2015 is already three months old and so gradually the first TVs from the 2015 line-up of the major manufacturers in the Netherlands are appearing. Panasonic also comes with a large number of new models, including the TV we are reviewing in this review. We look at the Panasonic TX-40CS630E, a 40-inch full HD TV with 3D display and smart TV capabilities.
Panasonic CS630E specifications
The Panasonic CS630E series is not a top series but a middle class series for those who do not need the high 4K resolution, but are looking for a TV with a sleek design and various smart TV options. The models in this series include full HD resolution, active 3D viewing (3D glasses are not included), a 400Hz refresh rate, Bluetooth, built-in WiFi, an LCD LED panel with edge lit LED lighting and Bright Panel Plus, and of course smart TV functions. Unfortunately, the CS630E series is not equipped with the new Firefox OS platform. You have to do it with the Viera platform than last year also on the TVs of the Japanese manufacturer. You do have access to TV Anywhere and TV Streaming, two handy smart functions.
The Panasonic CS630E series consists of three models; the 40-inch TX-40CS630E with a sales price of 699 euros, the 50-inch TX-50CS630E with a suggested retail price of 999 euros and the 55-inch TX-55CS630E with a suggested retail price of 1,249 euros. In this review we look at the 40-inch model but the conclusions also apply to the other models in this series.
For this review use the Marantz UD7007 Blu-ray player , the Marantz SR6009 receiver and a PlayStation 3 game console. We also used Netflix for streaming video.
Panasonic CS630E – design
Panasonic has equipped the CS630E models with a minimalistic yet sleek-looking appearance. The TV has a silver finish, and although the plastic frame is made, this model comes across as a premium TV. There are few bells and whistles on the housing. The Panasonic logo is placed at the bottom of the frame and there are three small LEDs at the bottom left. The minimalistic base has a shiny silver finish and is made of metal. This ensures that the TV is stable and stylishly held up. There is little exciting about the appearance; it is just a solid, minimalistic and sleek design.
As far as the connections are concerned, the TX-40CS630E is equipped on the side with two USB ports and an HDMI (ARC) port. Unfortunately, these are the only connections that point to the side. The other connections, including the Ethernet port and two additional HDMI ports, point backwards, which can be difficult when the TV is hung up. It must also be said that the power cable that Panasonic provides is very short. An extension cable or socket is therefore not a luxury for many people.
The CS630E models come with a standard remote control and therefore no special TouchPad Remote. The remote has hardly changed in the course of time; he still has the distinctive design of Panasonic, with large buttons and access to the most important functions. New is the Netflix button that gives direct access to the streaming app. The remote control is fairly simple, completely made of plastic and is well in hand. If you prefer to use your smartphone, you can get started with the Panasonic Remote app, which you can read more about below.
Panasonic CS630E – ease of use
Looking at the menus and the smart TV platform, little has changed compared to last year. This year, too, when you turn on the TV for the first time, you will be offered a number of basic settings so that you can get started right away. So you can install the channels and connect the TV to your WiFi network. It is not a fancy or extensive set-up, but it ensures that you can view your channels directly and have access to apps and services. A suggestion we already gave last year is that it would be nice if Panasonic would offer more possibilities to adjust the audio and the image in this set-up according to your own wishes so that you do not have to scroll through the menus afterwards.
As soon as you have gone through the first settings, you will end up in the home screen of the Viera smart TV platform. Here you first get tips about using the platform through pop-ups and spoken text. It takes some getting used to but after a few times browsing through the interface you see where everything is for. The general settings menus have not changed, but that is good news. The settings are easily accessible, well structured and well-organized. Here, too, it is not fancy, but that is beneficial for the user.
A point that we always attach great importance to is the speed of the software and thus the operation of the TV. The CS630E models have a dual dual-core processor and although this says little, the speed seems to have improved slightly compared to last year. Navigating through the settings menus is smooth and switching between home screens and apps does not cause many problems. We can not call it fast yet, but there is no question of very long loading times or lags in the software. In this area, Panasonic has made a small profit, but there is still room for improvement because why can not the experience be as smooth as on a PC, smartphone or tablet?
The Panasonic TV Remote 2 app for smartphones and tablets has not changed this year either. But, this is not bad news either. Panasonic already had one of the better and most comprehensive apps with this app. The app offers you various options to operate your TV from your tablet or smartphone. So you have the so-called ‘panel operation’ with which you actually see the Touch Pad remote control but on your screen, the normal remote control buttons and a keyboard. This keyboard is ideal for entering texts because with the remote controls you hardly get out of here. The only thing that is missing from this keyboard is that you first preview your texts on your smartphone or tablet and then have to send them to the relevant window on your TV.
Furthermore, the app is equipped with Swipe & Share with which you can easily ‘throw’ photos, videos or music from your smartphone or tablet to your TV. Then they are displayed on the big screen. You can also open the browser in the app and once you have found something, you can also throw the relevant page back to the TV. This is different from watching TV and using the keyboard for example. It is not only different but also a lot more user-friendly.
