Panasonic TH-L65WT600A 65” Ultra HD LED TV Review
The TH-L65WT600A is Panasonic’s first television to support the new Ultra HD format (also commonly known as 4K). The WT600A is a THX certified 3D LED backlit LCD television, which supports the new HDMI 2.0 and Display Port 1.1 standards and higher frame rate 4K at 50p/60p.
The first thing that struck me after unboxing the review unit was its exceptional build quality. The 65” panel is surrounded by a thin chrome bezel and comes with a matching chrome pedestal. While the minimalistic style of the stand is attractive, it does make it difficult to conceal cables behind the TV. Of course this won’t be an issue if you plan on wall mounting it. The clear panel running along the bottom of the television houses the LED indicators and Panasonic logo.
The back of the WT600A features a comprehensive array of inputs, including: 3 HDMI inputs (version 2.0), 1 display port input (version 1.2A) 3 USB ports (the first of which is version 3.0), 1 component/ composite connection, an SD card slot and 1 digital audio out (optical). In addition to an Ethernet cable connection, the TV also has built in wireless internet connectivity and a built in camera.
The WT600A comes with two remote controls, the larger of which is logically laid out with plenty of space between the buttons. It can also be back-lit, however the backlighting needs to be activated by pressing a button in the upper most right-hand corner or the remote. The second remote, much smaller in design, eschews most of the hard buttons for a touch pad. I found myself using this remote exclusively for the internet features and while it’s impossible to beat the convenience of a dedicated keyboard and mouse, it was a welcome inclusion.
Initial setup was both fast and intuitive, after being asked if I was using the WT600A in a home or showroom, the on-screen display guided me through channel tuning and connecting the TV to the internet.
The ‘home screen’ of the WT600A is customisable, featuring 4 pre-set home screens, with a selection of apps which are displayed when the TV is powered on. There’s also the option to fully customise the home screen, with your choice of apps and their layout on the home screen. If home screens are not to your liking, you can chose to have the WT600A simply display in full screen without any apps.
When powering on the WT6S00A, the clear panel below the TV that houses the LED indicators is lit by a blue light, which can be turned off in the setup menu if it is not to your liking.
Networking and Internet
Opting to connect the WT600A wirelessly, I found it located and connected to my wireless network quickly and without any problems. Pressing the ‘apps’ button on the remote takes you to the ‘apps’ screen, which displays the various internet and networking functions of the WT600A.
The uppermost portion of the ‘apps’ screen provides access to the media player and any devices connected to the USB inputs of the WT600A. Connected media servers and the inbuilt web browser can also be accessed from this area.
The remainder of the apps screen features the WT600A’s built in apps, including Bigpond movies, Quickflix, ABC iView, Facebook, SBS on Demand and YouTube. Further apps can be obtained from the Panasonic’s Smart Viera Market, including extra channels and Panasonic’s own 4K channel.
I used the media player to access native 4K demonstrations via a USB drive and the built in YouTube app. Both functions worked flawlessly and streaming video from YouTube was as fast as I have come to expect from either of my bluray players.
It’s rare to find TV’s or projectors with accurate ‘out of the box’ colour performance, however better quality displays, such as the WT600A will provide the necessary tools for calibration.
Amongst the WT600A’s comprehensive array of picture calibration controls, the WT600A features some more proprietary calibration controls, such as the ‘black expander’ control. While there is the temptation to adjust the ‘black expander‘ control to obtain better black levels, testing revealed it introduced ‘black crush’ (black crush refers to obscuring low level picture information in dark scenes) so it’s best to leave this control at its default setting.
The ‘clear white’ picture setting did not obscure any high level picture information (picture information found in bright scenes), but it did increase the colour temperature (taking the greyscale further away from its recommended standard) so I chose to leave it at its default setting.
The ‘adaptive backlight’ control engages local dimming in the WT600A. Rather than the more common edge lighting systems found in most LCD/LED televisions, local dimming uses arrays of LED lights positioned directly behind the screen. This means that portions of LED’s can be switched off when black picture information is displayed. This provides deep, dark blacks which provide more ‘punch’ to images. I set the ‘adaptive backlight’ control to maximum during the review period.
