We have reviewed several new TVs from Panasonic this year, but all these models were equipped with a traditional flat panel. We are seeing more and more manufacturers using curved TVs and Panasonic has a number of models in the 2015 line-up. In this review we look at the CS730E series Panasonic TX-55CR730E, consisting of two TVs with a curved screen.
Panasonic CR730E specifications
The Panasonic CR730E series is largely comparable in terms of specifications to the CX700E series that we have previously reviewed. The main difference lies in the lack of Bluetooth and 3D display on the CR730E series. In addition, it is of course immediately clear that the CR730E models have a curved screen and the BMR is slightly higher with 1000Hz. The CR730E series comes just like the CX700E series with a va-panel.
Panasonic equips the TVs in this series with among others a va LCD display with edge lit LED backlighting, the high 4K Ultra HD resolution, the new Firefox OS smart TV platform, built-in WiFi with DLNA and Miracast support , a quad-core processor, the HEVC and VP9 decoders for 4K material from the internet and of course access to various streaming services, including Netflix.
The Panasonic CR730E series consists of two models; the 55-inch TX-55CR730E with a sales price of 2,399 euros and the 65-inch TX-65CR730E with a suggested retail price of 3,399 euros. In this review we look at the 55-inch model but the conclusions also apply to the other models in this series.
For this review we use, among others, the Marantz UD7007 Blu-ray player , the Marantz SR7009 receiver , the B & W CM S2 series speakers and a PlayStation 3 game console. We also used Netflix for streaming video, both HD and 4K.
Panasonic CR730E – design
Not only in terms of specifications, the CR730E series corresponds to the CX700E series. The TVs are a direct derivative of the flat models and that is also to see the design. The TX-55CR730E features a slim frame with a brushed silver finish, something that makes the TV look chic. At the bottom of the TV we see a black list that includes the status LEDs and the infrared receiver. Like all other models in the line-up, the design is kept fairly simple, without bells and whistles. This is also reflected in the foot.
The base of the CR730E series actually consists of two small metal feet with a silver finish. These are mounted on both sides of the TV and ensure that the device is firmly in place. However, turning without moving the foot does not belong to the possibilities. The feet are quite small and provide a reasonably narrow base.
If we look at the connection options, we see exactly the same as on CX700E models. The TX-55CR730E features a USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI (ARC) port on the side. Downwards, from the rear, point two additional HDMI ports and the ethernet port. Furthermore, the TV has a SCART and component connection pointing backwards, towards the wall. Unfortunately, this model is also equipped with a rather short plug, so keep that in mind.
Since the CR730E models are derived from the CX700E models, unfortunately only one remote control is included. Panasonic has chosen not to deliver the Touch Remote and so you have to do it with the standard remote that has been the same for years. However, this plastic accessory works well, is easy to handle and offers quick access to the most important functions. What is new is the special Netflix button that lets you open the Netflix app. If you prefer to use your smartphone, you can get started with the Panasonic Remote app, which you can read more about below.
Panasonic CR730E – ease of use
Although Panasonic has completely renewed the smart TV platform this year, and the cooperation with Mozilla has been entered into, the general menu has changed little in recent years. Panasonic again opts for a rather simple and clear menu structure with (almost everywhere) a short explanation per function. The menus are quick to operate and you will not get lost easily.
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 enter the home screen of the Firefox smart TV platform. Here you first get information about the use and the possibilities of the platform through a number of beautifully designed windows. It takes some getting used to but after a few times browsing through the interface you see where everything is for.
Of course we always look at the speed of the software that the TV has. In this respect, there is little to criticize on the CR730E series. The TV reacts quickly to input, browsing through menus goes smoothly and also opening applications quickly enough within the Firefox OS platform. Unfortunately, it is not possible to switch quickly between apps (multitasking), a restriction that Mozilla and Panasonic have consciously chosen.
We have already dealt with the Panasonic TV Remote 2 application often and it is clear that we are mainly enthusiastic about it. The application, suitable for almost all smartphones and tablets, makes it possible to control the TV with your mobile device, offers the possibility to ‘throw’ media to your TV and gives access to the apps that are installed on your TV.
For example, it is possible to choose ‘panel operation’ and operate the TV via a touchpad, as we know from the Touch Pad remote control which is unfortunately not included. This operation sometimes runs a bit stiff and is not supported everywhere in the software. In addition, you can choose virtual buttons from 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 show texts on your smartphone or tablet and then 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. Unfortunately, this feature for photos and videos does not currently work on iOS devices, which should be solved quickly. 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.
