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Panasonic TC-L65WT600 review: New input, 4K resolution do not a great TV make

The lone Panasonic LCD TV with 4K resolution, model TC-L65WT600, includes an input capable of handling faster frame rates than its competition. Its other issues, however, prevent it from earning our recommendation, even to the few who want a 4K TV now.

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
24 min read

In some ways Panasonic's TC-L65WT600, the company's first 4K LCD television, is the polar opposite of our favorite TV ever, the Panasonic TC-PST60 plasma. The plasma is relatively cheap; the 4K LCD is extremely expensive. The plasma is going extinct; the 4K LCD is the future. The plasma delivers numerous picture quality benefits; the 4K LCD's main benefit -- extra resolution -- is barely visible at best.


Panasonic TC-L65WT600

The Good

The <b>Panasonic TC-L65WT600</b> 4K/Ultra High Definition LED LCD TV is the only one that currently complies with HDMI 2.0, accepting a 4K input at 60 frames per second. Delivers good picture quality with relatively deep black levels and accurate color; superb bright-room image; best-in-class off-angle fidelity; 4K resolution provides some benefit with 4K PC games; sleek metallic silver design with unique stand; scads of features including a second touch-pad remote, two pairs of 3D glasses, voice interaction, a built-in camera, and a solid Smart TV platform.

The Bad

Exceedingly expensive and a poor value compared with 1080p TVs; improvements afforded by 4K resolution are minimal to nonexistent; imprecise local dimming causes some blooming and washout

The Bottom Line

An input that's more future-proof than its competitors' fails to make the Panasonic TC-P65WT600 a recommendable 4K TV.

That last point is why we've been saying for nearly two years that 4K TVs are stupid. Anybody buying one 65 inches or smaller and expecting to see an improvement in detail -- or any other aspect of picture quality -- with normal HD sources will be disappointed. We tested this Panasonic alongside another 4K TV of the same size, the Samsung UNF9000, extensively to look for any such improvement compared with a same-size 1080p TV, and it simply wasn't there.

New for this review, I also had the chance to see how much of an improvement actual 4K content provides. In short, barely any. I used some of the best 4K video available today, viewed from a close seating distance in a side-by-side comparison, and once again it was difficult to pick out the 4K TV from the 1080p one. Yes, at times the 4K Panasonic looked just a bit sharper, but most of the time it didn't.

The WT600 is actually the first TV to include an input that complies with the HDMI 2.0 specification -- bringing it closer than any other current 4K set to being future-proof out of the box. I don't consider that a major reason to get one now, however, in part because numerous other 4K TVs with HDMI 2.0-compliant inputs will likely be announced at CES 2014 in January.

If you must get a 4K TV now, I'd still prefer the Samsung to the Panasonic. One reason is that at this price, the Samsung's hot-swappable input/processor box offers an even more future-ready promise, including HDMI 2.0 compliance. Another is that the Samsung has a better picture. Of course, neither holds a candle to the value proposition of any of the best 1080p TVs, or beats the picture quality of the best plasmas.

Update 11/27/2013: The text of this review had been modified to reflect Panasonic's statement regarding HDMI 2.0 compliance, and to include a brief demo of 4K content at 60 frames per second. The rating has not been changed, however.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The WT600 embodies the same "glass and metal" credo as the WT60 and, to a lesser extent, a few other Panasonic TVs. I guess that means more silver than most TVs -- and more plastic, in the form of a chintzy, transparent, light-up lip below the screen. The silver comes courtesy of a none-too-subtle, sharp-cornered frame thinner than those of the company's plasmas, yet slightly thicker than Samsung's or Sony's high-end LCDs. Those two companies went with mostly black, a design choice I much prefer myself. The silvery WT600 and twin WT60 LCDs look less luxurious and high-end than the ZT60/VT60 plasmas to my eye.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Sarah Tew/CNET

