With Panasonic sadly having thrown in the towel on plasma production, and affordable OLED TVs still seemingly some way off, the company is focusing on new 4K TVs. First off the production line is the TX-L65WT600B and it's something of a big deal.
That's because it's the first 4K set to appear with a HDMI 2.0 port, supporting 4K video feeds at up to 60 frames per second, which future 4K broadcast may use to produce smoother motion in sports footage. Like all of the current 4K sets, it's ridiculously expensive at £5,500, and pricier than rivals such as Sony's KD-65X9005.
This model's menu system looks almost the same as that used on Panasonic's other TVs this year. It lacks some of the swish aesthetics of the menus found on LG and Samsung sets, but it's speedy to use and more importantly gives you plenty of control over picture and audio settings. It's easy to tweak the motion processing for example, and along with the standard brightness, contrast and colour controls, there's also a full colour-management system.
Panasonic has improved its EPG too. It's added a video thumbnail window so you can keep an eye on the programme you were watching while you peruse the guide. The guide looks blocky and dated compared to Samsung's version though, and it lacks Samsung's Tivo-like recommendation engine.
When you flick this TV on, you're greeted with one of many different smart TV homescreens. These can be customised to show different widgets, such as a channel explorer, or icons for the TV on-demand apps that you use most often. It's a clever idea and gets rid of the clutter that other smart TV systems suffer from.
The TX-L65WT600B doesn't offer as many apps as Samsung's smart TVs -- it does include Netflix (HD only, not 4K) and BBC iPlayer, but lacks support for 4oD, Lovefilm and ITV Player.
The set has a 4K enabled Web browser onboard, and a media player that supports playback of 4K video files encoded using the H.264 compression scheme. There's no HEVC decoder onboard though -- unlike LG's 65LA970W -- so it can't play files encoded using that format. This also means that you're not going to see a 4K compatible Netflix app released for this TV when the service starts supporting 4K streams of shows such as House of Cards in February -- a major downer as it'll be one of the few sources of 4K video.
Panasonic has added its own 4K channel as an app, but the quality of the streams isn't great as most of the footage suffers from MPEG blocking and looks worse than good quality 1080p video, even when streaming via a 60Mbps Virgin Media Internet connection.
Design and connections
The WT600 follows the lead of Panasonic's previous high-end sets, such as the WT60. It features a thin, metal stand holding the TV aloft to give it a floating-on-air look and an attractive narrow, chrome bezel. Given its 65-inch screen, the TV is huge, but the design looks lighter and more elegant than Sony's slab like KD-65X9005, and even LG's 65LA970W. Overall, it's probably the best looking 4K TV around at the moment.
Panasonic supplies two remotes with the set. The standard zapper is almost identical to the one that ships with its other TVs, apart from the fact that it has a silver finish to match the TV's styling. It's a fine remote, as it has chunky, responsive buttons and a backlight that you can activate to make out the markings on individual buttons if you're watching the TV with the lights dimmed.
The secondary remote is less successful. It's essentially a touchpad remote, and although I liked the trigger-like OK button on the bottom, I found the remote just wasn't as pleasant or as easy to use as Samsung's similar touchpad remote or LG's magic remote.
Of course, one of the things that makes the TX-65WT600B more interesting than other 4K TVs currently on the market is that it can handle 4K video at 60 frames per second. There are two ways you can feed these sources into the telly. You can either use its sole 4K compatible HDMI port or alternatively use its DisplayPort -- a video port more commonly found on computer monitors than on TVs.
Sadly the set's other three HDMI ports don't accept 4K signals at all -- they only work with Full HD sources. Seeing as there's pretty much nothing bar a laptop that you can currently use to feed 4K video into this kind of TV, that's not much of an issue right now. But in the future, if you've got a 4K set-top box, 4K Blu-ray player and a 4K laptop, it's going to make life awkward.
The other connections are the same you'd expect to find on any high-end TV. As this model has dual Freeview and Freesat tuners, there are two satellite dish inputs and a single RF input. You can also connect up component or Scart kit via short break-out cables and there are three USB ports. Hook up a hard drive to one of these and you can use the set as a full blown PVR thanks to the dual Freesat and Freeview HD tuners. There's also Wi-Fi and an Ethernet socket onboard for the telly's fancy smart TV features.
4K picture quality
Unfortunately there isn't much 4K content available to watch on a screen like this. Netflix is about to start streaming shows in 4K in February, but this TV won't support them due to a lack of HEVC decoding. Panasonic did supply some test footage on a USB key to view on the TV and we were also able to use some other 4K footage we've gathered in MKV and MP4 formats.