The 4K revolution continues, with Panasonic's latest, the Viera CX802, bringing with it Firefox OS and the promise of future updates such as HDR (high dynamic range). It's got all the current 4K bells and whistles, but with that one televisual toe dipped into the future it ought to be an even more attractive prospect for future-proofing content consumption.
Following on from 2014's AX802 model, which we thought was exceptional value for a 4K set, the latest CX802 (it's that all-important A vs C, eagle-eyed readers), reviewed here in its 55-inch guise, also gets a physical redesign. Although, given the sheer width required for the stand to sit on a raised TV stand, it's ill thought out this time around, which is a real shame.
It might be (literally) laid back in appearance, but don't let that act as the general sentiment as to what this TV is all about: the CX802 is upstanding, all-singing, all-dancing and delivers great quality picture and sound. As flat panel 4K televisions go, is it the one to standout in among the Sony, Samsung and LG OLED panels of today?
Out of the box and the 55-inch CX802, with its 1cm brushed frame encasing the screen, looks like it's going to be a beaut. But then we run into a problem: fitting the easy-to-screw-in stand to the rear it becomes apparent that its feet, which sit at the far ends of the frame, aren't going to have anywhere to sit on our TV stand. So if you don't have a stand at least 125cm wide (for the 55-inch model) then you're going to need a brand new one.
Which is an altogether odd design decision. While many TVs these days don't have centred feet, with more explorative and elegant designs instead prevailing, even the year-older AX802 had a full-length front stand to ensure it could stand up on smaller (or just more "normal" size stands). So with the CX802 we had to improvise.
But improvise we did, and once setup this laid-back panel, which is tilted back slightly so the top edge is a little further away from view point, does look great. The curved stand arches around the rear of the TV, out of view, giving a sense of the main panel almost floating.
Switch on and there's a new operating system in town: Firefox OS. But don't worry, it's not like navigating a web browser on your computer as the name might insinuate.
As TVs advance so too have their operating systems, shifting away from fussy in-house productions to more considered third-party setups. Firefox OS is built around a "pin to homepage" arrangement, whereby personalised app selections, sources and channels can be selected. From here they can be moved around or discarded at a later date if needed to avoid things getting too busy.
However, the Firefox OS arrangement doesn't work as well with our Freesat set-top box as something like webOS 2.0, the OS that runs on LG's latest TVs. As we've set Freesat to run through the HDMI 1 port on the CX802 it's treated as a separate source, whereas with webOS it's possible to be watching that source and to still bring up all your favourite apps, channels and sources without losing the current live TV – not so with Firefox OS; not unless you're utilising the built-in Freeview HD tuner instead anyway.
When it comes to apps there are plenty on offer in the Apps Market. The major ones are available, with Netflix even getting its own dedicated quick-access button on the included remote control (the main remote anyway; there's a second subtly curved trackpad remote too, which we ultimately found fussy and not worth the time of day), alongside Amazon Instant Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and so forth.
However, not all of these apps are as up-to-date as some of the competition. Not yet anyway. For example YouTube will only source Full HD (1920 x 1080) content, not 4K native content like, say, the LG UF950V can.
Compared to the convoluted earlier software that Panasonic had been using, Firefox OS is still a massive step forward though. But it's not the best in town, with webOS 2.0 taking that crown at present in our view.
To the rear of the CX802 there are three HDMI ports to plug in your additional gear. By software in the future these will be upgradable to HDMI 2.0a, meaning HDR (high dynamic range) and 4K Blu-ray will be compatible to its fullest.
Now three HDMI ports might sound stingy, but most competitors – even those with four HDMI ports – typically don't offer more than two HDMI 2.0 ports. Panasonic offers all three as HDMI 2.0, meaning full 4K compliance across the board. They're all HDCP 2.2 compatible too, meaning each can handle future broadcast content as applicable.
Much of this is not in the here and now, though, so we can't actually review the CX802's HDR abilities, nor how it handles 4K Blu-ray or non-existent broadcast content. Knowing it can is great to know, but a little bit a leap of faith.
Elsewhere to the rear are three USB ports, an SD card slot (that's a Panasonic special), twin satellite connectors (for on-board Freeview if you don't have a separate set-top box), optical audio out, Ethernet (Wi-Fi is also available for network, which has worked well for streaming in our experience), and older SCART and composite connectors.
Just like its AX predecessor, the CX802 handles all manner of content really well. It's a little more refined than earlier models, with a wonderfully natural colour palette on offer and decent black levels too.
The auto dimming (if activated) isn't perfect, though, with some jumps between backlighting as outside ambient conditions change, while the edge-LED illumination causes some subtle clouding, which was most noticeable towards the top of our review sample set. It's pretty subtle clouding, though, so nothing to be worried about – and while it means blacks can't compare to the LG EG960V OLED, the Panasonic is still deep and rich in its display abilities.
There are bundles of calibration options on offer too. In addition to a wide selection of viewing modes, the ability to adjust backlight, contrast, brightness, colour, tint and sharpness definitely come in handy. We saved a late-night movie preset (well, it was just called User) and opted for a brighter, more automated setup for daytime viewing.
It's with 4K content where the CX802 really shines though, able to show off that 3840 x 2160 resolution to the fullest, without irksome processing artefacts so common in upscaled broadcast content. And while Blu-ray looks decent, House of Cards via 4K Netflix really takes the biscuit.
Everything sounds good too, with ample volume and equalisation adjustment options available. By and large we've been using the optical out to fuel a soundbar and sub combination which has given our experience an additional edge, but even without this the pomp of default audio is commendable.
So overall, and while the CX802 doesn't have some of the 4K app implementation in place just yet, the 4K content that is available looks and sounds great. And with its £1,799 price tag it's highly competitive against the likes of the around-£2,250 LG UF950V or super-slim Sony X90C.
We might find the CX802's super-wide stand annoying, its Firefox OS isn't quite as slick as LG's webOS 2.0, and there are some to-be-updated apps that await a wave of the 4K magic wand. But what the Panasonic CX802 offers that its competition doesn't is value; and value without compromise. You won't find a comparable 55-inch HDR-capable LG or Sony for under £2,000, let alone the TX-55CX820's £1,799 price tag.
The CX802's picture quality is excellent, especially following some customisation, so whether streaming, watching Blu-ray, gaming or delving into a bit of daytime TV, everything looks quality. The auto backlight adjustment isn't perfect though, so we've tended to avoid that being active.
Overall you may well find deeper blacks from LG's 960V OLED panel, but at twice the price; the Sony X90C is slimmer and better looking, but nearly £500 more expensive in its 55-inch form; giving Panasonic the price edge. If you want 4K without major compromises and a bit of change from £2,000 then look no further, this is the TV to go for. Just make sure you own a TV stand wide enough to accommodate it.