I like the look of the stands on the LCDs, however, which consist of ribbons of metal shaped into a vague trapezoid with rounded corners. They don't create as low a profile as the Samsung or Sony stands, however, and don't allow a swivel. In contrast to the stark white butt of the WT60, the WT600 wears modest black on its backside.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The WT600 ships with two remotes that, aside from their silver color, are identical to the two included on high-end plasmas. One is a small touch-pad-based clicker with just a few select keys. It employs Bluetooth so you don't need line of sight to the TV and has been upgraded with a microphone for voice search. I found it responsive enough and easy to use, with the same kind of quick, fun, swoopy navigation I experienced with the Samsung's 2013 touch pad. I especially appreciated the option (absent from the Samsung) to tap the pad to select something, just like on a laptop computer. I also liked the nook under the remote where my index finger rested above a hard button I could also use to select.

Sarah Tew/CNET

On the other hand, the remote lacks numerous essential buttons, such as Menu, and the ones it does have are cryptically labeled with confusing icons. It's definitely designed as a secondary clicker for use with apps (particularly the Web browser) and Smart TV, not as a full-blown universal remote replacement like Samsung's.

The second clicker is the standard illuminated multibutton variety. Tweaks for 2013 are mostly improvements (dedicated Netflix key, better labeling, and a few extra keys) but there are exceptions. Apps and Home, both part of the Smart TV suite, get too-prominent keys, while Menu is tiny. More than a few times I accidentally hit Home instead of the Up cursor.

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit with local dimming
Screen finish Matte Remotes Standard, touch-pad
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Active 3D glasses included 2 pair
Refresh rate(s) 240Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: THX picture modes; built-in camera; additional 3D glasses (model TY-ER3D5MA, $79)

Like most of the other 4K TVs out there, the WT600 tries to help justify its high price with scads of features. Of the picture-affecting kind, the most credible feature is the local-dimming-equipped LED backlight. Like that of every 4K TV that doesn't cost $40K, those LEDs are arranged in an edge-lit configuration.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Rather than post an actual refresh rate, Panasonic's spec sheet (PDF) lists something called "2400BLS." Those last three letters do indeed signify some level of BS, but such fake refresh rate numbers are common practice nowadays -- all it means is that the WT600 has a 240Hz refresh rate panel, augmented by backlight scanning. Despite these high-end specs, its motion performance wasn't quite as good as it could be (see below).

Sarah Tew/CNET

The WT600 uses active 3D technology, despite the improvement 4K resolution affords passive 3D. Unlike Samsung, which puts four pairs of active 3D glasses in the box, Panasonic only includes two. The included glasses, model TY-ER3D5MA, are much nicer than Samsung's throw-ins but not quite as good as Panasonic's own separately sold TY-ER3D4MU from 2012 ($60 each). The WT600 complies with the full HD 3D standard, so it will work with third-party glasses like the aforementioned Samsungs ($20).

Sarah Tew/CNET

The WT600 joins that select group of expensive TVs to include a built-in camera. It pops up to work with Skype, Panasonic's video memo app, and a facial recognition feature that can be set to automatically select your custom Smart TV home page if it ganders your mug. A manual push-down is required to get it to disappear, and I appreciate the manual swivel that could point it down into the room. I tested neither the camera nor Panasonic's voice interaction feature for this review. The most in-depth testing I did of the latter involved a few simple tries with the Web browser in my review of the Panasonic ZT60.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Smart TV: The first thing to know about Panasonic's 2013 Smart TV suite is something unbelievably dumb: there are built-in banner ads that pop up briefly when you first turn on the TV and also when you adjust volume (above). Thankfully, someone at the company was smart enough to build in a way to make them never show up again.