There is also access to all applications that can be started directly from your smartphone. Another interesting feature TV Anywhere. Allows you to view material recorded on a USB disk or live TV programs (only when not encrypted / protected) remotely, for example outdoors. This function requires a Panasonic Cloud account, which is free of charge, and the TV must be in ‘standby mode’. The TV Anywhere interface, which is not directly within the Remote app, is a bit old-fashioned, in English and not really user-friendly, but the function works properly. Handy for when you’re not at home and want to plan something or want to watch a program recorded on a USB stick outside the door. Incidentally, the CS630E models also support TV Streaming, with which the content that appears on TV can be streamed to another TV in the house (a Panasonic Viera TV). Unfortunately, the CS630E models are only ‘clients’ that allow them to receive the signal only.
Panasonic CS630E – features
Smart TV platform (my Home Screen)
As indicated above, the TX-40CS630E uses the Viera smart TV platform that we already saw back on Panasonic TVs last year. The models from the CX670 series use , the new smart TV platform from Panasonic developed together with Mozilla. Although the Viera platform is somewhat older, there is still plenty of interest for the average user.
The basis of the Viera platform consists of several home screens, for example a TV homescreen, a lifestyle home screen and an info homescreen. Each home screen consists of one large area where your live TV channel appears and around it a number of small boxes with apps or widgets. You can customize which apps and widgets you can see on various home screens, such as the weather, the browser’s bookmarks or the Netflix app. It is just what apps, widgets or inputs you like or often use.
There are a number of menu items at the top of each home screen. For example, you can go to a fan overview that allows you to browse through multiple home screens, you can go to the app section where you can find all apps, you can search for content, there is a button to access your messages and you can configure the settings. for smart TV. As soon as you click on the ‘apps’ menu item you will see the overview of all apps already installed on your TV. It is not very clear but you can place the apps on your home screen (s) to create your own overview. Via the Apps Market you get access to the complete library of apps from Panasonic. Here is enough to find for the Dutch user, but still there are popular apps like Spotify and Uitzending Gemist. You can also download different backgrounds for your home screens via the app overview. By default, Panasonic also offers various fun apps, including for your calendar, your notes, reminders and voice memos.
The Viera platform is not the most beautiful or user-friendly platform that you can find on a TV but there is everything you need, it is well-organized and it works properly. The same applies to the app offer; the necessary is present. If you want more you can watch the Firefox OS TVs from Panasonic.
Media Stream (My Media)
This year the Media Stream (My Media) received less attention but he is still present. My Media is an overview that gives you direct access to content that may be of interest to you. The stream (the overview) is based on what you look at and what is popular. The stream includes YouTube videos, live TV channels, recently visited websites and own photos or videos.
It is a complete overview of what you would like to see at that moment. Now the latter is not always true, but Panasonic is doing its best to serve your interesting content, and with a Cloud account, everything is tailored to your needs. The My Media stream is a nice feature to scroll through now and then to discover new content.
The web browser is still the same as last year but we also had little to complain about in this area. Panasonic equips the CS630E models with an excellent browser that most websites can easily view, which is user friendly and also loads reasonably fast. Very useful is that you can look up a website on your smartphone or tablet, via the Panasonic Remote app, and ‘throw’ it directly to the TV. That saves urls on your TV and difficult to navigate.
As far as the other smart TV functions are concerned, you can mirror the image of a smartphone with Miracast on the TV and you can of course stream content from the home network via DLNA. The TX-40CS630E has a simple but user-friendly interface for browsing through external devices, the same applies to the media player. It supports a wide range of file formats including AVCHD, AVI, MKV, WMV, MP4, M4v, VOB, MP3, AAC, WMA Pro, FLAC, Apple Lossless, WAV, JPEG and MPO. Incidentally, the TV also has Bluetooth so you can pair a Bluetooth keyboard or controller.
Panasonic CS630E – image quality
Although all connections, design and smart TV options are interesting, it is of course the image quality. Panasonic has equipped the CS630E models with an LCD panel with edge lit LED lighting and a Bright Panel Plus for higher brightness. The display has a resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels (full hd) and comes with a 400Hz BMR.
Before we start using a TV, we always look at the most important settings with which you can achieve better image quality quickly and easily. Panasonic has a number of presets ready for you with which you can influence the image quality. True Cinema is the best mode from the box. This gives you the deepest black values and the most natural color reproduction for most content. Unfortunately, this mode can not be turned on when you use apps like Netflix. Then ‘Normal’ is the best choice, with some adjustments. When True Cinema is chosen, it is best to choose Warm2 for color reproduction, switch off options such as Vivid Colors and Ambient Sensor, and minimize noise reduction and MPEG remaster. Many of these options introduce more negative effects than they solve problems or make the image much more natural, especially when the source material is just right (digital TV or Blu-ray). We have enabled Adaptive Backlight for optimal contrast. Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) is an option to make images smoother. You can choose at least here, but we prefer ‘off’, especially with Blu-ray. This option allows images to run smoother but introduces a home video effect which does not benefit the realistic and natural reproduction, although that is a matter of taste at a low setting. Those who want to dive deeper into the settings can get started with the gamma, white balance and color management.
