adds a fourth HDMI 2.0 slot and a DisplayPort 1.2a terminal for PC 4k gamers.
Though it's had many critics and tirades against the video-like look it can give to 24p films on Blu-ray discs, the TX-85X940's motion compensation circuitry – called 4K Intelligent Frame Creation – should help cancel-out judder.
The TX-85X940 also comes with 4K Studio Master Drive for more accurate, finely graded colour, and more shadow detail at any brightness (critical for any LED-backlit TV). For the populariser of plasma, that's important to Panasonic. Studio Master Colour is also included.
In terms of usability, perhaps the highlight of the TX-85X940 – and many of Panasonic's newer smart TVs – is the TV Anywhere feature, which essentially lets the user make recordings to a HDD from the Freeview HD tuner to watch anywhere in the world via an app.
All of these chips are working with four times the pixel density of a Full HD TV, remember, so the processing power needs a leg-up. That comes in the form of a Quad Core Pro5 super-high-speed processor, which should mean powerful noise reduction to clean up images as well as giving fuel to the 4K Intelligent Frame Creation feature.
The TX-85X940's 3840x2160 pixel resolution means it's all about 4K, and the images we watched – sequences from a Barcelona footie match, with Neymar and Messi ripping through a hapless defence – looked clinically excellent.
Though we couldn't be sure if 4K Intelligent Frame Creation was switched on, the 4K footage looked clean and without any blur, which helped create a heady sense of realism. The domination of the green pitch didn't appear to cause the TX-85X940 many problems, with colours vibrant, natural and well judged, with heaps of shadow detail in black areas.
Put simply, the TX-85X940 produces an eye-popping picture performance that's ultra-smooth as well as ultra-big.
No 85-inch TV is going to become a best seller at your local electronics shop, so it could be argued that the TX-85X940 is more a headline-grabber than a bona fide product for the shops. However, such is the cutting-edge nature of this ultra-large Ultra HD 4Kk TV that we couldn't stay away from it at IFA 2014. With its pristine images with surprisingly good shadow detail, we're impressed by this future-proof monster screen despite its rather industrial look.
The TX-85X940 is out in October, though no pricing info has yet been made available.