The design of the Smart suite is somewhat clunky compared with that Samsung's and LG's smart TV suites, but at least you can customize it to your heart's content -- adding pages, swapping app shortcuts in and out, and even changing the background. Content is also very healthy, albeit sans the HBO Go app found on Samsung TVs. All of the apps from 2012 are still available, with no major additions.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One minor difference between Panasonic's TC-L65WT600 and others is that Panasonic claims to be the only one with a Web browser that renders pages in 4K resolution. Even if you actually care about TV Web browsers, don't get too excited. By default, Panasonic's browser didn't look any sharper than Samsung's. Only when I manually zoomed out did the browser render web pages in 4K, and things like Google Maps satellite views looked impressive indeed. On the other hand text at that resolution was too small to read unless I sat very close, and page renders took longer. Even with the Panasonic browser's 4K resolution, I'd take Samsung's browser any day instead, with its much better design and vastly superior responsiveness to the touch pad.

For more details on the WT600's Smart TV features I'll refer you again to the ZT60 review.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: The WT600 offers the same exhaustive number of picture controls as the company's other high-end TVs. There's a pair of THX-certified modes, one for "Cinema" and one for "Bright Rooms." Advanced tweaks include a 10-point gray scale and 10-point gamma system as well as color management for the primary and secondary colors. The company has also added a cool "copy adjustments" option that allows you to migrate your picture settings from one input or mode to others. Other notable controls include three levels of dejudder, aka soap opera effect, an unusual seven different aspect ratio settings, and three positions for AI picture (local dimming).

Connectivity: The biggest extras the WT600 boasts over competing 4K TVs are found on the back, in the form of its fourth HDMI input and a DisplayPort input. Strangely, the other three HDMI inputs won't handle 4K video at all.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Panasonic's marketing material says the input is "designed based on HDMI 2.0 specification," and the company's latest statement to CNET clarifies that claim by saying "Our 4K60p input is fully HDMI2.0/HDCP-compliant." By specifically mentioning HDCP compliance, the company is reassuring buyers that a future 4K device that uses HDCP copy protection, such as a 4K Blu-ray player, will work properly with this TV.

Since this review first published, Panasonic visited CNET's lab with a PC that included some 4K60p content. I can verify the content played back fine, and looked very good--it was the same "Japanese Nature" footage from the USB drive at 4K30p I describe below. Unfortunately it was impossible for me to tell whether the extra frame rate led to any improvement; the main point of the demo was to prove to CNET that, yes, the TV can handle 4K60p. Panasonic took the PC back tom Japan after the brief demo, and I have yet to acquire any other 4K60p video.

I didn't yet test the DisplayPort 1.2 input, which is also 4K 60p-ready. Kudos to Panasonic for including these higher-frame-rate ports out of the box, but further testing will be needed to see just how much the higher frame rate helps improve picture quality.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Joining those ports are a single component-video port that also handles component video, a pair of USB ports (they can also handle 4K video), and an SD card slot.

Picture quality
Once you get to HD resolution on a TV, other factors like contrast, color, and uniformity have a much greater impact on how good the image looks. I'd rather see TV makers address those points than simply throw more tiny pixels on the screen, which is why CNET and many others -- including these poll respondents and industry experts -- are more excited by OLED than by 4K. But 4K TVs are here now, and it looks like their prices will hit mainstream levels long before those of OLED TVs.

The WT600 is the third 4K TV I've reviewed this year, after the Seiki and the Samsung UNF9000. Testing occurred at the same time, in the same side-by-side comparison lineup, as the Samsung. As always, I compared the TVs after calibration in a dark room using HDMI distribution amplifiers capable of providing simultaneous signals to each TV without degradation.

CNET's New York TV test lab revealed (photos)

See all photos

Unless otherwise noted, all of my observations regarding the impact of 4K resolution were conducted at a seating distance of 77 inches (6.4 feet). That's much closer than the 9 feet most viewers sit from their TVs, but equal to the THX recommended distance for immersive home theater on a 65-inch TV. I'll use those recommendations to specify the lower bound of what I mean by "normal seating distance." On a 55-inch TV that distance is 65 inches (5.4 feet), and on an 84-inch TV it's 101 inches (8.4 feet). Moving farther away, of course, makes the benefits of high resolution dwindle further.

