- Attractive design
- Aggressive price for a large 4K TV
- Firefox TV OS is very easy to use
- Below par black level response
- Low-brightness picture after working round the poor contrast
- No HDR or 3D
- 55-inch LCD TV with direct LED lighting
- native 4K resolution
- Firefox OS smart system
- Multimedia playback via DLNA and USB
- Reversible leg design
- Manufacturer: Panasonic
- Review Price: £849.00/$1273.5
WHAT IS THE PANASONIC TX-55DX650?
The TX-55DX650, available exclusively from the Currys/Dixons group, is a 4K/UHD TV that sits in the lower half of Panasonic’s 2016 range. As a result, there’s no support for high dynamic range playback. However, for £849 you do get Panasonic’s Firefox OS smart system, the Freeview Play catch-up TV platform and, hopefully, a dose of that special Panasonic picture quality magic that’s worked such wonders on many of its other TVs in recent years.
PANASONIC TX-55DX650 – DESIGN AND FEATURES
For a sub-£850 TV, the TX-55DX650 is quite a looker. Its “Clear Frame” design places a see-through layer on top of the main screen frame for a cool three-dimensional feel. The table-top legs can point inwards or outwards, depending on whether you prefer an angular or curved look. The TX-55DX650 has a chunkier rear than most modern TVs. It is a little flimsy in build quality, compared with Panasonic’s more expensive models. Not that you can tell from the sofa.
For those wondering about what distinguishes the TX-55DX650 from the cheaper DX600 series, the main differences is design, the use of a pseudo-1,000Hz motion system in the TX-55DX650 versus 800Hz in the DX600, and some backlight arrangement differences between the various screen sizes.
This Panasonic has enough to get the job done. There are three HDMIs, two of which can support 4K feeds up to 60p and the HDCP 2.2 anti-piracy protocol. Two USBs are available for playing back video, photo or music multimedia. Internet is via the ethernet port and Wi-Fi, with which you can stream from DLNA-capable sources. There’s no SD card slot, though.
The Firefox OS interface doesn’t deliver as many apps as the Android TV platform favoured by Sony and Philips. It’s not a big deal: Firefox ticks the key smart TV boxes by supporting the UHD-capable versions of both Netflix and Amazon, as well as catch-up services for all of the “big four” UK terrestrial broadcasters.
You can even access the terrestrial catch-up channels with Freeview Play. The handy programme guide lets you scroll back in time to watch shows you’ve missed.
Firefox is also one of the most attractive, customisable and intuitive smart TV systems available. A full review of Firefox TV can be found here.
PANASONIC TX-55DX650 – SETUP
The TX-55DX650’s initial installation procedure is straightforward and friendly. You should be up and running with minimum time and effort. Sadly, getting the picture to look its best is pretty tricky, due to some pretty substantial native contrast issues.
Following plenty of trial and error across multiple source types, here are my settings for best all-round results.
First, set the adaptive backlight control to maximum. Turning this off completely or using it on its Low setting just isn’t an option, for reasons I’ll explain later. Next, reduce the backlight to just 30% for dark room movie viewing (although you can go quite a bit higher for bright rooms). Finally, set the contrast to around 80%.
I’d also recommend leaving Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation processing turned off for most types of content. The ‘mid’ and ‘max’ settings cause noticeable artefacts.
A more effective motion option is Clear Motion, which reduces judder and blur by manipulating the backlight. This option noticeably darkens the image, which isn’t ideal when you’ve already taken so much brightness away with the backlight adjustment.
On a positive note, the TX-55DX650 automatically deactivates its noise reduction systems when native 4K content is detected.
PANASONIC TX-55DX650 – PICTURE QUALITY
Before getting into the TX-55DX650’s picture abilities, it’s worth saying up front that coming to it after a run of three HDR TVs, I seriously missed the extra brightness and richness you get with a quality HDR experience.
But let’s focus on the TX-55DX650 for what it can do. Unfortunately, the TV is average at best. The chief reason for that is a serious lack of contrast.
The IPS panel does the TV no favours. Even after you’ve drastically reduced the backlight output and set the adaptive contrast feature up, dark scenes still look greyer and flatter than they do on any half-decent VA-type LCD TV.
Leave the backlight significantly higher, and try turning off the adaptive contrast feature, and dark scenes lose any semblance of blackness. Even the darkest areas look like someone is shining a torch directly through them.
Slashing the backlight doesn’t help either, as picture gets quite dark, leaving it looking pretty flat and muted. Having to use the Adaptive Contrast feature on its highest setting means you’re sometimes very aware of light instability.
The TX-55DX650’s colour performance suffers, too, thanks to insufficient native contrast from the panel. The lack of profound black doesn’t help, nor does the intrusion of low-contrast greyness over dark colours.
On the upside, the TX-55DX650 handles bright colour rather well, delivering evenly balanced, subtly defined and punchy tones. They look extremely credible and believable.
Motion reproduction is decent by affordable 4K LCD TV standards. Even if you don’t use any motion processing, moving objects don’t look soft or juddery enough to stand out starkly against static 4K elements.
The TX-55DX650 is also good at upscaling HD footage to UHD. Its processing manages to make content look more detailed and sharp without exaggerating any source noise.
Finally, while Panasonic as a brand continues to support 3D (unlike Samsung and Philips), the TX-55DX650 is a 2D-only set.
The bottom line: while the TX-55DX650 does some things well, it constantly and uncomfortably wrestles with the contrast problems associated with its IPS panel.
PANASONIC TX-55DX650 – SOUND QUALITY
The TX-55DX650 is on safer ground sonically. It gets loud without starting to sound thin or flat, and there’s a wide dynamic range between the deepest bass and brightest trebles. The mid range is wide and open too, and the sound stage is well projected for a system that isn’t relying on forward-firing speakers.
SHOULD I BUY A PANASONIC TX-55DX650?
The TX-55DX650 hits the ground running with a reasonable price, attractive design and user-friendly interface. Unfortunately it loses control over picture quality, crashing any hopes of being a compelling purchase.
Panasonic deliberately ditched IPS panels from its 2015 range. So it’s surprising and unfortunate to see them return in 2016, in both the recently tested TX-55DX600 and the TX-55DX650 tested here.
The TX-55DX650 is only worth considering if you’re looking for a reasonably priced 4K TV to go into a permanently bright room. Anyone who dims the lights to watch a movie will need to look elsewhere.
Sub-par picture quality lets this TV down.