For the past year and a half I have been learning about 4k Ultra High definition television with the Panasonic Viera VIP Club. This past few weeks I've finally been able to experience the difference that UHD 4k makes in my own home - I've been borrowing the TX-55CR852B, a 55 inch curved TV featuring Panasonic's 4K Pro technology.
The TV is stunning. We love our existing Panasonic 55 inch model but the CR852 is even more beautiful (and noticeably lighter!) Sleek, dark and with a very thin surround so that you can make the most of the picture. It comes with two remote controls and even they look stunning. The main controller is a brushed steel effect and the first button that jumps out at me when I use it?.. the NETFLIX button!
And that's important because Netflix are one of the few UK providers who are currently streaming 4k ultra high definition content. I must admit that when we upgraded our Netflix account I was expecting there to only be two or three things that we could watch in 4k but in fact, many of the latest Netflix original series from Narcos to Breaking Bad and Marco Polo are all filmed and available in 4k if you upgrade your account. There are a few "moving art" shows you can watch - and very stunning they are too, really showing off the power of 4k to demonstrate detail and depth.
When we first started using the new Viera television, I instantly noticed the difference in colour. It is amazing how in one year Panasonic have made such big leaps forward in terms of colour reproduction. Most of the television we watch during the day is CBeebies animations which demand bright colours and crisp lines - while CBeebies might not be pushing this TV to its limits, it REALLY is a noticeable difference in picture quality.
Once the girls are in bed, then the TV really comes into its own. Over the past few weeks we have watched a lot of different materials on the television and we've used several of the different pre-set colour options (you can totally customise the colour display and brightness of the backlight but it comes with some handy pre-sets to get you started). Here's our verdict...
SPORTS: Mr. B. watches a lot of football and rugby. We don't think we can see a noticeable improvement over our existing HD TV for regular HD sports footage but, when you use the 4k power to watch some of the UHD material available on youtube (for instance, FC Barcelona material) then the difference in image quality is amazing.
NATURE: Watching nature and geography programmes on this TV is awe-inspiring. We've tried some of the Netflix art materials such as "oceans" which are designed to showcase 4k in all its glory but we have also watched a few regular BBC programmes in regular HD and still been impressed. If you experiment with the backlight settings you can really bring a programme alive. The 4k pro televisions from Viera feature professional-grade colour accuracy that has previously only been used in monitors for the TV and film industries. Using CMYK as well as RBG means that there are over 8000 different colours that this screen can display!
DRAMA: The most memorable content I've watched on the CR852 is Batman: The Dark Night. It is a long time since I've seen the movie but I remember it being frustratingly dark and gloomy in places. On this television, even the dark areas of the screen are visible. I know, having seen the next wave of Panasonic Viera OLED technology being shown off at IFA late last year, that black colour reproduction ( the art of displaying black, and things approaching black) is going to become even more impressive in the coming years but I was still very impressed with how the movie displayed.
One more thing to note about the TX-55CR852 is that this year's move to use a mozilla browser and a more visual menu system is a MASSIVE step forwards for Panasonic. Lara (6) finds the interface easy to use and navigate and I've used the apps on it, and the freeview channel browser a lot more in two weeks than I've ever used on our existing TV - when a user interface is easy, you use it! We haven't really explored the power of Freeview Play as we have a BT box that does many of the things that Freeview play can - but when we have dabbled, it has been easy to navigate.
The only negative I have to say about the CR852 is that it's curved! I can honestly say that it hasn't contributed anything to my viewing experience. Even when playing on the kids consoles I haven't really noticed it. When I sit in my seat on the sofa at the edge of the room, I am just aware of the curve and infact, it ever so slightly interferes with my viewing. I think I'd choose a flat screen myself!