Everything I saw indicated that even at these relatively large screen sizes and theatrical viewing distances, the improvement afforded by 4K resolution with standard video content (as opposed to PC games or still photos) is subtle at the best of times, and usually nonexistent.

Beyond resolution, the Panasonic is a good performer for an LED LCD, but its picture doesn't match that of Samsung's F8000 and F9000 series, or Sony's KDL-55W900A. Unfortunately, I haven't yet tested Sony's 4K TVs beyond a hands-on with the 84-inch showpiece, so I can't speak to how they compare.

The WT600's major weakness involved excessive blooming and muted highlights, faults of its local-dimming design. Color wasn't quite as accurate as on the F9000, and video processing was also a notch below. On the other hand its matte screen handled reflections better, and its picture maintained impressive fidelity from off-angle for an LED LCD.

The Ultimate Test (sort of)
Video sources with true 4K resolution are very rare these days, but I was able to test a few of them for this review. The most important 4K test I performed on the WT600 comes closer than ever to "The Ultimate Test" or what I consider the best evaluation of 4K's actual, real-world improvement over 1080p at this size and seating distance. It's unfortunate I couldn't conduct the same test on the F9000, but I had to return it to Samsung before I had the chance. From what I saw, however, it would have shown exactly the results.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The test consisted of playing the same content side by side on the WT600, a 65-inch 4K LED LCD TV, and the Panasonic TC-P65ST64, a 65-inch 1080p plasma TV. That content originated on a pair of Redray 4K video players -- professional-quality source devices, essentially hard drives with video outputs -- that play back the proprietary, high-bit-rate Redcode Raw codec. One was connected to the WT600 and outputting 4K (at 4,096x2,060 pixels, so scaled somewhat by the WT600), while the other was connected to the S64 and downconverting that same 4K footage to 1080p. According to Red's rep, "In general the downscaled RED codec should look better than any H.264 content commercially available to consumers, including Blu-ray content." From what I could see on the S64 and other 1080p TVs, there's no reason to doubt that statement -- the downscaled video looked spectacular.

My conclusion? Despite this excellent 4K calculator indicating I'd see a 118 percent improvement watching the 4K material compared with the 1080p, it was still difficult to tell the two apart. From my 77-inch seating distance the difference between 4K and 1080p was visible occasionally in some material. The Red players came loaded with six different videos, and I could see differences in select scenes of three of them. The other three looked basically identical on both TVs, whether because of lighting or too-quick cuts or less-detailed subject matter or softness for another reason.

The 4K WT600 (left) compared with the 1080p S64. David Katzmaier/CNET

Of the three that did reveal some differences, the "Red 800" demo montage stood out. It seems designed to show the benefits of Red's 4K cameras and codec, and indeed it contains some of the most sumptuously detailed video I've ever seen. At times on this video, the WT600 seemed just a bit sharper to my eye, and experienced reviewers at CNET to whom I showed the demo, including Ty Pendlebury, Matt Moskovciak, and Joshua Goldman, agreed, picking it out as the 4K TV after watching closely and comparing the TVs for a period of time. But all of them also agreed that the difference was tiny at best, and in many scenes it was invisible.

Shots where the 4K set appeared a bit sharper to my eye included the distant mountaintop behind the glacier (0:39), the piles of wood shavings on the saw (1:09), the icebergs below the glacier edge (2:14), the rock face (2:28), and the fine feathers in the puffin's head (2:45). Let me stress that these are small, highly detailed areas that are parts of larger shots, and even then the differences were very slight. The puffin's head, for example, still looked great, and incredibly detailed, on the 1080p TV. Without a direct, side-by-side comparison, there's simply no way I'd be able to pick out which TV was sharper.

