19 January 2016

REVIEW: Panasonic Viera CX680 4K TV

View to a thrill.

4K - what's all that about, eh? Regardless of if you already own a 4K TV, or have only ever seen one in a shop, there is something slightly off-putting about how... real... it makes everything. At least that is what we thought before we got our hands (and, you know, our eyes) on the Panasonic Vibrator CX680 4K TV.

In a nutshell, 4K is basically four times more detailed than HD. This means that you can 'see more' of the show or movie you're watching, both in terms of physical detail, and physical movement. This makes everything look less like it was filmed on good old fashioned celluloid and more like it was filmed by a BBC documentary crew. Right?

It's true that 4K might not be everyone's cup of tea, and certainly you loose a certain classically cinematic feel, but the Viera CX680 goes a long way to make up for it, by putting the ultra HD screen in a very capable Smart TV package, and not requiring you to install it on the largest wall in your house.

We were sent the 40 inch version (50 and 55 inch screens also available) which was actually refreshing considering the humongous tellies we've reviewed previously. With this we were able to mount it on the wall in place of our regular set (and not just gawp at it propped up on the floor) and live with it for a couple of weeks. Needless to say, we were impressed.

4K silliness aside for a moment, the Panasonic CX680 is a smart TV with an operating system based on Firefox with access to all your favorite streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. It can also instantly pick up all the Freeview channels in your area, and thanks to a smorgasbord of connection ports (both modern and not-so-modern), you can hook up your Sky or satellite box.

All streaming services worked excellently during our test, and as long as your broadband is swift enough, you shouldn't have a problem. Getting to the various channels was a breeze thanks to that Firefox OS, with the home screen being bright, colourful and easy to navigate. As well as TV entertainment there is a native Web browser (obviously, this being Firefox), and a media player suite for watching files and other content from a connected hard or flash drive.

There's a great deal of customisation to be had here, both in terms of the OS and the picture/sound experience. 4K straight out of the box can be pretty dazzling to noobs, so we were grateful for the option of toning down the picture definition and the frame rate. For those concerned that their favourite films won't look like films on a TV like this, this is a great option. Picture theme can also be fiddled with (dynamic, sports, game etc.), but this would probably only be touched by TV pedants and those we are super picky. Still, once you master exactly what each of the many settings functions does, it is possible to fine-tune your viewing experience.

In terms of hardware, the 40 inch diagonal screen is just shy of a metre wide, and only three or four centimetres deep. This makes it perfect for wall mounting, but a base stand is also included. Amazingly the bezel around the edge of the screen proper was just a few millimetres wide, adding to the TV's good looks and compact package.

If you're considering going full-4K, and looking for a TV that offers a lot in a tight and affordable set-up, this could be the one for you. We love the bright and easy OS, and all those options to customise the view have gone down a storm. If you can, check it out.


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