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Panasonic Viera TX-58DX902B review - truly stunning Ultra HD image quality

Richard Easton
13 May 2016
Expert Reviews Best Buy Logo
Panasonic TX-58DX902B lifestyle
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
2,800
inc VAT (as of 13th May)

The Panasonic Viera DX902B has astounding image quality and manages to excel at both UHD and HD content

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Specifications

Screen size: 58in, Native resolution: 3,840x2,160, Video inputs: 4x HDMI (1x ARC), Tuner: Freeview HD, Dimensions: 1,297x804x334mm

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Panasonic’s new Viera DX902 series is the pinnacle of the company's Ultra HD lineup for 2016. It packs in all the technology you can you think of to make the most of exciting new formats such as 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray and other, incredibly-detailed sources, making use of the latest in High Dynamic Range (HDR) standards.

There are 58in and 65in models on offer, but aside from the size, price and power consumption, there are no appreciable differences. For the purpose of this review, we’ve looked at the 58in Viera TX-58DX902B.

The Panasonic Viera DX902 cuts an imposing figure and not just from its sheer screen size. While many manufacturers have continued to try and slim their TVs down to just the display panel, the DX902 is a comparative chunk of TV tech and for good reason, as we'll discuss below. Beyond the screens unusual depth, its sizeable stand adds even greater girth to the design.

Panasonic TX-58DX902B stand

The stand supports the television at two points but extends across almost the whole width around the back of the set. With the television measuring some 1.3m across, you’ll need a large surface upon which to put the DX902 if you don’t wall-mount. Keep in mind the stand’s feet add only about 40mm of clearance below the television, too, which will prove problematic if you’re planning on using a soundbase rather than a soundbar, as some soundbases will happily sit below a larger television and between the feet. But you might find even some soundbars might obscure the bottom of the screen unless you have a low-profile model.

It may be big, but viewed from the front the television has a pleasingly simplistic design with thin bezels surrounding the display that don’t distract from what's onscreen. The front of the feet have a concentric-circled finish that is quite charming even if I wasn’t generally a fan of the stand overall. You’ll rarely see it, but the rear section of the stand has a faux-leather finish.

Picture Quality

Unusually, the television tilts back ever so slightly on its stand, which means the DX902 even more imposing, like you're always looking slightly up at it. You soon forget about that, though, once you’re taken in by the DX902’s picture quality. This is a television that rightly sits atop Panasonic’s 2016 range. Not only does the DX902 have Ultra HD Premium certification, it’s been 4K certified by THX, too. It lives up to its certifications too, with lush colours, impressive contrast and smooth action.

In part, the DX902’s lavish picture quality is thanks to how well it controls its backlight, which is related to the added thickness of the television. Panasonic has used a honeycomb structure to its LCD panel backlighting, which breaks it down into 512 individually controllable zones. These are isolated from one another to limit light leakage. What this means for the all important picture quality is that there’s less crossover between areas of extreme brightness and areas of deep blacks, boosting the contrast and reducing light blooming and haloing.


Panasonic Viera TX-58DX902B The Martian

You’re able to select different levels of the Adaptive Backlight Control, which controls how many of the zones are used at once. The effect is clearly evident when watching The Martian in Ultra HD during the external space scenes. With Adaptive Backlight Control turned off, the depths of space loses its overpowering sense of darkness and void. You can see areas of light seeping in. Begin to dial the Adaptive Backlight Control up towards its maximum and these areas become progressively darker, and eventually uniformly black. White areas also become brighter, creating greater contrast between the white spacesuits and the abyss.

As the DX902 is certified Ultra HD Premium, High Dynamic Range (HDR) is supported. This means there's support for the 10-bit HDR 10 standard but not the 12-bit Dolby Vision system. For much more on the differences between the two, read our Dolby Vision vs HDR 10. Dolby Vision-compatible discs, players and TVs have yet to all launch in the UK, but we very much doubt the 1bn potential colours created by a 10-bit screen like this one is going to disappoint.

When you're greeted by the 20th Century Fox logo, before The Martian starts, it’s so nuanced yet vibrantly coloured you immediately know you’re in for a treat. As mentioned above the darker scenes are represented wonderfully, something you don't always associate with LED-lit LCD displays.

Using our colour calibration tool I measured white levels of 955.3cd/m2. This number is subject to fluctuation but it’s close to what Panasonic claims, having stated that the DX902 can maintain 1,000cd/m2 across a wider portion of its screens than most other LCD HDR televisions. Black levels were also very good, at 0.03cd/m2, although not rivalling OLED displays for true blacks it’s well within the requirements for UHD Premium certification. This amounted to an excellent contrast ratio of 25,134:1.


Panasonic TX-58DX902B close up

Before calibration using the standard Normal profile, sRGB colour accuracy was measured at 98.1%. The DX902 gives you a wide selection of options for calibrating the display’s white balance and colour levels. After a few tweaks, I managed to get it to 99.6% with very little effort. There’s also a selection of other viewing profiles including THX Cinema which dims the brightness but manages to push the contrast ratio all the way up to 54,079:1 while deepening the blacks.

While Ultra HD HDR content certainly looks stunning, it’s the upscaling of HD non-HDR content that equally impresses. Standard Blu-ray discs and 1080p Netflix streaming both looked excellent with crisp detail and colours that, while not rivalling true HDR content, were vibrant and immersive. Panasonic has used an updated version of its 4K Studio Master processing chip. Now named the Studio Master HCX+, it does a wonderful job of taking colours from the standard Rec. 709 colour space, used for non-HDR content, and effectively 'upscaling' them to make use of the screens capabilities.

If you’re planning on use the DX902 for gaming, its response time of 38ms with the Game mode engaged is pretty reasonable. Other noteworthy settings include Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation, which we’ve seen on previous televisions. Set to one of the higher standard settings, Intelligent Frame Creation can look excessive, making human movement, in particular, look unnatural and a little unnerving. New here, however, is the ability to set a Custom level, where you’re able to tweak the Blur Reduction and Film Smoothing, as well as turn Clear Motion on or off. It’s a welcome addition as you're more likely to find a happy balance. Continues on Page 2 ...

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