Starting with the 2 point white balance controls for greyscale calibration, I was able to improve the greyscale tracking of the WT600A considerably. However, the inclusion of 10 point what balance controls meant further fine-tuning was possible.
Usually 10 point white balance controls match corresponding greyscale points, point 1 is 10% above black, point 2 is 20% above black, moving all the way to point 10 which is white. Unfortunately, the controls in the WT600A did not match the corresponding greyscale points, meaning I did have to settle with a small (almost negligible) amount of error. While my i1pro2 spectroradiometer/d3 colorimeter combination could read the error, it was barely perceptible in test patterns and not perceptible with viewing material.
Pre & Post Calibration Greyscale Performance. The vertical axis shows the amount of error (the lower the number, the smaller the error). The horizontal axis illustrates the level at which the error occurs, for example: 10% above black, 20% above black etc. leading all the way to 100% (white).
Colour accuracy was good on the WT600A prior to calibration and the inclusion of a full colour management system meant that I could obtain near perfect (and well below the visible error threshold) colour accuracy. The WT600A conforms to the Rec. 709 (HD/ bluray) colour standard, rather than the proposed Rec. 2020 for Ultra HD.
Colour accuracy of the WT600A was excellent. The squares represent the target values for primary and secondary coloury colours, the circles and diamonds illustrate pre and post calibration colour accuracy consecutively.
The WT600A’s screen has a Clear Panel Pro filter which Panasonic claims “reproduces images with deeper black levels”. With a pure black screen and the adaptive backlight control turned on, you could be forgiven for thinking that the WT600A is turned off. The black levels were so good, that neither of my meters were able to measure the contrast ratio of the WT600A.
Off axis performance was very good. The only time I noticed any drop in contrast ratio (which makes the picture look slightly washed out) was at extreme angles and if I sat both vertically and horizontally off axis from the screen.
It’s not uncommon to see screen uniformity problems with large screen LED televisions. Uniformity problems will manifest themselves as lines or shadows, usually in brighter pictures with a lot white information (snow fields and skies for example).
With a pure white screen, I could see vertical lines on the right-hand side of the WT600A’s screen. Most people would rather watch movies than white screens for hours, so it’s more important to evaluate whether it’s distracting while watching movies. I only noticed it a handful of times when viewing material. While the screen uniformity was not perfect, it was better than I have seen in other large LED screens.
4K Picture Quality
The more pixels that are on screen at any given time, the smaller the pixels become, so in order to get the full benefit of the new Ultra HD format, you are going to need a BIG screen. With this in mind, I wasn’t expecting there to be a huge difference between a well-made bluray (1080p) and native 4K material. I decided that in order to evaluate the WT600A’s 4K performance I would put it head to head with the montage of images found on the Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark 1.0 and 2.0 and Samsara blurays (1080p).
The montage of images from the Spears & Munsil blurays looked fantastic on the WT600A, but were no match for native 4K material. Images in 4K were ‘rock solid’ and possessed greater detail, believability and depth that upscaled 1080p couldn’t match.
Scanned in 8K and mastered in 4K, Samsara is an absolutely stunning transfer and showcase of how good 1080p can look. While native 4K material still had the edge over Samsara, the difference in image quality wasn’t as large as it was with most 1080p material. I suspect that when playing a 4K mastered disc, the WT600A was able to bring out a little more detail and if had been doing the comparison on a larger screen, the differences between 4K mastered discs and a native 4K would have been much more noticeable.
Bluray Picture Quality
It didn’t matter if I was watching the original 1978 version of Halloween, or the much newer Battleship (which was shot digitally), the WT600A surprised me with the extra sharpness and focus it brought to upscaled blurays. It was if I had formerly been watching images that were ever so slightly out of focus and the WT600A brought them perfectly into focus.
What the movie Battleship may lack in story, it certainly makes up for in visuals. I have watched scenes from this movie on a number of different televisions and projectors. While it always brings the visual (and audio) goodies, I can’t remember ever seeing it look this good. No amount of up scaling from any TV or processor is going to make a bluray look like its native 4K, but the WT600A will extract every bit of detail and then some from your bluray collection.