Please note; Adjusting or calibrating your TV depends on your own preferences and the room in which the TV is located. Do you want to professionally calibrate your TV or start working on it yourself? Then go through our tips articles in the home cinema information guide .
In a review of a TV, we always first look at the general picture properties, including the backlight and its uniformity, the black values and possible problems with, among other things, halo effects. Although we are dealing here with a middle-class model from Panasonic, we are quite impressed with regard to general image characteristics. The panel shows no sign of backlight bleeding and halo effects are reduced to a minimum. Light objects on a dark background therefore hardly suffer from a white glow / haze where they are surrounded by. This is especially clear during the credits of a TV. The screen is also uniform. This means that when you see a uniform color, for example black, white or red, you do not see clearly lighter or darker parts of the screen. The black values do not come close to the top models of LCD TVs or even the plasma TVs from two years ago, but also in this area the TX-40CS630E performs slightly above average. The Bright Panel Plus provides surprisingly high brightness and convincing whites, but this is slightly at the expense of contrast. Particularly in shadow areas with many shades of gray, details are lost too quickly.
There is less and less SD content available but you may occasionally watch a DVD or a TV broadcast in a lower resolution. Even then, a TV must perform properly and the Panasonic TX-40CS630E stands well here. The upscaling function (to full hd resolution) works properly but introduces some artifacts and just too much noise. You do not get a clean picture, but with minimal settings of the noise and mpeg reduction and IFC on minimum you get an average good picture. The real details are missing and the image is somewhat dull but we can attribute that to the source material that is not HD quality.
A TV of this caliber deserves good quality content and so we of course started with Blu-ray movies and HD content through a digital TV signal. With the settings mentioned above, the TX-40CS630E is able to generate an impressive picture, especially when looking at the price segment in which the TV is located. Ok, cheap we can not call the CS630E models but they do not perform much worse than a number of top models from other manufacturers that we saw last year. There is hardly anything negative about this model, although the contrast is not on the same level as the other image qualities. It lacks just those subtle details that give a film an extra dimension, especially in dark scenes. Fast movements are also displayed without IFC and subtle details in terms of sharpness are clearly visible, for example in faces. There is absolutely no noise or artefacts, so you get a clean, dynamic and natural picture. In terms of color reproduction there is a very slight deviation to yellow / red (also with a less color adjustment) but this is not something that will greatly affect the viewing experience. The colors are very natural and convincing but also here it must be said that the limited contrast sets the limits.
The TX-40CS630E has a special game mode that disables various image processing techniques to give you a fast response time, yet the input lag, the delay between an action on your controller and the on-screen action, is not impressive. With an input lag of 73ms, this TV is in the middle segment. This does not mean that you can not play games on it, but if you play a lot of shooters where the reaction time is of great importance, there are models with better performances.
Reflections and viewing angles
Thanks to the Bright Panel Plus, the Panasonic TX-40CS630E offers a higher brightness than the models that we saw last year, which means that the TV can also compete better against incident light. Especially in a bright room or during the daytime watching TV, you notice that the TV is well maintained and comfortable watching TV is absolutely possible. The panel is, however, quite sensitive to reflections, and the high brightness can not prevent a window or a lamp from being clearly visible in the back of the room. The mirror effect is something too emphatically present. As far as the viewing angles are concerned, the CS630E models perform well above average. Even from an acute angle, much of the brightness is maintained and you only notice a slight reduction in contrast. The black also attracts something towards blue / gray. From all normal viewing positions, however, this model remains an excellent image.
Panasonic CS630E – audio quality
Panasonic has equipped the CS630E models with VR-Audio True Surround midels with two 20 Watt speakers. That does not sound very impressive and the speakers are placed on the back of the TV. This ensures that the sound must have the reflection on the wall to find its way to the user. Although the sound, especially dialogues, comes across as dull and lifeless, it is bad for the rest. The TV even manages to produce quite a few low tones that just give that extra dimension to a film or series. Dialogues are somewhat dull but easily understood and audio (surround) effects are also tight and spatial. The volume can be considerably increased without causing any noticeable distortion. All in all a good sound quality, just a pity that the speakers point backwards. Incidentally, with this model, we always recommend an external audio system when you watch a lot of films and series.
Panasonic CS630E – conclusion
All we have to deduct and subtract everything we have to come to the conclusion that the Panasonic TX-40CS630E is a TV that offers great value for money. Especially at the most important point; the image quality. Of course there is plenty of room for improvement. We would have liked to see the new Firefox OS on this model, the contrast leaves something to be desired, the screen suffers from reflections and it is a pity that the 3D glasses are not included as standard. But, on almost every other plane, the CS630E models score well above average. Panasonic also has a simple and sleek design, the ease of use is more than sufficient and the Panasonic Remote app is still an example for many other manufacturers. In short, the Panasonic CS630E models are in our opinion definitely recommended when you’re looking for just a good full HD TV without lots of bells and whistles but with enough smart TV capabilities to watch your media and use popular services.