Pana­sonic TX-40DX600B

FOR Good pic­ture qual­ity; full­bod­ied sound; nice in­ter­face AGAINST 4K pic­ture isn’t as good as it could be; no HDR

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A 40-inch screen with Ul­tra HD 4K res­o­lu­tion that costs just £500? That sounds too good to be true. But the Pana­sonic TX40DX600B prom­ises the lat­est pic­ture tech­nol­ogy wrapped up in a small pack­age that doesn’t cost a for­tune.

But first, we have a cou­ple of ques­tions: is a 40in screen too small to fully ap­pre­ci­ate the pixel-pop­ping awe­some­ness of 4K? And does this TV strike the per­fect bal­ance be­tween size, price and top tech?

Aes­thetic abil­ity

The TV it­self has a sturdy build, with a slim bezel sur­round­ing the 40in screen, and shiny feet that stand rigidly on the sur­face. It’s not the slimmest TV, but it’s not too chunky ei­ther. It’s the ideal size for fit­ting into the cor­ner of a liv­ing room.

Around the back you’ll find three HDMI in­puts, two of which are Hdcp2.2-cer­ti­fied – those are com­pat­i­ble with 4K Blu-ray discs and play­ers. Com­po­nent and com­pos­ite in­puts, an op­ti­cal out­put and two USB ports round up the list of this screen's con­nec­tions.

The re­mote con­trol in­cluded is a stan­dard hand­set that’s in­tu­itive to use and works re­spon­sively with the TV’S menus.

We should point out from the start that while the TX40DX600B is a 4K screen with a 3840 x 2160 res­o­lu­tion, it doesn’t sup­port High Dy­namic Range (HDR). For top-end tel­lies in 2016, 4K and HDR have tended to come hand-in-hand, like­wise with the 4K Blu-ray discs trick­ling into the mar­ket now. A ques­tion pops into our minds: will the 4K discs still look good on a screen with­out HDR sup­port?

We start with one of our favourite 4K Blu-ray discs, Mad Max: Fury Road. The Pana­sonic screen is filled with pin-sharp de­tail, with the gritty tex­tures of the mon­strous cars dis­played clearly. It’s a won­der­fully crisp pic­ture with­out be­ing overly sharp. You can pick out the dirt and grime on peo­ple’s faces, the rusty me­tal, the grains of sand – there’s plenty of de­tail here.

Sit close to the screen and you won’t find much noise at all – it’s a fine pic­ture. The fiery reds are scorch­ing, while the blues make a cool con­trast. It’s vi­brant enough to be ex­cit­ing, but doesn’t go over the edge into be­ing over­sat­u­rated.

Pana­sonic strikes just the right colour bal­ance, which is more ap­par­ent when you’re watch­ing sit­coms such as Brook­lyn Nine-nine, or old episodes of Top Gear in stan­dard def, which look de­cent when up­scaled to fill the 4K screen. Blue skies, skin tones, of­fice in­te­ri­ors and car paint all look nat­u­ral, and there are no dis­cernible mo­tion is­sues dur­ing high-speed car chases.

Stan­dard as­sess­ment

There is the ex­pected dip in qual­ity with the stan­dard def­i­ni­tion pic­ture, which is fuzzy and not as de­tailed com­pared with the 4K Blu-ray, but it’s still watch­able and, more im­por­tantly, en­joy­able.

Re­gard­less of source ma­te­rial, what stops us from com­pletely lov­ing this Pana­sonic TV is a mat­ter of sub­tlety and con­trast. A touch more low-level de­tail would stop char­ac­ters and ob­jects from look­ing flat against the back­ground at times. We want more gra­da­tions of shad­ing to make them look fully three-di­men­sional and re­al­is­tic.

You can see a de­cent amount of de­tail in shad­ows, but the black and dark ar­eas could go that bit deeper. The pic­ture in gen­eral could be brighter, too. Turn­ing up the bright­ness level in the set­tings only makes the im­age look faded and washed out – we want more punch and in­ten­sity to bright scenes com­bined with a less-com­pro­mised de­gree of black depth.

Though you only re­ally no­tice the level of clar­ity and de­tail in the 4K film once you’ve com­pared it with the Blu-ray (which up­scales ad­mirably on the 40in screen), there isn’t enough of a dif­fer­ence to make you go “wow” when you see 4K.

While you do get a step up in de­tail, clar­ity and sharp­ness, the screen’s small size and lack of HDR means you don’t get the full blast of how gor­geous a 4K Blu-ray pic­ture can be.

Blu-ray per­for­mance is bet­ter, and isn’t too far off the 4K. Here the Pana­sonic man­ages to strike that bal­ance be­tween con­trast and bright­ness more suc­cess­fully, and ends up be­ing a more sat­is­fy­ing watch.

Easy on the ear

Spend­ing time with the Pana­sonic TX40DX600B, it takes us a while to re­alise we aren’t im­me­di­ately yearn­ing for a sound­bar. It has a pleas­antly full-bod­ied sound. Voices are solid and di­rect, and the over­all pre­sen­ta­tion is warm and rather punchy. There’s no brit­tle top end or boom­ing bass.

We’re big fans of Pana­sonic’s Fire­fox OS in­ter­face: colour­ful cir­cu­lar icons that you can ‘pin’ to the home screen. It’s sim­ple and straight­for­ward to use, and the brightly coloured de­sign is neat and ap­peal­ing.

When you first fire it up, you’ll see bub­bles for live TV, apps, con­nected de­vices and Free­view Play ap­pear on top of what­ever you’re watch­ing. Nav­i­gat­ing your way around them is easy, and we like that the in­ter­face isn’t too in­tru­sive. Launch­ing apps such as Net­flix takes mere sec­onds, while scrolling through the in­put list or pro­gramme guide goes with­out a hitch.

You can add more icons to the home screen by ‘pin­ning' your favourite apps (such as Ama­zon Video, Youtube or BBC Sport) and then re­ar­rang­ing the or­der. Sim­ply press ‘op­tion’ on the re­mote after se­lect­ing an app to pin, move or delete it.

The TV comes with Free­view Play and Free­time, which lets you roll back the pro­gramme guide and catch up with a week’s worth of shows. It also puts all the UK’S catch-up TV apps in one place: BBC iplayer, All 4, the ITV Hub and De­mand 5 are all avail­able on the 40DX600B.

You’ll need an in­ter­net con­nec­tion for Free­view Play to work. Wired eth­er­net and built-in wi-fi are pro­vided, and both meth­ods are sta­ble.

Not ev­ery­one can fit a large TV into their liv­ing room, so the 40DX600B is ideal for those with lim­ited space. Add to that 4K tech­nol­ogy at an af­ford­able price and you have an ap­peal­ing propo­si­tion. There are 4K TVS from Fin­lux and Hisense avail­able at this money, al­though nei­ther quite matches this Pana­sonic which, de­spite some short­com­ings, is worth con­sid­er­ing.

“It’s won­der­fully crisp. You can pick out the dirt and grime on peo­ple’s faces, the rusty me­tal, the grains of sand – there’s plenty of de­tail here”

Here’s proof 4K tech can make its pres­ence felt on a mod­estly sized screen – even with­out HDR

VER­DICT Though not per­fect, this el­e­gant screen of­fers an ap­peal­ing ex­pe­ri­ence at an af­ford­able price

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