Via the Remote application you get an overview of the installed applications so that you can start them directly from your mobile device. TV Anywhere is also present. 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’. You are also bound to the content that appears on TV because this model only comes with one tuner. 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 CR730E models also support TV Streaming, which allows the content that appears on TV to be streamed to another TV in the home (a Panasonic Viera TV). Unfortunately, the CR730E models are only ‘clients’ that allow them to receive the signal only.
Panasonic CR730E – features
Smart TV platform (Firefox OS)
Now that we have tested a few TVs from Panasonic and therefore have quite a bit of experience with Firefox OS we can say that we have become a fan of it. Not so much because of the extensive possibilities, but especially because of the sleek design, the simplicity and the ease of use. Firefox OS provides easy and fast access to interesting apps, shows you all connected devices instantly and also offers some nice options to personalize the interface.
On the remote control there is a Home button that takes you directly to the home screen of Firefox OS. Here you see three icons for Live TV, Apps and Devices. You can add your favorite apps, TV channels, inputs and games to these three icons, giving you a personalized home screen. The homescreen is simple and clear, something that we like to see on a TV.
What the icons do speaks a little bit for itself; With Live TV you come to the live TV channels (of which you can also ‘peg’ a specific channel on the homescreen), via apps you get in the overview of installed apps and via Devices you get to the inputs and wireless linked devices. It is striking that the electronic TV guide is still present in the ‘old’ style and therefore totally does not fit within Firefox OS.
Firefox OS looks so tight and works more than fine, but the range of apps still leaves much to be desired. Panasonic has never been at the forefront in this respect, but the intention is that this will change with Firefox OS. Fortunately, you have access to the most popular apps and services, including Netflix, NPO Missed, YouTube, Pathé Home and Deezer.
Firefox web browser
The browser is obviously from Firefox and that should in principle mean a lot of good. However, the operation leaves something to be desired, just like the somewhat slow loading times. With the remote control there is no start and therefore the TV Remote app for the use of the browser is actually a requirement. Loading websites is a lot slower than on your smartphone, laptop or tablet so there are not many reasons to open this browser often.
Of course, the above functions are not the only ones we see on a smart TV of this caliber. Panasonic also makes it possible to display content from other devices in the home network thanks to DLNA and the image of your smartphone or tablet can be mirrored thanks to Miracast. The media player 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. HEVC support for playing 4K content is also present. Separately and notably, there is no support for DTS.
Panasonic CR730E – image quality
As said, the Panasonic TX-55CR730E is similar in specifications to the CX700E series, apart from the higher (1000) BMR. The TV is equipped with a Bright Panel Plus for high brightness, Briliant Contrast technology and high 4K Ultra HD resolution. But, what does the curved screen have for the image quality?
As far as image settings are concerned, we always walk through the most important options to get the most out of the TV without having to calibrate them professionally. The options we use with the CR730E series are largely similar to those on the CX700E series.
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. 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 but on ‘minimal’. This improves black levels in dark environments but can also occasionally give a ‘blooming’ effect, so that a column of the screen is lighter than the rest. Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) is an option to make images smoother. You can turn this option off with good quality content, but we prefer ‘minimal’. This option makes images run smoother but introduces a home video effect at a higher setting, which does not benefit the realistic and natural reproduction. Those who want to dive deeper into the settings can get started with the gamma, white balance and color management.
We always look first at the general image properties of a screen, including the uniformity. How level is the screen when, for example, a white or black surface is shown? The TX-55CR730E certainly does not disappoint in this area. The TV is able to display an almost uniform, clean and uniform image, without the background lighting being clearly visible or seeing light or dark spots. Even when we set up a dark scene with light objects from a film, the TV seems to have little trouble with this. There are no noteworthy halo effects visible, apart from a very light haze around bright light objects. The black values are good, but not as impressive as on the CX700E series. In this area, the CR730E series remains slightly behind, especially when you are not exactly in the middle of the TV. The shades of gray in, for example, shadows on the screen are not as impressive as on the CX700E series but still of acceptable level. What exactly this difference is in is not clear to us; the panel is the same, apart from the fact that it is curved.
With low-resolution SD content, the TX-55CR730E has remarkably few problems. The TV knows how to prepare a very clean and sleek picture, especially when you use the options for noise and mpeg artifacts they are intended for. Compared to the CX700E series, quick movements are absorbed a bit more smoothly and more tightly, but for SD content we recommend to activate the IFC option. The TV also performs well when it comes to upscaling equipment, to the 4K resolution of the panel. It does not get really sharp, it does not stop pixels, but at least no adverse side-effects are introduced so you get to see a clean picture.
