Panasonic TC-65CX400U LCD Ultra HDTV Review Page 2

Making just the basic adjustments to brightness, contrast, color, and tint that anyone could make with a test disc brought the peak white down to 38 foot-lamberts from this mode’s default 52 ft-L, and also brought the grayscale and color point errors more in line (to an average 4 for grayscale and a max of four (in blue) for color points). Gamma measured a bit high at 2.35, though there was no way to tweak it directly. I’d call this good to very good for an inexpensive commercial TV with no instrument calibration, so we’ll give Panasonic the pass on their claim of accurate Rec. 709 out-of-box performance. But in making these adjustments, I did notice that the set clips video levels below black (video level 16) and above white (video levels above 235), which makes setting proper black level a tad tricky and leaves no headroom for occasional content with above-white information. Not a deal-breaker, but not the preferred approach.

My attempts to further improve the image were frustrated somewhat due to inconsistent behavior of the White Balance and CMS controls and a lack of granularity required to achieve fine-tuning. For example: Moving the Red Offset slider for white balance across its full range should show a gradual and subtle addition or subtraction of red to a dark gray box that displays 30 percent of peak white luminance. The control behaves normally up to a setting of 51, but moving one tick from 51 to 52 results in a quite noticeable boost of red tint and prevents tuning in between those levels. Ditto for moving the Blue hue in the CMS from 63 to 64, which radically shifted the color. Ultimately, there were only limited variations from the default settings, but I did get Delta Es to average around 3 across the set’s range for grayscale and to below 2.4 for the primary color points.

I also struggled to get a decently low black level out of the set without crushing shadow detail. The Cinema mode default Brightness setting left a lot of darker details invisible, but raising it for the proper transition out of black made the overall black level unacceptably high. Activating the Dynamic Luminance option in the menu resulted in a crushing of near black but restored some punch to the picture with most content.

There were several additional controls that I left as is or tuned to improve image quality. The Panasonic’s default Sharpness setting of 50 greatly exaggerated video noise and film grain and added highly noticeable edge enhancement; it was reset to 12. The Noise Reduction settings were progressively more effective in eliminating random noise and produced no detectable softening of edges, so it moved from the default Medium setting to Strong. MEMC, which uses frame interpolation to improve motion clarity of the native 120-hertz panel, worked effectively on motion test clips but added some degree of soap opera effect with 24-frame content even at its lowest setting, so I left it off. The picture format, which defaults at Wide (with about 10 percent overscan of the image), was best left at Just Scan, which provided pixelperfect edge-to-edge framing.

This option was not available for broadcast content brought in from the set’s antenna input and ATSC tuner, which, incidentally, performed admirably in capturing all my local stations, including some I’d never seen before, though the onscreen channel list accessible from the remote lacks any program titles as I’ve seen with other sets.

Thus adjusted, the TC-65CX400U delivered mostly pristine and engaging pictures characterized by excellent color. Pixels may be a preposterously inane Adam Sandler vehicle about aliens who attack earth using oversized classic videogame characters as weapons, but it proved surprisingly amusing—with a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments—for a guy who grew up floating around late ’70s arcades. (There must be a reason it grossed $240 million in box office despite weak reviews.) Plot aside, it’s a stunningly bright and colorful movie (with all those game characters come to life) and perfect for showing off what this TV does well. From the punchy orange truck driven by home theater installer-turned-hero Sam Brenner (Sandler); to the natural green foliage and lawns at a park in London where the aliens make an attack; to the red, pastel-blue, orange, and pink Mini Coopers driven by Brenner and the Arcaders as they battle a yellow, glowing, pixelated Pac-Man on the streets of New York, every scene seemed to offer up another splendid bit of eye candy. In the final act, when Brenner and his cohorts find themselves battling to save Earth against a bigger-than-life Donkey Kong, I noticed how the dark red erector-set ramps of the game nicely cast the blue-and-black Arcader uniforms into relief. Fleshtones were well delineated, something made obvious in an early scene depicting an emergency cabinet meeting where I could clearly make out differences in the tanned face of President Conner (Kevin James), the fairer skin of Lieutenant Colonel Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), and the red-faced Admiral Porter (Brian Cox).