No difference was visible in most of the shots. In fact, as I watched "Red 800" repeatedly, the number of scenes where I expected 4K to look better -- but it simply wasn't -- far surpassed those where I could see a difference. They included the extreme closeups of the eyes, skin, and fingernails at the beginning on the montage, the mixing of black and white paint (0:21), the pan over the Golden Gate bridge (0:41), the fabric sash around the bar (1:23), the face of the female first responder (1:27), the hair on the lion and the brush around the zebras (1:34), the waterfall under the kayaker (1:54), the owl (2:29), the fox (3:21), the decals in the drag racer (3:51), and houses below the skydiver (4:22).

Many shots, even on a demo reel like Red 800, were also naturally devoid of the kind of detail that can make any benefit to higher-than-1080p resolution visible and appreciable. They included most quick cuts, most shots with camera movement (like the tracking shot of the fishing eagle at 2:30), the shark (2:53), the dancer in the dark (3:46), and the bomber (4:07). In other words, the material itself and the circumstances in which it's shown have to be detailed enough for 4K to add anything to the perceived sharpness.

Unsurprisingly, text and computer graphics, like the scrolling credits and Red logo, showed the greatest improvement in detail. In my experience this kind of material, which by extension includes computer-animated movies and 4K games, makes the benefits of higher resolution more visible when compared with standard camera-captured video. Also, the less movement in the image, the more you'll be able to notice any differences in detail.

These differences help explain why my subjective, side-by-side comparison revealed so much less of an improvement than the "118 percent" from the calculator suggests. That calculator, according to its creator Chris Heinonen, was created based on the Snellen formula -- the basis of the classic eye chart used to measure human visual acuity at your ophthalmologist's office. The chart consists of still, high-contrast, primarily black-and-white images, while classic video content is in motion, with varying degrees of color and contrast.

It's worth noting again that I noticed off-angle fidelity loss, backlight uniformity errors, and the dimmer image of the plasma more frequently than differences in detail, even when I was looking for the latter.

Other 4K sources tested
Beyond the test using the Red players, I also checked out the same 4K sources noted in the Samsung F9000 review -- including the same flawed "Timescapes" comparison, a few test patterns, and some clips from a USB key. My favorite material for detail from Panasonic's USB key consisted of long-cut, mostly still camera shots of trees, mountains, flowing rivers and monkeys -- pure Japanese nature. Others included pans over stills of flowers and buildings, and even some game footage from the "Final Fantasy XIV" benchmark and photorealistic racing game "Project Cars." All of it looked superb, as I'd expect from a manufacturer-supplied demo, but as usual, without a 1080p equivalent, it was impossible to say how much of an improvement 4K afforded.

You'll need a powerful PC to game in 4K; the Xbox One and PS4 won't do it. Sarah Tew/CNET

The biggest such visible improvement happened when I played a PC game, Bioshock Infinite, at 4K resolution. Of course you'll need a very capable PC and a game that can take advantage of the extra pixels. It's also worth noting that neither of the new next-generation consoles, the PS4 or Xbox One, will support 4K gaming -- it's PC or nothing. I'll refer you to the Samsung F9000 review for more details on this test.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to test 4K 60p sources on the Panasonic since I didn't have access to any by press time.

High-definition sources testing
For the next few years anyway, 4K TVs are going to be displaying, at best, 1080p high-definition content most of the time. The majority of my testing of the WT600 used various examples of high-def, from Blu-ray to broadcast TV. In no case did its extra pixels afford any improvement to high-def video seen from normal seating distances.

I expanded my comparison lineup with HD sources to include all of the following TVs.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Comparison models (details)
Samsung UN65F9000 65-inch 4K LED LCD
Panasonic TC-P65S64 65-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-L55WT60 55-inch LED LCD
Samsung UN55F8000 55-inch LED LCD
Sony KDL-55W900A 55-inch LED LCD
Panasonic TC-P60ZT60 (reference) 60-inch plasma

Black level: Although capable of delivering a deep black level, the WT600 still didn't get quite as inky as its toughest competitors. During the punishing black-level test of Chapter 12 from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," for example, the letterbox bars and shadows of the other displays, with the exception of the WT60 and S64, appeared darker on average -- although the S64 was more consistent and at times the WT600 appeared a bit darker than some of the other LCDs.

