A few weeks ago we looked at the Panasonic CS630E series, an LCD LED TV series with full HD resolution. In this review we look a step up in the line-up, to the Panasonic CX700E series. The models in this series are equipped with Firefox OS software and have the high 4K Ultra HD resolution.
Panasonic CX700E – specifications
The Panasonic CX700E series is a mid-range LCD LED TV series, equipped with a number of interesting features. The models in this series are equipped with an LCD panel with edge lit LED backlight, the high 4K Ultra HD resolution and the new Firefox OS smart TV platform from Panasonic. In addition, the TVs with active 3D display (without supplied 3D glasses), a Super Bright panel with local dimming, a quadcore processor, built-in WiFi and HDMI 2.0 ports. HEVC support is also available for streaming 4K content.
The Panasonic CX700E series consists of four models; the 40-inch TX-40CX700E with a retail price of 1,099 euros, the 50-inch TX-50CX700E with a suggested retail price of 1,399 euros, the 55-inch TX-55CX700E with a suggested retail price of 1,699 euros and the 65-inch TX-65CX700E with a suggested retail price of 2,999 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.
Panasonic CX700E – design
The Panasonic TX-55CX700E is a TV that, like its smaller brother in the CS630E series, has a sleek and minimalistic appearance. The TV comes with a narrow frame that has been given a brushed silver finish and only slightly thicker at the bottom of the screen, for example for the status LEDs and the infrared receiver. The list is very simple but kept tight and is accompanied by an equally minimalistic foot.
Actually, they are two small feet that are mounted on both sides of the TV. The feet are made of metal and have a chic silver look. 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-55CX700E has two 2.0-usb ports on the side, a USB 3.0 port and an HDMI (ARC) port. These are the only connections that point to the side. The other connections, including the Ethernet port and two additional HDMI ports, point backwards, even though it is down. The SCART and component connections point towards the wall. It must be said that the power cable that Panasonic delivers is very short. An extension cable or socket is therefore not a luxury for many people.
The CX700E 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 CX700E – ease of use
First of all, it must be said that the smart TV platform is completely new because unlike the CS630E series that we have tested before, the CX700E models have Firefox OS. Without going into detail about this platform, it can be said that Panasonic has kept the smart TV interface very tight, simple and user-friendly. There are hardly any delays and the options are all processed in logical places.
However, the general menus are still the same, the same as in the lower series and the same as 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. The settings of the TV are easy to reach, well structured and conveniently arranged. Here, too, it is not fancy, but that is beneficial for the user.
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.
A part that we often think about is the speed of menus and smart TV software. However, the combination of Firefox OS and a quad-core processor seems to be paying off for the CX700E series. The TV reacts quickly to input via the app and the remote control, menus can be scrolled smoothly and you can quickly get parts within the Firefox OS platform.
If you do not like the remote control or just have your smartphone more often than you can use the Panasonic TV Remote 2 app. This application has hardly changed in the last two years, but in itself that is a disaster because we are already satisfied with the possibilities this app offers. With the app you can control the CX700E models, provided both are naturally connected to the same WiFi network.
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 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.
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 CX700E 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 CX700E models are only ‘clients’ so they can only receive the signal.
Panasonic CX700E – features
Smart TV platform (Firefox OS)
The smart TV platform on the Panasonic TX-55CX700E is one of the most important innovations. can be found on almost all 2015 smart TVs of the company (CR850, CX800, CR730, CX750, CX700 and CX680 series). The platform is mainly about ease of use, speed and more (and better) apps.
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. Incidentally, it must also be said that Firefox OS does not support multi-tasking. An app that you close must therefore be restarted; switching quickly is not possible.
Firefox web browser
Since Firefox OS is on this TV it is not entirely surprising that the Firefox browser is being used. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily positive. The browser is on the slow side and the operation leaves much to be desired. The ‘panel operation’ via the app stutters too much and through the normal remote control it is too frustrating to browse properly. Fortunately, you can open a site in the app and throw it in the direction of the TV if you want to show something on the big screen.
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-55CX700E 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. HEVC support for playing 4K content is also present. Separately and notably, there is no support for DTS.
Panasonic CX700E – image quality
The Panasonic TX-55CX700E is not only the first TV with Firefox OS that we test, it is also the first 4K Ultra HD TV from Panasonic that we review. This model therefore has a 3.840 by 2.160 pixels resolution, which should provide sharper images. Furthermore, the TV is equipped with a Super Bright Panel, Briliant Contrast, a Studio Master Engine and an 800Hz 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 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.
