You certainly couldn’t accuse Panasonic’s plans for its 2019 television range of being half-hearted. At its European get-together in Frankfurt this month it whipped the covers off a comprehensive selection of both OLED and LCD TVs, from cheap’n’cheerful to posh’n’pricey. The range is bristling with up-to-the-minute technology, exciting-sounding acronyms and more third-party logos than you can shake a stick at.
What’s more, it looks a sensibly judged range. Too many of Panasonic’s rival TV brands seem to be forcing both screen-sizes and prices ever-upwards - but here real-world TVs are given just as much prominence as humongous and expensive Statements of Intent. So having had our hands on Panasonic’s range-topping GZ2000 OLED TV just after CES in January, this time we’ve managed to get up close and personal with something a little more modest and mainstream: the GX800 4K LCD TV.
Design and build: simple but effective
Unless you’re spending a lot of money on a new TV and intend to make a feature of it, the design of your telly is going to follow the established template: as much screen as you can accommodate surrounded by as little bezel as possible. Depth will be minimal. The stand will be as unobtrusive as possible.
And that’s exactly what you get with the GX800. No matter the size of screen (the GX800 is available in 65in, 58in, 50in and 40in sizes. Quite honestly we wondered if we’d ever see a 4K TV smaller than 50in ever again - so Panasonic is already catering to a market badly let down by other brands), the appearance is the same. An excitingly narrow bezel in high-quality, nice-to-touch plastic, a functional stand and… well, that’s about it, really. The GX800 looks like a well-built 4K LCD TV.
Features: tightly packed
The GX800 is Panasonic’s mainstream LCD range (the entry-level GX700 sits beneath it, the one-size GX920 above), but that doesn’t mean the company hasn’t piled on the features. The highlights include:
4K resolution (naturally); voice control via both Alexa and Google Assistant; Freeview Play; HDR in both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats; Panasonic’s proprietary HCX picture processing. Control can also be achieved by Panasonic’s customarily logical remote control if shouting at your TV isn’t your thing.
In terms of audio, the appearance of the Dolby Atmos logo is not, repeat not, a reason to get particularly excited. The GX800 can accept a Dolby Atmos soundtrack whether streamed or via a 4K Blu-ray disc, and process it to sound coherent through its modest speaker array. What it emphatically cannot do is given any sort of impression of surround- or overhead sound. That would be asking a bit too much.
The appearance of the Dolby Vision logo, on the other hand, is intriguing in the extreme. When Panasonic joined forces with Samsung et al to develop and promote its HDR10+ standard, it was intended as a riposte to Dolby. Dolby Vision, after all, cost TV manufacturers money to licence, and involved a lot of input from Dolby that TV brands weren’t necessarily wild about. So its inclusion on the majority of Panasonic’s 2019 TVs is great news for customers but not the most ringing endorsement of HDR10+.
Performance: convincingly comfortable
The usual caveats apply here. The GX800 was set up by Panasonic, and its setting were not to be fiddled with. It was being demonstrated in a big, brightly lit room more similar to a showroom than a living room. And it was showing content designed for the sole purpose of looking great on a mid-range 4K LCD TV.
But while this, then, isn’t the definitive word on the GX800’s performance, it’s nonetheless safe to say it’s no lemon. Colours pop without getting shouty about it, and contrasts are strong. Black tones are especially difficult to appraise in these circumstance, but the GX800 definitely manages to put plenty of detail into the darker tones even while it maintains strong, bright whites.
It looks grippy with motion, too, and low-noise in every circumstance. The dynamic HDR processing (Panasonic wasn’t saying which type it was) results in a really wide colour palette and very full contrasts too. For all that Panasonic’s content of choice was carefully selected, the GX800 never looked less than comfortable and convincing.
Panasonic GX800 initial verdict
There have been periods when Panasonic has dominated the flatscreen TV market - but the last few years have not been among them.
Perhaps that’s about to change - we’ve had a look at two of its 2019 screens now, a premium OLED and a mainstream LCD. They’ve both impressed. The GX800, thanks to its unarguable spec and useful range of screen sizes, its (likely to be) competitive pricing and its splendid-in-the-circumstances performance, could well be the range to bring Panasonic to the forefront again.