That variation was due mainly to how the WT600's local dimming behaved. Compared with the other dimming sets, there was excessive blooming on the Panasonic. In many scenes its bright areas spilled over into adjacent dark areas noticeably, creating a distinct clouding effect and spoiling much of the impact its otherwise deep black levels conveyed -- in the robes of the evildoers (46:19) and throughout the Room of Requirement scenes, for example.

The screen was also prone to flashes at times, where the letterbox bars suddenly became brighter and then darker (46:06), and strange dimming effects during fades to black where the brighter shade of black would wink out into blackness as the backlight turned off (the credits in Samsara). Meanwhile the F9000 remained free of blooming and related issues to a large extent. The only set with worse blooming than the WT600 was Panasonic's own WT60.

The Samsungs and Sony also managed to maintain the brightness of highlights, an area where the Panasonic LCDs struggled in comparison. As Voldemort looks over Hogwarts, for example, his white head and face, and those of his underlings, appeared much dimmer on the two WTs than on the other sets.

Although the WT600 reproduced all of the details in shadows, something the F9000 and WT60 failed at, excessive blooming was again a culprit. The details in the jumble of furniture and knick-knacks from Chapter 15, for example, showed the same washout in darker areas along with dimmer highlights. The effect made shadows a lot less punchy and natural-looking than on the F8000, the ZT60, or the Sony. The S64's too-bright shadows also looked wrong, but subjectively I preferred them to the WT600's muddy ones.

Color accuracy: Despite the fact that it again fell short of the Samsung 4K TV, the WT600 made a much stronger showing in this category. The skin tones, lush greens, and vibrant blues from Chapter 5 of "Tree of Life" were all reproduced faithfully, an observation backed up by the extremely low error levels of my measurements. The one area of inaccuracy was in the very brightest areas, for example the white linens and sunlight during the childbirth sequence (38:40), where highlights appeared a bit too blue. This issue is small enough that it wouldn't be visible outside a side-by-side comparison, however.

In very dark areas I also detected a bit of a bluish cast, made more visible by the brighter black levels and blooming. Once again it wasn't major though, and much less obvious than I've seen on many other TVs.

Subjectively, colors on the WT600 lacked the level of punch and vibrancy I saw on many of the other TVs. That's mainly due, I presume, to its somewhat weaker black level performance, since deeper blacks always lead to purer, more saturated color.

Upconversion from 1080p to 4K: Note that this section is essentially the same as in the Samsung F9000 review, since the observations were performed simultaneously in a side-by-side test written up to apply to both reviews.

With the prevalence of 1080i and 1080p sources, I don't specifically test 1080p TVs for their ability to convert incoming sources to their native resolution (a process known as upconverting). Since there are almost no 4K sources, on the other hand, this ability is marketed as important for 4K TVs. I'm skeptical of those marketing claims because, in reality, both of the 4K TVs in my lineup upconvert well enough that any differences between them are minor.

The important piece of information, judging from those two and how they compare with the 1080p TVs in my lineup, is that 1080i and 1080p sources played back on the 4K-resolution screen don't look appreciably better, and in fact can sometimes appear slightly worse. In other words, from what I've seen so far, 4K at 65 inches does nothing to improve the look of today's HD sources -- from Blu-ray to broadcast TV.

Blu-ray is the highest-quality HD source currently available, and in my book, "Samsara" is one of the highest-quality Blu-rays. Details are exquisite and the languid cinematography enables the viewer to really home in on the finer areas -- and, in my case, look for differences. Chapter 4, where the monks painstakingly assemble their mandala from brilliantly colored grains of sand, is a feast for the eyes, but it was impossible in most scenes for me to distinguish any difference in detail between the 4K and the 1080p TVs. The grains looked equally detailed on all of the sets, as did most shots I compared, from a woman's wrinkled face to the script in a prayer wheel to the houses on a mountainside -- you name it.

