Hands on: Panasonic FX700 Series (TX-49FX700)

This could be the best 4K HDR option for budget TV buyers

What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

Dynamic metadata has the potential the transform the HDR performance of this mid-range UHD set, and the design is a class above the budget norm.

For

  • 4K with HDR10+
  • Low input lag
  • Slim metal frame design
  • Freeview Play

Against

  • Tricky middle child in the family

In Panasonic’s 2018 TV line-up, the 4K HDR FX700 sits above the brand’s entry-level FX600 range, and alongside the FX740 (which is a Currys/PC World-exclusive variant with a more arty design and OLED-style base), but below the flagship FX750 (FX780 in Europe) models. So does it round-up or round-down? 

Panasonic describes the FX700 as ‘intermediate’ which frankly makes it sound duller than Wickes concrete. On the evidence of our preview at the brand’s annual European trade show, we would label it a brawny budget model. 

The FX700 will arrive in three screen sizes: 65- (TX-65FX700), 55- (TX-55FX700) and 49-inches (TX-49FX700). It may not have the ‘Art & Interior’ design aesthetic of its more expensive stablemate, but it does dress to impress. 

Design

The edge-lit panel is astonishingly thin (indeed, the entire FX700 range is 20% thinner than last year’s equivalent models), and boasts a slim gunmetal grey metal frame which looks rather pretty. It also comes with a Switch Design stand and the feet can be positioned at either full width or moved closer together, depending on the type of furniture you intend to plonk it on.

Buyers in Germany will have the basically identical Panasonic FX720, distinguishable only by its lighter shade and twin tuner.

The set’s smart platform is My Home Screen v3, and the single terrestrial tuner is Freeview Play. The latter includes all main channel catch-up TV services (BBC iPlayer, ITVHub, All4. My5). Also expect all the familiar streaming services, including Netflix, Amazon and YouTube in 4K, when it launches. 

The set will also be compatible with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa platforms, via a firmware update.

Performance

So what do we know of its picture potential? The image performance of the FX700 should be a couple of steps up the rung from the FX600. 

The edge-lit screen offers Local Dimming with digital control, and has a Wide Colour Gamut panel. It also uses a Virtual Look Up Table (obviously not to be confused with an actual Look Up Table) to further fine tune colour fidelity.

The local dimming implementation is said to be the same as that on the EX700 2017 models - which, at the time, we felt was above par.

The FX700 has a 1600Hz motion handling engine, although this is useful only for differentiating between Panasonic’s own line-up. It doesn’t translate into a real world metric. 

Like all other Panasonic 4K HDR models shipping this year, the FX700 is Multi-HDR capable. That means we can expect HDR10+ support on top of regular HDR and HLG (Hybrid Log-gamma) HDR compatibility. Though, despite having multiple other forms of HDR onboard, it doesn’t feature Dolby Vision

While Panasonic won’t be drawn on peak brightness figures, the HDR10+ compatibility indicates that it’ll be able to peak between 450 and 500 nits. To help boost peak brightness there’s also an HDR Brightness Enhancer.

Early verdict

There appear to be several good reason to opt for an Panasonic FX700 over the cheaper FX600 - namely better contrast, superior motion handling and a dash more colour vibrancy. Just how significant these transpire to be will have to wait until we see a proper review sample. All that said, and as a mid-range contender, the FX700 looks to be an intriguing proposition.

The FX700 will launch in the spring and prices have not yet been announced.

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.