Scaling of 1080i and 1080p to the set’s native 3840 x 2160 grid was superb and artifact-free on this and other discs and broadcast content. (Aside from the clipping test mentioned earlier, the set passed our usual processing tests save a fail for chroma resolution, a not uncommon result). Critically, I was impressed by the Panasonic’s superb backlight uniformity, which was utterly even across the screen, absent any kind of distracting streaking in either the black bars or the active image area. White credits on a black background were crisp and largely free of haloing, and even the bouncing white Oppo screensaver logo, which moves randomly around a black screen and can be helpful in exposing backlight inconsistencies, was reproduced perfectly.

Not surprisingly, given the TC-65CX400U’s lack of any sophisticated zone dimming, black level was its weakness. My usual dark torture scenes (Harry Potter, Prometheus) lacked the kind of depth I see on my reference plasma, and for those scenes that mixed some brighter highlights with darker portions, getting any kind of real punch required flipping on the Dynamic Luminance setting at the sacrifice of some shadow detail. The scene in Oblivion in which Jack (Tom Cruise) explores the dimly lit abandoned library was an example; the image seemed terribly washed out and dull without Dynamic Luminance. Switching that on brought it to life, though it crushed some subtle shadow detail and did nothing to improve the ultimate black level, which was higher than I’d like to see, even for a budget set. I measured a not-so-great 0.016 ft-L black level for the TC-65CX400U. As a comparison, Vizio’s 65-inch M-series model from 2015, with 32 zones of active dimming, achieved a measured black level of 0.0007 ft-L in our test. Also, very dark scenes tended to produce a bit more random video noise than I’ve seen on some sets, even with the Noise Reduction control set to max.

Meanwhile, my viewing of most native 4K material revealed a stunningly crisp image. The best short features resident on our staff’s Sony 4K media server looked fabulous and engaging. One brief video about the making of a sports jacket from cork fabric showed beautiful scenes of a rolling green orchard and close-ups of the bark from which the cork is harvested, all looking totally natural and delivered with pristine detail. A tight shot of a backlit spool of golden brown yarn revealed a hazy layer of lint and fuzz at its top, with the very finest individual hairs glistening in the light. Scenes from the movie Chappie also looked natural and clean. On the other hand, a 4K download to the Sony’s hard drive of Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula turned out to be noticeably inferior to the 1080p Blu-ray Disc mastered from the same 4K scan. While it offered just a touch more detail in some scenes with close-ups of intricate ironwork or embroidery, it was darker and noisier, with more highly exposed film grain. There’s probably a lesson in there for all of us as we begin purchasing 4K content now on discs and streaming services. I also streamed some 4K nature clips from YouTube via the Panasonic’s onboard streaming platform, which looked as good as can be expected given the limitations of the delivery.

There’s much to like about Panasonic’s TC-65CX400U, including good out-of-box color, a crisp 4K screen supported by excellent scaling of regular HD content, and an exceptionally even direct-array backlight that’s a refreshing change from the streaky and inconsistent performance of super-thin edge-lit models, even some pricey ones. Unfortunately, without any local-dimming circuitry, it falls short in contrast performance, and its streaming platform lacks access to Amazon Prime (one of just three or four services now streaming UHD) and limits Vudu to 1080p maximum resolution. At press time, this 65-inch UHD set was being offered at an attractive $1,400 street price, but it faces a challenge in providing the kind of overall performance and value its near-priced competitors (notably Vizio’s well-regarded M-series) can deliver. That said, the TC65CX400U was a consistently strong performer with all but the most demanding content, and even with my critical eye, gave me many hours of viewing pleasure.


Deus02's picture

After reading several reviews about the newer line of monitors, especially with 4K capability and despite their impressive picture and colors, when it comes to the basic parameters of gray scale, gamma and relative color accuracy, right out of the box, in many respects these newer technological phenoms are not much better than their previous CRT brethren. Hence, to get the most out of the set, a good calibration would still be in order.

I found the same thing with my new LG mid-range LCD LED 4K monitor whereby, with the ability to do my own calibrations, I was able to determine that while the relative gamma standard of around 2.2 in the 0-30 and 80-100 IRE range was OK, anything in between was around 1.6, after awhile, making the set virtually un-watchable. My LG allows a twenty point grayscale and gamma calibration and once I completed that to a 2.2 level up and down the scale, after tweaking the color a bit, the difference in the quality and watchability of the picture was quite remarkable, well worth the time and effort to tune things up properly.

rajaram's picture
siti's picture

like a true moment. the best tv lcd
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