Panasonic AX900
Can Panasonic AX900 really produce plasma-like PQ?

11 Apr 2014 | Rasmus Larsen |

When Panasonic announced their second-generation 4K TVs they famously claimed that the AX900 will be able to reproduce “plasma-like picture quality”. But can it? We had a chance to compare AX900 to the ZT60 plasma TV and last year’s WT600 4K LCD.

Can an LCD produce plasma-like pictures?

Panasonic’s AX900 will not launch until the third quarter of 2014, but we had a chance to examine it closely recently. It was placed in a completely dark room next to Panasonic’s last – and best – ZT60 plasma TV and last year’s WT600 – Panasonic’s first 4K LCD TV.

Panasonic AX900

Panasonic says that one of the inherent problems of LCD is poor blacks. This is off course true, but that is not the only challenge. Still, it was very clear from our demo that last year’s WT600 suffered immensely in this area. It has an IPS panel with very poor blacks and that was evident during the black-room demo.

Panasonic ZT60 vs. AX900
Panasonic ZT60 (left) and AX900 (right)

The AX900 also has an IPS panel, but uses local dimming zones to compensate for the poor native black. It was clear that the AX900 is in a much better position to challenge plasma TVs in terms of black depth. So we focused our attention on the ZT60 and AX900, and largely ignored the WT600. We immediately noticed that the AX900 had a warmer color tone than the ZT60 (as the photos also suggest), but we have no idea how the content had been mastered, so it was hard to draw any conclusions.

When comparing black depth and shadow detailing on the two panels, AX900 more or less matched the ZT60, which is quite impressive. However, since the AX900 uses local dimming zones, we also noticed some mild light blooming around objects. On the other hand, ZT60 continues to suffer from some dithering noise in dark grey tones – a problem that Panasonic’s plasma TVs have always suffered from.

Panasonic ZT60 vs. AX900
Panasonic ZT60 (left) and AX900 (right)

Panasonic did not specify the resolution of the content, but we assume that it was 1080p content since both TVs were able to reproduce approximately the same details. There was no clear winner in terms of detail reproduction, but all of the scenes were either static images or very slow-moving pans over objects up-close. We would have liked to see other video sequences too – fast action and brighter pictures - but it was not possible during this demo.

To sum up we have to say that WT600 clearly fell through in these demos. The AX900 was a much closer match to the excellent ZT60 plasma TV in these specific areas that Panasonic wanted to focus on during the demo. But the local dimming system cannot solve all of the LCD-related problems, partly because there are too few zones (128 zones in 55 & 65”, 32 in 85"). Ideally you would want one LED behind each LCD pixel, but then you might as well just produce an OLED TV.

Speaking of OLED TVs, Panasonic had four curved 4K OLED prototypes just outside the dark room. We cannot help but wonder how the 4K OLED would compare, but we are pretty convinced that it would take the crown.

So can AX900 really produce plasma-like picture quality? Maybe that is not even the point.

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