When looking at HD content, the options for IFC and noise and MPEG reduction can be turned off, especially with a Blu-ray film. The TV stands well without these options and shows the content as it is already in high quality on the disc. The TV performs exceptionally well in this area, with an impressively sharp display, plenty of subtle details and a wide range of natural colors. The contrast leaves something to be desired, especially with regard to the deep black and dark parts of the screen, but on the other hand, colors splash from the screen without appearing saturated. In addition, HD-content is also very well dealt with fast moving images or a fast camera movement. There is hardly any question of stutter effects or smearing of details. There is absolutely no noise or artefacts, so you get a clean, dynamic and natural picture.
With an Ultra HD TV you can not help but watch as much 4K Ultra HD content as possible. Unfortunately, the offer is not very large but with YouTube and Netflix you can already access some interesting material. But, how does this model perform with 4K content?
For the time being we have to deal with streaming content when we want to watch 4K material, as 4K Blu-ray discs are still waiting. This introduces one negative side effect, that of compression and therefore artifacts and to a lesser degree noise. The quality of the source material is therefore not optimal, but we have to live with that. Apart from that, the CR730E series delivers an impressive image, but sharp details, a near perfect processing of fast moving images, natural colors and a dynamic display. Again we have to say that the contrast leaves something to be desired compared to the CX700E series, but again it is acceptable / good when we watch TV from the middle. Depending on the size of your TV and the viewing distance, the higher resolution will take you deeper into a movie or series and you will see details that previously disappeared in the background or were simply too small.
The Panasonic TX-55CR730E features a special game mode that disables various image processing techniques to give you a fast response time. In this respect, the CR730E series is not a topper, more a middle class. The input lag, the delay between an action on your controller and the action on the screen, is 42ms. A great result for the casual gamer but less interesting for the die-hard gamer.
Reflections and viewing angles
Although we had little to complain about under this heading in the CX700E series, this is somewhat different with the CR730E models. What it is exactly about is not clear to us, but the clarity seems to be a little behind. The TV has more trouble than its flat-screen brother, to box against incoming light. But that is not the only thing. Because of the curvature in the screen, reflections fall much faster, too fast, especially when you sit out of the middle. And a TV is often used by several people. Only from the exact middle do the reflections not (really) stand out, a disadvantage that we saw earlier with curved screens. The curvature thereby causes another disadvantage; the viewing angles are not impressively good. Sit about 30 degrees out of the middle and the brightness falls away, the contrast quickly deteriorates and a slight haze appears on the screen. We can say that the TX-55CR730E is not an ideal TV for an evening of film with the whole family.
Panasonic CR730E – audio quality
The conclusion about the audio output can actually be taken directly from the review of the CX700E series. Apart from the curvature in the screen, nothing has changed in this area. Panasonic uses two full-range speakers with a total power of 20 Watt that point backwards, towards the wall. The speakers can be opened fairly wide in terms of volume, but distortion occurs too quickly and the sound gets a sharp appearance. The sound also sounds a bit tinny and dialogues get dull because the audio does not go directly towards the user. There is hardly any question of a stereo image and only for ‘simple’ TV programs the TV offers sufficient quality to be able to follow everything properly. We recommend, however, as often, to use an external audio system with this model.
Panasonic CR730E – conclusion
It remains a difficult issue; why would you buy a TV with a curved screen? We are not convinced of the usefulness of a curved screen, apart from the aesthetic arguments, and do not see the application directly. When you often only sit in front of the TV it has its charm, and it may look nice on some TV furniture. The disadvantage is that reflections play a bigger negative role and the viewing angles are far from optimal. Combine this with a slightly lower brightness and it becomes a TV for a limited target group.
However, that limited target group does not get a bad TV when they make a purchase. This model has a very good impression on many aspects of the image quality, apart from a slightly disappointing contrast. The TX-55CR730E offers an excellent color reproduction, provides sharp subtle details and delivers a dynamic and convincing image. This is accompanied by the very user-friendly Firefox OS smart TV platform, a simple but beautiful design and a good app for your smartphone or tablet. The app offer leaves something to be desired and the audio quality is not very good, but the most important apps are present and an external audio system should not be missing anymore. All in all, we are dealing with a great television which, in particular, has a number of important weaknesses due to its shape and is therefore suitable for a smaller target group.
Is a curved screen not a must for you? Then there are sufficient (very) good alternatives with a flat screen for 2,399 euros.