Hands on: Panasonic TX-85X940 review

It's no plasma, but this 85-inch 4K telly with HDMI 2.0 knows your face

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

Panasonic's new flagship offers a huge screen, a huge resolution and some excellent picture quality.

For

  • Huge screen
  • 4K resolution
  • Good picture quality

Against

  • Not particularly slim
  • Not the latest local dimming solution
  • Camera is watching you

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.

Features

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.

Panasonic TX 85X940

It may not be a plasma, but the bezel sure makes it look like one

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.

Panasonic TX 85X940

Inputs? We got 'em

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.

Performance

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.

Early verdict

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.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.