While the WT600A did bring a new level of detail to older transfers, I felt that the images were a little to ‘clean’ for me and preferred the more ‘film-like’ images from my Panasonic Plasma TV. This is more to do with the differences in technologies (plasma versus LCD) and many will prefer the ‘cleaner’ image that the WT600A provides. If it sounds like I’m nit-picking here, it’s because I am! Overall blurays images on the WT600A were excellent and on newer transfers I actually preferred the image on the WT600a over my own plasma TV.
Watching the Watchmen (pun intended) in a dark room with no backlighting will show up deficiencies in LED backlighting systems. While I did notice a little clouding during the movie, there were very few instances and it was very brief. For the most part, black levels were excellent and the black bars always looked deep and dark, without any trace of clouding (uneven or mottled blacks).
DVD Picture Quality
Normally I have the resolution of my bluray player (which is not capable of 4K scaling) set to 1080p, so that by the time the image reaches the screen it’s already been scaled to 1080p and no further scaling is performed by the television. With the WT600A, I changed the output resolution from my bluray player to ‘original’ otherwise the player would scale DVD’s to 1080p and the TV would then scale the picture to 3840x2160. Having multiple sources handling the conversion will degrade picture quality and in the case of the WT600A, it is better to let the television perform the scaling.
As to be expected when watching DVD’s on a larger screen, images did look noticeably softer and had less detail. But images took on a new level of stability. As any Ultra HD television has to perform a lot of scaling with lower resolution sources, such as DVD, I was concerned the WT600A would make DVD’s look worse than they would on a 1080p screen. To my surprise, DVD’s actually looked better scaled to 3840x2160 on the WT600A than they did on a lot of similar sized 1080p displays.
Digital TV Picture Quality
As more digital free to air channels have become available, the overall picture quality of digital TV has also suffered. This is no more apparent than on larger screen televisions.
I connected a set of rabbit ears to the WT600A and was surprised to find some of the best looking images I have seen from a screen this size with free to air digital TV. Images did look decidedly softer, but they were still far sharper than I am accustomed to seeing from televisions of this size. Setting MPEG Remaster and Noise Reduction to Auto on the Digital TV input provided a marked improvement in picture quality and less visible artefacts.
The 65” Panasonic VIERA TH-L65WT600A LED LCD is a beautiful television! It’s ability to playback 4K material, breathe new life into bluray movies and convincingly pull off low sources such as DVD and Digital TV means that it could comfortably become the central display in any household. If you’re in the market for a new TV and are an early adopter of new technologies, the WT600A should sit high on your audition list.
Scaling on Ultra HD Televisions and Projectors
Ultra HD has a picture resolution of 3840x2160 pixels, for a total pixel count of 8,294,400. While an Ultra HD TV will accept lower resolution images (bluray and DVD), they need to be converted to 3840x2160. This conversion is referred to as scaling and is performed either by the TV or bluray player.
As most movies are currently available in either only bluray or DVD, the majority of viewing on an Ultra HD TV will be with material that has been converted to 3840x2160, by the bluray player or TV.
In the case of bluray, which has a total pixel count of 2,073,600 only a quarter of the pixels on the screen will be ‘real’ pixels and the remaining 75% will be interpolated by either the TV or bluray player. In the case of DVD, which has a total pixel count of 414,720 only 1 in 20 or 5% of the pixels on the screen will be ‘real’ pixels and the remaining 95% will be interpolated.
As you can see, this is a lot of picture information to effectively ‘invent’ on the fly! For this reason, today’s UHD TV’s boast some fairly sophisticated scaling algorithms.
Why we Professionally Calibrate Review TV’s and Projectors
In order to fairly asses the picture quality of TV’s and Projectors we receive for review, each unit is professionally calibrated. In addition to bringing out the best picture performance from the TV or projector, conclusions about picture quality are not based on incorrect picture settings. If you would like to learn more about the calibration process we use, please refer to our series of articles on display calibration.
For more information visit Panasonic Australia.
As the owner of Adelaide based ‘Clarity Audio & Video Calibration’, Tony is a certified ISF Calibrator. Tony is an accomplished Audio-Visual reviewer specialising in theatre and visual products.