First of all, we always look at the general characteristics of a TV screen, including the backlight and its uniformity, the black values and possible problems with, among other things, halo effects. The Panasonic TX-55CX700E performs well above average in almost all areas. The panel is slightly darker at the edges than in the middle but this difference is so minimal that it will not stand out quickly. There are no clear backlight problems, halo effects or banding. The Adaptive Backlight option may cause something of banding but this is not consistent. In general, you get a uniform picture, both with a complete white and a complete black image. No light haze is visible around light objects on a dark background and the black values are at an impressively low level. Despite the fact that we are dealing with an LCD TV, black is really deep black and the brightness can also be increased surprisingly high.
SD content is of course the qualitatively less attractive content that you can watch on an Ultra HD TV, but the CX700E models handle it perfectly. With the noise and mpeg options enabled, the image appears fairly clean, only the motion handling (handling fast movements) leaves something to be desired, even with IFC low. This can cause visible stuttering in the image, for example during a fast camera movement. The upscaling function, however, does its job well. No obvious artifacts are introduced and looking at the source material you get a nice tight picture.
Although we are dealing with a 4K Ultra HD TV, most of the content you can watch is still ‘only’ HD. Fortunately, the TX-55CX700E also shows its value here, with above average good performance. Not only is the color reproduction very realistic and natural, but at the same time also dynamic, details also appear sharp and sleek. The TV knows a very convincing picture with enough gray gradations to give the image more to life. Fast movements are better absorbed than with the display of SD content, but there is a lack of sharpness when, for example, the camera makes a quick movement or a car drives through the image quickly. There is absolutely no noise or artefacts, so you get a clean, dynamic and natural picture. The contrast is a very high level, and combined with natural colors, deep black values and sharp images we can only draw one conclusion; These models know how to display HD material in a convincing and impressive way.
But, how does the TX-55CX700E perform with 4K material, the material that has been developed for this high resolution? The offer is not yet large so we were dependent on the series and films that Netflix has available. Although here and there is clearly compression (and therefore artefacts and noise) we have to say that native 4K material is particularly impressive, especially in terms of sharpness and showing subtle details. HD content already looks impressive thanks to an excellent upscaler, but extra details can not be added to the source material, so wonders are not to be expected. These details are in native 4K content and that is the main plus point. 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. However, 4K material also remains that rapid movements are not completely absorbed flawlessly, especially due to the loss of sharpness. The IFC option can fix this but adds an obvious home video effect with an institution higher than ‘Low’.
Panasonic has equipped the CX700E models with active 3D display, the technology that requires the batteries or batteries driven by the glasses. Unfortunately, these glasses are not included, something that we see with more and more manufacturers. If you want to enjoy 3D material, then you must purchase the glasses for a price of 40 euros each.
We have got a pair of glasses from Panasonic to test the 3D experience and there is little to complain about this. The glasses are comfortable, although some ambient light can get annoying. The 3D image is displayed without any appreciable crosstalk and the brightness is also kept at a comfortable high level. However, if you are sensitive to this, you may experience flickering images, a well-known disadvantage of active 3D technology. This effect can occur, especially when light enters.
The TX-55CX700E has a special game mode that disables various image processing techniques to give you a fast response time. At this point the TV performs a lot better than the cheaper CS630E series because an input lag, the delay between an action on your controller and the action on the screen, of 36ms is certainly not wrong. For the really fanatical gamers who find reaction time important, it is not a topper, but the average user will not find any significant disadvantage.
Reflections and viewing angles
In terms of clarity, we have very little to complain about the Panasonic CX700E models. The TV offers enough clarity to box against average incident light, so you can also gaze at this screen during the day. The viewing angles are slightly less; if you are about 40 degrees or further away from the middle then there is a haze over the screen, the intense colors disappear and the brightness deteriorates. The ideal TV for a large family where everyone is positioned around the screen is not, but for the average living room we can not make a big problem here.
Panasonic CX700E – audio quality
The Panasonic TX-55CX700E has two wideband loudspeakers that are incorporated in the bottom of the housing and send the sound down. This fact in itself does not promise much good and unfortunately it is no different in terms of practical experience. 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. Even with some optimisations in the settings, it remains a setback, especially when watching a movie or listening to music. 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 CX700E – conclusion
With a retail price of about 1,700 euros, the Panasonic TX-55CX700E is not cheap, but if we look purely at the image quality, you have to deal with a top model. This TV provides you with a very detailed picture with natural colors, sharp details, deep black values and especially a uniform screen. Especially HD content and 4K content is impressively well represented. Firefox OS is a big improvement compared to the old Viera smart TV platform, especially in terms of ease of use, but it still lacks a large selection of interesting apps. 3D-view is present but it is a pity that you still have to purchase the glasses. The audio quality is not to write home about so if you buy this model and want to watch a lot of films then an external audio system is recommended. In terms of design, Panasonic keeps it simple and sleek, the ease of use is more than sufficient and the Panasonic Remote app is still an example for many other manufacturers. In short, in our opinion, the Panasonic CX700E models are definitely recommended if you are looking for an extraordinarily good Ultra HD TV without lots of bells and whistles, with the focus on a nice picture.