A couple of weeks ago Panasonic invited me down to an office in London for a special Viera VIP Club event to tell us all about their new 2016 Viera range of televisions. It was a very interesting day, and I learned a lot about the direction they are moving the range in. It was also a chance to see their new high end television, the DX902, in the flesh and see what this new 4K HDR (also known as Ultra HD) is all about.
Viera televisions in Panasonic’s 2016 range can be identified by the fact that their model numbers all begin with the letters DX or DS. It’s clear that 4K screens are here to stay with all apart from the bottom two models sporting this resolution, and it’s equally as clear that curved screens are out of favour (can’t say I ever really understood why they were in!) as all 2016 models are flat.
This year Panasonic will be focussing their advertising on two key features of their range. The first is the picture “as the director intended” message that we saw last year. They have continued to work with Hollywood colourists, with the new DX902 being tuned by Mike Sowa, who has worked on such movies as Pirates of the Caribbean, Need for Speed and Oblivion. The DX902 is definitely Panasonic’s flagship television, and the one that features the new 4K HDR technology. This basically means that it is capable of displaying a greater range of colours and contrast than ever before, for a more realistic picture. Panasonic’s latest advert is based around the filming of a short film directed by cinematographer Vanja Cernjul, which you can watch below. After that the playlist continues with a series of interviews with Vanja about working with Panasonic and the new 4k HDR technology which you might find interesting.
The second aspect of the range that Panasonic will be advertising in 2016 is the design of their televisions, with their “Art & Interior” message. You might think that most televisions basically look the same, but Panasonic are working to make their Viera range into attractive pieces of furniture, with different styling to suit all homes. The new DX800 is a true designer television with interesting A-frame-style side mounts for example, whereas the DX750 features a flexible foot-mount which can be attached in several different positions to suit your home. These designs means that we are seeing real variety of appearance in the Viera range this year, with Panasonic starting a move away from the “safe” traditional designs into new ground.
Whilst we were learning about the 2016 Viera range one aspect in which I was particularly interested was the interface. I really like the user-friendly Firefox-OS-based interface that was introduced last year, and the good news is that that is still around, with just the adding of a few new features rather than any major redesign. You can now synchronise your Firefox favourites and browsing history between your desktop or laptop and your television by logging in to your Firefox ID on the TV (DX600 upwards). You can also now “cast” your Android mobile device web browser screens to the television as well (including any embedded video). Whilst it’s fair to say the range of apps available to install on the Viera televisions is still pretty small, Panasonic have introduced a new feature this year to make it easier for website developers to get their content onto the Viera range of televisions. There is a new category in the Panasonic App Store – web apps. This allows you to access websites designed to work on Firefox OS TVs, and I believe makes it easier for web developers to get their apps onto the televisions. I didn’t get much time to see what was available in the category at the moment, but I saw food channels, music channels, games, and possibly some kids stuff. So we may well see more apps coming to the 2016 Viera televisions throughout the year.
So what of the DX902 in particular? Well, it really is a gorgeous television, with a wonderfully clear display that manages to display darks and lights equally well, and copes well with lots of contrast. We got loads of detailed information about the 4k HDR technology in this television, and why it has such a great, clear picture, which I’m not sure I understood well enough to be able to explain here. If you want a really technical review of the DX902 I would recommend you read this review by one of my fellow Viera VIPs. One of the demo videos we were shown was a firework display, which I’m told is something televisions typically struggle with – a very black background with fast-moving, bright fireworks. Well the DX902 coped brilliantly, and made it feel like you were really there.
For me the big question when I see new technology like this is whether it will become mainstream, and at the moment there is every indication that 4K HDR is going to. Amazon has recently begun broadcasting its first 4k HDR series – The Man in the High Castle. A couple of weeks ago Netflix announced it was introducing HDR programming as well, starting with Marco Polo and the much anticipated second series of Daredevil. A quick Amazon search for “4k Ultra HD”* reveals an ever-growing list of movies now available to buy on Blu-Ray (of course you will need a 4k Blu-Ray player to play them, but the good news is that Panasonic are launching their first full 4k Blu Ray player this year as well, and there is a promotion where you can get it for half price when you buy it at the same time as an eligible 4k Viera television).
We were treated to a quick showing of some scenes from Mad Max in 4k Ultra HD on the DX902, and it looked good. I must confess I’ve never actually seen Mad Max, but it looked like there were quite a few dark scenes in the movie that the HDR coped really well with. It looks like this technology is being embraced by the film industry and television producers alike, and so I’d say it will be around for a while. Hopefully long enough for us to see it appearing in some of the mid-range television models as well as the top of the range.
The Panasonic Viera DX902 is available in two sizes – 65 inch (retail price £3,299) and 58 inch (retail price £2,799) – along with the other models in the 2016 Viera range from viera.panasonic.co.uk and other electrical suppliers.
Disclosure: I am a member of the Panasonic Viera VIP Club. I have been working with Panasonic over the course of the year to bring you news and reviews relating to Panasonic’s Viera range. Panasonic paid my travel expenses so that I could attend the Viera VIP Club briefing in London. All words and opinions are my own. The Amazon link within this post (marked by *) contains my affiliate code – if you make any purchase after clicking I will receive a small payment at no extra cost to you. I recommend Amazon because I use them personally.