Walk into any TV showroom and you'd be forgiven for thinking that every set on show looks almost exactly the same.
If it's not got a flat, rectangular base, it's probably got a two-pronged stand design much like Samsung's top-end KS9000. Panasonic, however, knows how to make a statement with its TVs. If the monolithic, slab-like stand of its flagship DX902 wasn't bold enough for you, the easel, swing-like setup of the DX802, the next one down in Panasonic's flagship 4K TV range this year, certainly is.
It's quite unlike any TV I've ever seen. Suspended in mid-air by its sturdy metal support, the DX802 looks more like a piece of modern sculpture than something you'd put in your front room. It's a beautifully designed TV, and it even comes with a bundled soundbar that produces all the TV's sound.
This plugs into the back of the TV via a short proprietary cable and sits neatly within the outer frame. Measuring only 65mm tall, its short stature cleverly draws the eye upwards, emphasising the screen that seems to levitate above it.
The DX802 comes in two sizes: the 50" model on test here and a larger, 58" model. Naturally, a bigger screen means the stand will end up occupying even up more room on your TV cabinet, so take note of the measurements before you splash your cash. The 50in model is 316mm deep and 1.2m wide and will require a media cabinet of significant stature to support its bulk.
The DX802 isn't certified to meet the UHD Alliance's UHD Premium standards like Panasonic’s top-end DX902, but it's still capable of producing a fantastic picture. It still supports SMPTE's ST2084 and ST2086 standards for HDR, for instance, so it can display HDR content just as well as any UHD Premium-badged TV (the latter of which must meet the ST2084 standard anyway), and its black level was impressive across the board, hitting levels as low as 0.01cd/m2 in Cinema mode and 0.03cd/m2 in Normal mode.
Contrast was also excellent. Even with the default Normal mode enabled, our colour calibrator returned an astonishingly high contrast ratio of 9,937:1, which rose to an incredible 12,058:1 when I switched to Cinema. The THX Cinema and Professional modes took a bit of a hit down to respective ratios of 6,133:1 and 6,738:1, but that's largely down to their lower default brightness levels.
Colour accuracy is also spot on. Normal already covers 90% of the sRGB colour gamut on its default settings, while Cinema raises it to a near perfect 97.4%. THX Cinema and Professional modes once again took a slight dip down to 93.2% and 94.7%, but a small change to the colour gamut settings in the advanced settings menu (switching from the default Rec.709 to Rec.2020) quickly bumped this up to a full 100%.
Admittedly, having a Rec.2020 setting is a little misleading, as there's currently no consumer TV available that's anywhere near capable of displaying the true Rec.2020 standard. It's also a shame Panasonic has only included this colour gamut option on its two Professional modes, as it would have been great to see the other picture modes benefit from it as well. Still, for those who want an excellent picture without the hassle of manually fine-tuning each individual colour value through the DX802's extensive ten-point white balance controls and colour management settings, it's a welcome addition nonetheless.
With such great image quality out of the box, the DX802 is primed and ready for watching 4K Blu-rays the moment you get it home. Indeed, Batman vs Superman looked stunning on the DX802, and the TV's superb contrast meant that even dark night scenes were packed with tonnes of detail, even in the shadows. Explosions and Superman's eye lasers were also wonderfully rich and vivid thanks to its excellent HDR capabilities, and even the brightest areas of the screen retained excellent levels of detail.
My only criticism, and it’s minor, is that the screen as a whole doesn’t quite hit the brightness heights of its UHD Premium-certified rivals. Even with the backlight setting on maximum in “Professional 1” mode, brighter objects didn’t look as as piercing as on Samsung's similarly-priced KS7000, or indeed Samsung's flagship KS9000, so the overall impact of the HDR is somewhat lessened. Still, when the rest of the DX802's picture quality is so good, it seems churlish to come down on it too harshly just because the panel's a touch dimmer, as I was very impressed with what I saw in our test discs.
The DX802 isn't just good for watching 4K Blu-rays on, either. Its Full HD upscaling is also excellent. Our Star Trek Blu-ray still looked very well defined on the DX802 and the Panasonic’s “Resolution Remaster” setting only refined it further, creating a pin-sharp image without edges and outlines looking overly jagged. Its image processing chip is equally good, with fast-paced action scenes remaining largely free of judder and glitching artefacts. You can smooth things out, too, using the Intelligent Frame Creation setting, but don’t get carried away. Anything above Minimum looks too artificial, inducing that dreaded soap-opera effect on your films. I found the Minimum setting provided the best balance.
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