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Panasonic has aimed high with the TX-55AX902. It's well built, with a minimalist appearance that belies its weight, and boasts a formidable array of connected functionality. The Freetime catch-up service, with its seven-day roll-back programme guide, makes retrospective watching a breeze, while Panasonic's owner personalised home screen interface is one of the best of the current crop of TV user interfaces. Twin tuners also ensure healthy dual-screen functionality.
Superficially picture quality, particularly 4K, is impressive. The level of fine detail onscreen can be jaw dropping, and colour fidelity is high. But look a little harder and you'll start to notice problems that a screen of this calibre shouldn't suffer from.
The IPS panel doesn't deliver true black, the local dimming is occasionally problematic and there are niggling problems with motion resolution and picture presets. On the plus side, the full array backlight offers terrific uniformity, which goes some way to recall the cinematic strength of plasma (a long stated aim of the engineering team behind the screen). In short, the AX902 is good, sometimes very good – but ultimately it's just not good enough.
Elements of the AX902 definitely impress. Panasonic's image scaling is highly effective, taking everyday Full HD content and adding density and depth. Blu-ray in particular shines. The screen also delivers rich, vibrant colours.
The AX902 similarly wins plaudits for its connected feature set. When it comes to catch-up TV, the Freetime platform provides a great user experience. I'm also a fan of the brand's highly customisable home screen UI, which offers more tricks then you're ever likely to use day to day. Audio quality and build quality are sleek and fulsome respectively.
For all its high-grade silicon, there are elements of the AX902's picture performance which fail to convince. I'm fairly sanguine about the use of an IPS panel. While it doesn't deliver true black in full dark conditions, it looks suitably dynamic with low ambient light.
Unfortunately the image presets are a mess. The bulk are too dull for general viewing, while the better considered normal setting is hampered by intrusive backlight haloing. I can only conclude the screen was fine-tuned by moles. Motion handling is similarly patchy.
Panasonic's engineering team have pulled out all the stops for the TX-55AX902, including a full array backlight for uniform image consistency and some inventive local dimming tech. However picture quality isn't what you might hope for from a premium screen.
The set exhibits motion artefacts, regardless of its IFC setting, and despite a raft of image presets you'll struggle to find one that hits the spot. In truth, I much prefer the picture performance of the step-down (and considerably cheaper) AX802 range.
On the plus side, the smart minimalist design is a peach, and the connected feature set is about as good as it gets.
Steve has been writing about AV and home cinema since the dawn of time, or more accurately, since the glory days of VHS and Betamax. He has strong opinions on the latest TV technology, Hi-Fi and Blu-ray/media players, and likes nothing better than to crank up his ludicrously powerful home theatre system to binge-watch TV shows.