This year, Panasonic will expand its line-up of 4K TVs capable of processing the HDR format. The flagship TV will be DX900 with “UHD Premium” certification and the step-down DX800 has a unique design. The company will continue to use Firefox OS; this year in a 2.0 version. Panasonic’s first UHD Blu-ray player is also coming soon. FlatpanelsHD brings you Panasonic’s 2016 TV line-up.
Panasonic launched its first OLED TV late last year and even though it is probably a bit too early to expect a new one, we had hoped that the Japanese manufacturer would expand its line-up of OLED TVs with the spring launch. The current OLED TV will carry over into 2016 and instead the company has announced a full line-up of new LCD models for 2016.
Let us start with the broader view. In 2016, Panasonic will focus on delivering better picture quality through 4K and HDR. Unlike many of its competitors it will also launch an UHD Blu-ray player to complement its new TVs. UHD Blu-ray should take picture quality to the next level and Hollywood is ready to embrace what many have called the last disc format. Nevertheless, UHD Blu-ray movies will deliver 4K, HDR, wide color gamut, and improved sound, and that is surely exciting for picture quality aficionados.
Panasonic will sell mostly UHD TVs this year and several of them will be capable of processing the HDR format. However, like with other LCD TV manufacturers, be aware that only the flagship DX900 will have the hardware (backlit LED with local dimming) to fully deliver on the promise of HDR, aka “high dynamic range”.
HDR is about not only the brightest whites but also the darkest blacks. It is about better detailing at each end and more vivid colors. It is an end-to-end system that completely redefines several of the principles of how video is captured, defined and delivered. Panasonic says that its DX900 can deliver beautiful HDR through 512 local dimming zones. It has also been “UHD Premium” certified.
Besides UHD Blu-ray, Panasonic will start supporting HDR quality via streaming. It will kick off with Amazon Video’s HDR streams and add support for Netflix’s HDR streams once Netflix starts offering HDR material to customers. This is possible because Panasonic’s TVs support HEVC decoding. They also support VP9 decoding, meaning that you can enjoy YouTube videos in 4K quality.
Panasonic has developed a new HCX+ (Hollywood Cinema eXperience plus) picture processor that faithfully delivers pictures with colors so “accurate that pictures verge on the sort of fidelity only previously possible on hugely expensive professional studio master screens”. It is available in the DX900 model takes advantage of a LUT (look-up table) with 8000 reference points (40 times as many as conventional TVs). The DX800, DX780 and DX750 models have a scaled-down version of the HCX processor.
Lastly, several of Panasonic’s new TVs are capable of reproducing more colors than traditional TVs thanks to wide color gamut panels. Panasonic says that it uses an in-house phosphor solution to widen the color gamut beyond the Rec.709, which every TV has followed for decades. The Rec.709 standard was developed with cathode ray TVs in mind so it is long overdue for an update. Panasonic has not said how much of the larger DCI-P3 color gamut (used in movie theatres) the TVs can deliver but since DX900 is “UHD Premium” certified this model will have to deliver at least 90% of DCI-P3.
Another focus area for Panasonic in 2016 is Firefox OS. Panasonic is still the only manufacturer to support Mozilla’s efforts to create an operating system for TVs but it believes that the simple user interface will resonate with consumers. Even though Mozilla has killed its grand plan to make a Firefox operating system for phones it assures everyone that it will continue to develop its TV OS.
Like last year, Firefox OS will allow the user to “pin” apps, input ports, and channels the home screen for quick access. You decide which “pins” are visible, making it a personalized experience. You can quickly access these pins with the push of a button on the remote instead of have to plow through the menus.
The 2016 Panasonic TVs will get Firefox 2.0 with an update later this year. Mozilla says that Firefox 2.0 will introduce “web apps” in categories such as games, news, VOD, and weather to the TVs. This means that the TV will be able to run “apps” from a browser. Mozilla has plans to make it happen and says that it has already signed on several unnamed partners.
Another new feature in Firefox 2.0 is “send to TV”, which lets you push content wirelessly to the TV from the Firefox browser on Android phones and tablets. This sound like Mozilla’s alternative to Google Cast and Apple Airplay but is it too little too late? Time will tell. However, no support for iPhone and iPad certainly sounds like a problem.
Panasonic and Mozilla have not yet announced new apps for 2016 but we have a full presentation of the new 2016 TVs in Frankfurt so we will get back with more details on this and other subjects – we will update this overview accordingly.
Design is another theme for Panasonic this year. DX800 has a unique design that draws on input from European furniture and interior design, the company says. Other lower-priced TVs will also feature elegant design built in spirit of minimalism; thin profiles and slim bezels. Panasonic has opted for quality materials in several of its high-end models.
Panasonic is also saying goodbye to curved TVs. Although it still has the curved OLED TV, none of the new LCD models will have curved designs. The fad that has been curved TVs has been short-lived and at this point only has a few holdouts left. Speaking of goodbyes, Panasonic only mentions 3D for a single TV range in the material that we have received but it might be featured in more ranges (we will have to confirm that). However, if 3D is supported on TVs, Panasonic certainly is not eager to talk about it.
Several of the 4K TVs also feature a twin-tuner (in Europe) that allows the user to record one show while watching another. All that is required is a USB hard drive connected to one of the USB ports on the TV. Additionally, Panasonic has integrated features such as “TV Anywhere” and “In-house TV streaming”. As the names suggest, these features will allow you to stream TV channels or recordings to mobile devices outside the home or to other TVs (with in-house streaming support) within the home (connected to the same WiFi).
Panasonic’s 2016 TVs will be available this late March. Pricing details will be added to the overview later. We are also trying to confirm details for the US line-up.
DX900 is the flagship LCD for 2016. As the only LCD model in 2016 it comes equipped with full-array local dimming for optimal HDR picture quality. It has Firefox OS 2.0 and much more.