The hottest TV category this year is shaping up to be entry-level UHD. In 2018, every major brand want a slice of this booming budget market. But can the cheapest 4K HDR sets really deliver all the thrills that 4K HDR is capable of?
Panasonic reckons so, and has loaded its incoming FX600 Series with some impressive technology – including HDR10+ dynamic metadata support. Dynamic metadata allows a screen to more accurately tone map high dynamic range images, even though it lacks the native light output to really do HDR justice.
Currently the biggest supporter of HDR10+ is Amazon, which has several hundred hours of encoded content, but Fox is also prepping Blu-ray discs with the standard.
We had a chance to take a closer look at the FX600 at Panasonic’s annual trade conference, held in Palma. While we didn’t get to see the set perform, there was an opportunity to access the build and go a little deeper under the hood.
The range sits below the mid-range FX700, FX40 variant and flagship FX750 models in Panasonic’s 2018 product line-up. While the FX600 doesn’t have the ‘Art & Interior’ design of those models, it’s still a slim, rather fancy looking LED LCD TV, with a shiny bezel.
All but the smallest 43-inch set have a ‘Switch Design’ stand, which allows you to adjust the feet to suit a full width TV stand, or configure then to better fit more restrictive AV furniture.
The FX600 is built around My Home Screen v3, the brand’s minimalistic but powerful connected platform. The new My Home Screen has had a number of user refinements for its v3 iteration - Netflix boot time has been dramatically increased - but still manages to keep things simple.
So how good is the picture on a FX600 likely to be? Rather than just offer basic HDR compatibility, Panasonic is touting HDR-Multi, which signifies screens have HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) and HDR10+ support.
Much of the set’s picture performance will depend on the effectiveness of the backlight. What we have here is Adaptive Backlight Dimming Plus; the backlight is continually optimised, to maximise contrast. Take note, though, this is not a Wide Colour Gamut panel.
In marketing parlance, the FX600 has a 1300Hz picture processing engine, although this number isn’t particularly meaningful and doesn’t mesh with other brand’s descriptions of motion and refresh rates. That said, the screen should also hold serious appeal for gamers, as it sports a fast 4K Game Mode. We’ll just have to wait until we get a set in for review, to fully test this out.
UK buyers interested in the FX600 should also keep a look out for a lookalike variant, the FX650, which will available in different retail channels. It has silver feet rather than black, but is said to be 30% brighter.
With a combination of sharp design, hassle-free smart portal and crisp imagery, Panasonic’s FX600 has what it takes to shake up the ‘premium end’ of the cheap 4K TV market. And with the addition of HDR10+, there’s the potential of a better than average HDR too, but we’ll have to wait and see just how good it might actually be.
The FX600 will launch in the spring and prices have not yet been announced.
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