At times, for example the stone face and carved, weathered facades in Chapter 5, the same-size S64 1080p plasma actually appeared a bit sharper, especially in the finest textures. That sharpness advantage also appeared in the rooms in Chapter 6, and the statues in the churches in Chapter 7, for example. I had to stare hard at the TVs to pick out the differences, but in these and other scenes, if there was any sharpness advantage it went to the 1080p TV, not to the 4K sets.

I showed the "Samsara" comparison using the three 65-inch sets to a lot of other viewers as well around the CNET office, and all agreed that the differences were subtle to nonexistent. They weren't able to pick out the 4K TVs until they walked right up to the screen -- close enough to see pixel structure on the 1080p plasma. For me, that distance is about 4 feet.

I tried a few other films on Blu-ray, including "Brave," a spectacularly detailed animated Pixar title, and the action-heavy "Skyfall," but in every case the only advantages in detail -- subtle and infrequent as they were -- were enjoyed by the 1080p TV.

I also checked out HD sources on television, including a recent football game via my Fios connection at 1080i, and it was more of the same. The 4K TVs did a good job of converting the lower-resolution sources to the higher-resolution screens without introducing artifacts, but there was no magical increase in detail -- visible differences were again extremely subtle, and most of the time I simply couldn't tell them apart. Turning to some worse material on TV, including a daytime talk show and Obama's midday address regarding the Healthcare.gov site issues, differences in detail were again nonexistent.


On the chance that the 4K TVs' upconversion was the culprit, I also hooked up an Oppo HD-105, a high-performance Blu-ray player capable of upconverting 1080p to 4K resolution. I couldn't perform true side-by-side comparison of the WT600's upconversion (for that I'd need a second WT600) but the observations I could perform, based on watching sequences on the WT600's with the Oppo's upconversion turned on and then off and comparing them with the other TVs simultaneously, were enough to convince me the TV's processing wasn't the problem. There was no noticeable increase in detail regardless of whether the player or the TV handled the upconversion, and in both cases the 1080p TV looked basically just as detailed.

Video processing: The WT600 fell a bit short of the F9000's lofty mark in this area, although it wasn't bad. It delivered true 1080p/24 cadence in both the Off and Weak Motion Picture settings, and that's a big deal since Weak also delivers very good motion resolution. Yes, there's a tiny bit of smoothing visible in Weak if you stare extra-hard, but to my eye it still approximates true cadence closely enough that I wouldn't care. My motion resolution test revealed a score of 900 lines -- very good, if not quite the 1,200 I measured on the F9000.

The difficult motion tests from the FPD benchmark disc seemed to back up this difference between the two 4K TVs, showing more blurring on the WT600 in areas like the license plates of the passing cars and the swinging metronome -- even when I engaged its strongest Motion Smoother modes (the ones that introduce the Soap Opera Effect). While both 4K TVs looked worse than the F8000 and the plasmas on most of these motion tests, between the two I'd pick the Samsung. (Note that since my motion test is based on a 1080p Blu-ray, it's not ideal for judging the WT600's true motion resolution. It is the best I have at the moment, however, so I included the numbers anyway.)

As usual with Panasonic, you'll need to select the On setting for 3:2 pulldown if you want correct 1080i deinterlacing of film-based sources; the default Auto failed our test.

In Game mode the Panasonic showed a superb input lag measurement of 37.33ms.

Uniformity: Compared with the exemplary Samsungs, the WT600's screen showed uniformity errors that were quite a bit more visible in program material. I noticed faintly brighter and darker sections in bright scenes, such as the water droplets shot from the Red 800 montage at 3:32, which became more pronounced during pans. In dark scenes, beyond the blooming detailed above, I saw slightly brighter areas on the middle and far left sides. These issues weren't egregious, but they were certainly more visible than on the other LCDs.

