Panasonic WT600A Ultra HD TV: Australian Review

Ultra HD video still isn't common, even 18 months after the release of the first UHD TV in Australia. There's no one-stop shop for buying or renting 4K video, and our dodgy 'net makes it difficult to stream. That hasn't stopped all the big Aussie TV makers from bringing out big Ultra HD TVs, though; the Panasonic WT600A is one of the more well-rounded examples you can buy today.

What Is It?

The Panasonic TH-L65WT600A, only available in the 65-inch screen size, is an edge-lit LED TV running at a native 3840x2160 pixel display resolution. That's four times the detail of 1080p Full HD, and when you're watching an appropriately detailed video clip, it shows.

The WT600A's screen runs at a 100Hz refresh rate, but its LED backlight skips along at an impressive 2,000Hz -- promising excellent and detailed fast-motion performance without resorting to complex and image-degrading software trickery. The screen inside Panasonic's current top LCD isn't a top-quality IPS panel, but rather a more versatile (and less expensive) VA type.

It's also one of the first Ultra HD TVs on the market to support HDMI 2.0; this new connection benchmark supports 4K resolutions at 60 frames per second -- future-proofing your new TV against even the most demanding future video standards. There is no evidence to suggest that 4K/60fps is going to be the go-to for next-generation movie watching, but there's absolutely no harm and plenty of advantage in Panasonic's opting for HDMI 2.0 in the WT600A.

What Is It Good At?

Panasonic may still be finding its feet with LED TV tech after spending so long at the top of the plasma game, but the WT600A is evidence that it knows what it's doing. The screen's design is modest, without being boring -- and that's something that Panasonic in the past was guilty of, with its big plasma bezels and generic dark grey plastics.

The WT600A's bezel is bright, with a silver anodised finish and a transparent plastic lower lip that displays the Panasonic logo front and centre. A smaller dark inner bezel next to the edge of the screen provides a little extra contrast when you're watching. The TV's stand might look a little flimsy, but when you pick it up, you get a truer sense of its heft -- it holds this not-especially-light LED TV very securely without any wobbling or unsteadiness.

When it comes to displaying a high-quality image, the WT600A literally shines. Whether you're displaying Ultra HD (3840x2160 pixels) or Full HD (1920x1080 pixels) video, this Panasonic screen does a superlative job of simply and cleanly displaying high quality video. Put on a 4K copy of TimeScapes -- one of the few high-res films that you can buy today -- and the Panasonic WT600A is able to display all the detail you'd expect to see from a well-shot, well-edited Ultra HD film

Similarly, the TV does an excellent job of upscaling 1080p video to suit its higher native resolution. An even-handed measure of edge sharpening and minor contrast and colour tweaking is applied -- this is obvious when you compare an Ultra HD video with its 1080p counterpart -- but this doesn't negatively impact picture quality in the slightest. When you're displaying 720p video the effect is more pronounced and it's easier to distinguish the inferior source material, but the scaling still works decently. In the end, this TV is made for Ultra HD video, and it looks best when it's working with that resolution.

Straight out of the box, Panasonic has done a pretty good job with the colour balance of the WT600A. As usual with any Panasonic, sticking it in the Cinema mode gives you the best contrast and colour results at the cost of some vibrance and outright brightness, but if you want the punchiest available display you can go for Dynamic mode. There is, thankfully, a Game mode that cuts out a great deal of image processing and tweaking and gives you a reasonably lag-free experience -- playing Titanfall in 4K on the 65-inch WT600A is an experience to behold.

What Is It Not Good At?

While you can watch 480p or lower-resolution video on this TV, I wouldn't recommend it. It's like streaming low-res YouTube in a Hoyts cinema; it's passable, and probably one of the better ways to get a lot of content on your big screen, but you will notice the quality hit and you will be disappointed. To flatter it you really need to be displaying 1080p Blu-ray content -- the more detailed the better, like Sony's Mastered In 4K discs -- or native 4K video. Even if you're into downloading your favourite TV shows in 720p HD (whether legally or otherwise), they're not going to be using the WT600A to its fullest potential.

Panasonic's 'My Home Screen' Smart TV interface is starting to look dated, especially when you compare it with the recently revitalised LG and Samsung offerings on their 2014 LED TVs. It's also falling behind in the number and quality of the catch-up TV services it offers -- it's fine for ABC iView and SBS On Demand, of course, but it would be nice to have a wider range and variety of movie and TV streaming video options.

Being a LCD TV, despite all its advanced local dimming LEDs and smart software content scanning, the Panasonic WT600A doesn't have the deep inky black levels of any plasma TV, or of the best LED backlit LCD TVs of competitors like Sony. That's not to say it's terrible -- the local dimming does a good job of dynamically lowering screen brightness in the dozen major screen zones when it's called for -- but just that it's not perfect.

And, similarly, being a LCD TV the WT600A's fast-motion performance during live broadcast digital TV and fast Blu-ray action isn't perfect either. The fast backlight scanning does a good job of mostly removing inter-frame blur, but the middling 100Hz panel refresh rate -- middling compared to the 200Hz options from other top-tier brands -- means that there's still a little bit of over-smoothing on the trailing edges of fast-moving on-screen objects, and throughout the entire frame on fast pans. All told, this is one of the better screens for watching the F1 and the A-League, but it's not the best.

Should You Buy It?

Until a new wave of Ultra HD TVs hits the market later this year, Panasonic's WT600A would be one of our absolute top choices. It may not be the flashiest or smartest Smart TV out there, but as a simple and no-nonsense way to get Ultra HD video delivered on a big, bright, impressive display, the TH-L65WT600A excels.

The Panasonic WT600A has a $5499 sticker price, but I've seen it a little cheaper at the various big-box retailers and online stores.