Hands-on: Panasonic AX802 Freetime TV
There's no going back now, Panasonic has stopped production of its plasma TV line. Now, the firm is looking to LCD with LED backlights for its TV range, but the good news is the company is still innovating, and to that end it has introduced the first TV with built-in Freetime, Freesat's service which allows you to scroll backwards through the EPG to use catch-up TV services like iPlayer and 4oD.
The newly-announced AX802 comes in three screen sizes, 50-inch - this is probably the smallest we'll see 4K screens - along with 58- and 65-inch models. It's an edge-lit LED , 4K LCD TV with access to both Panasonic's smart TV facility and Freetime, from Freesat, which is a much improved EPG that gives you easy access to catch-up TV.
We really do like the Freetime service, it's very much YouView, but for satellite, although Panasonic was keen to point out that you can still use the interface for Freeview, which is an interesting change. Indeed, it seems that Panasonic is sort of using Freetime as a way to boost its sometimes less than perfect EPG.
The big news here though, aside from the brilliance of the Freesat service, is that this 4K TV is taking advantage of the latest technology to give it a lot more flexibility than many TVs we've seen that boast ultra-HD. For a start, HDMI 2.0 means that the TV can accept both 4k at 30 and 60 frames per second. This is a small difference, but adding 60fps will give amazing potential to video, especially sport, in the future. Higher frame rates can make 4K look even more lifelike than regular HD.
Also included is support for h.265, or HEVC, which will allow companies like Netflix to deliver 4K video streaming to TVs like this one over the internet. This is very exciting, because for the time being the only way to access ultra HD is via downloads and internet streaming.
From the "smart TV" perspective, Panasonic is continuing its good work in this area. The TV is now able to detect when you walk into a room. Even in standby, the TV is then able to use its camera to identify you, and from there it can present you with personalised highlights like your favourite show suggestions and the like. It's an interesting idea that will no doubt weird some people out.
For £2000 for the 50-inch model, we can see this doing well. Televisions that can disply 4K video are dropping in price, and are now cheaper than last year's premium plasma models. You really are getting a lot more, for a lot less. And LCD TVs with LED backlights also finally seem to be getting close to plasma black levels. Perhaps we don't even need OLED now.