On the other hand, the WT600 (and WT60) continue Panasonic's flagship LCDs' dominance of the off-angle game. Compared with the other LCDs, black levels of these two stayed darker and deeper from extreme angles and didn't take on as much discoloration. Colors also remained quite true, and saturated, as opposed to washing out prematurely. The difference wasn't obvious from the sweet spot or either side, but when you moved a few seats from the sweet spot, the Panasonics' advantage kicked in. Of course, neither could compete with the plasmas from off-angle.

For this reason, the WT600 is a better choice than the F9000 if you plan to sit extremely close to drink in all that extra detail. From close-up, the edges of the big screen are effectively off-angle, and so look better on the Samsung than they do on the Panasonic.

Bright lighting: Since the WT60 has one of the worst glossy screens I've ever seen, I was surprised when I saw the pleasing matte finish of the WT600. It mutes reflections and bright spots more effectively than any TV in our lineup aside from the ZT60. It also manages to preserve black levels extremely well, matching the superb Samsungs and Sony in this area and beating out the others. With the exception of even more matte-screen (matte-r?) LCD sets from the likes of Sharp and Vizio, the Panasonic WT600 is the best bright-room performer I've tested.

3D: As I mentioned above, it's kind of disappointing that the 4K Panasonic uses active 3D and not passive. With passive 3D in 4K, judging from what I saw on the Sony XBR-X900, for example, you get the best possible 3D experience with no crosstalk, comfortable unpowered glasses, and none of the jagged edge and visible line artifacts that can plague 1080p passive 3D TVs, especially from close up.

The quality of the WT600's active 3D was OK, but not up to the standards of the Samsungs. During the most crosstalk-intensive scenes of "Hugo," objects and areas such as Hugo's hand (5:01), the tuning pegs on the guitar, and head of the guitarist (7:49), and the outlines of Hugo and Isabelle as they talk at night under the snow (17:01), the ghostly double image was easily discernible and brighter, and thus more distracting, than on any set aside from the Sony.

Black levels in the default Cinema setting (I don't calibrate for 3D) were deep enough, but the image didn't convey the same punch and impact as it did on the brighter Samsungs and the Sony. Shadows also appeared a bit murky.

Panasonic's and Sony's throw-in 3D glasses fit much better than Samsung's, but not as well as the TY-ER3D4MUs from 2012. Their thin temples do little to block light from the sides, and they didn't fit over my prescription glasses as well. They're still fine, however, and I didn't notice any overt picture quality difference between any of the pairs.

Panasonic statement regarding HDMI 2.0 compliance
Below is the full text of the statement Panasonic provided to CNET via email at our request on November 26, 2013, clarifying some of the questions we raised earlier.

Our 4K60p input is fully HDMI2.0/HDCP-compliant.

First, to clarify, HDMI and HDCP are standardized independently. Nothing of the HDCP requirement has been changed even for HDMI2.0 products.

Secondly, according to the HDMI licensing scheme, there is no certification program. The assurance of the compliance of each product for the HDMI 2.0 specification is the Adopter's (Manufacturer's) responsibility. Therefore, Panasonic had shipped 4K60p model under our internal test process. This is the reason why we declared as "4K 60p input designed based on HDMI 2.0 specification" which express the fact exactly.

Other manufacture declaring as "HDMI 2.0 certified" is incorrect, since there is no such certification program in the first place as mentioned above.

Geek box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.00051 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.12 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 0.931 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.343 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.801 Good
Avg. color error 0.950 Good
Red error 0.512 Good
Green error 0.35 Good
Blue error 1.837 Good
Cyan error 0.485 Good
Magenta error 0.931 Good
Yellow error 1.582 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 900 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 900 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 37.33 Good

Panasonic TC-L65WT600 CNET review calibration results


Panasonic TC-L65WT600

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 10Performance 7Value 2