(Pocket-lint) - Supposedly the most popular screen size for a new TV in the UK is somewhere between 49- and 58-inches. Panasonic must be confident that takers for its highest-performing 4K LED range aren't your typical customers, though - otherwise this HX940 wouldn't only be available as a 43-, 65- or 75-inch model sizes.
On paper, it looks an eccentric decision. The HX940 range is what the motor industry likes to call 'fully loaded' - and if you're piling on the features and functionality, it might seem sensible to make the range appealing to as many customers as possible.
But it goes without saying that Panasonic knows what it's doing. This is a company that's been among the planet's leading purveyors of televisions for decades now and, if the performance-to-price ratio of the TX-65HX940 is anything to go by, Panasonic isn't about to give up that position any time soon.
- Connections: 4x HDMI (incl. 1x ARC, 1x HDMI 2.1 ALLM), 3x USB, digital optical
- Wireless: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi
- Dimensions (65-inch model): 915 x 1454 x 45mm / Weight: 27.5kg
In design terms, the HX940 is unremarkable - which is only sensible. A 65-inch unit is a lot of TV, and the last thing prospective customers want is some overwrought try-hard design detracting from all that screen. The bezel surrounding the screen is minimal and nicely finished, and the depth of the frame is a svelte-by-LED-standards 45mm. In design terms, it's job done.
If you want to wall-hang your new TV, you'd better make sure the wall in question is up to the task - the 65-inch version on review is a not-inconsiderable 27.5kg. Those wishing to stand their new TV on a surface are offered a choice of position for the TV's simple, sturdy push-and-click feet - they can be sited quite near the corners of the chassis (leaving plenty of room between them for a soundbar) or more centrally so the TV doesn't need quite such a wide surface to stand on.
All of the HX940's inputs and outputs are grouped together in a recess behind a detachable cover. There are four HDMI HDCP2.2 inputs (that acronym ensures compatibility with current 4K broadcast data) - one is ARC enabled for audio return through the port, while all four feature compatibility with Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM). That doesn't mean they're HDMI 2.1 inputs, mind you, just that they incorporate a little of the 2.1 specification.
There are three USB sockets, an Ethernet socket, CI card slot, aerial posts for a couple of satellite and single Freeview tuners, a component video input (with analogue left/right audio inputs) for your real legacy equipment, an analogue output (switchable between headphones and subwoofer), and a digital optical output. There's also Wi-Fi on board, naturally, and push/pull Bluetooth for serving content to the screen or using wireless headphones.
- High dynamic range handling: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
- HCX Pro Intelligent Processor
- Audio: Dolby Atmos surround
Too many 4K TVs by too many TV brands suffer from gaps in their headline specification for one reason or another - generally it's because of inter-manufacturer grumbles or squabbles. Panasonic, though, is a bit more grown up than most - so its 4K TV range includes more of the specification highlights than quite a few alternatives.
This is most apparent where high dynamic range (HDR) is concerned. Panasonic includes every significant standard - HLG, HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are all available. There's no Dolby Vision IQ, admittedly, but in every other respect the HX940 is ready to maximise those colour volumes and so on, no matter the source of the images.
Elsewhere the HX940 covers all worthwhile bases. It's governed by Panasonic's top-of-the-shop HCX Pro Intelligent Processor, and features the company's HDR Cinema Display Pro panel for increased brightness. The screen also has a speedy 100Hz refresh rate, which (in theory, at least) should offer super-smooth motion.
The LCD pixels are backlit by LEDs operated by Panasonic's Local Dimming Intelligent Pro arrangement, which seeks to mimic the impression of thousands of local dimming zones. It's about as thorough a picture-making specification as you'll find on a LCD/LED TV in 2020.
In terms of sound, Panasonic is making slightly too big of a deal of the HX940's Dolby Atmos credentials. Oh, the screen can accept an Atmos soundtrack without alarms - but it's then squashed down to be dealt with by the HX940's two audio channels. They're powered by 10 watts apiece, and have the usual equaliser presets for 'stadium', 'speech', 'music' and so on. What there isn't, at any point, is an attempt to deliver a Dolby Atmos-style impression of height to the Panasonic's sound.
- my Home Screen 5.0
- Works with Amazon Alexa & Google Assistant
Panasonic's my Home Screen interface is now at its fifth iteration - although you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the current version and those immediately preceding it. It's simplistic in the best way, large and legible, and it's easy to customise. If all you want from your TV's interface is the ability to painlessly stream and/or connect your wider system, there isn't much that can go wrong here.
Freeview Play provides the UK's catch-up TV services, and there's plenty of streaming options beyond there. The Panasonic does without native support for Apple TV+ and Disney+, mind you, which restricts your options just a little.
As usual, Panasonic's setup menus are as in-depth as you want them to be. It's simple, and quick, to get a perfectly satisfactory image out of the HX940 - but if you want to indulge in some thorough tweakery, there are numerous options available to you. In any event, there's nothing intimidating about the procedure.
Operating the HX940 couldn't really be much simpler. The screen works with both Alexa and Google Assistant, should you have an appropriate mic-equipped speaker on the network, or there's Panasonic's trusty remote control. If you've owned a Panasonic TV in the last, say, eight or nine years then the handset will hold no alarms or surprises for you - and if you haven't, then this is a comprehensive remote control with sensibly sized buttons and no particular eccentricities in terms of layout.
In theory, the HX940 should look its best when displaying some disc-borne HDR content - and certainly when it's delivering a 4K UHD HDR10+ disc of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining, there's lots to like about the Panasonic's performance.
This is a painstaking remaster of a quite elderly film - but aside from some minor picture noise in some of the numerous wide shots (of sky or snow, mostly), the HX940 turns in an assured and accomplished performance. The colour balance is absolutely lovely - the film is alive with earth-tones of all kinds, and in the Panasonic's hands they're wide-ranging, convincing and endlessly varied. Even very subtle variations in colour are described confidently, and the HX940 is particularly adept at giving skin-tones proper authenticity.
Detail levels are gratifyingly high - those skin-tones illustrate the point, but the specific texture of a knitted tie, say, or the complexity of patterned clothing can't faze the Panasonic. It is a stable, intricate watch where colours, patterns and textures are concerned, as as a result is pleasingly lifelike.
It retains good levels of detail in darker tones and scenes too. Admittedly the deepest blacks aren't as depthless as they would be if we were talking about one of Panasonic's OLED TVs, but by the standards of backlit LCD TVs (especially of the edge-lit variety) the HX940 needs very few excuses made for it. It does well to deliver gradations of black, and its backlighting is controlled enough to allow bright, detailed white tones to exist in the same scene as dark tones without compromising either. Contrasts are wide and convincing, which is essential in general and particularly as far as this movie is concerned.
A theoretical switch down in quality to a Wi-Fi stream of Spike Lee's Dolby Vision-assisted Da 5 Bloods on Netflix allows the Panasonic to continue the good work. It defaults to its 'Dolby Vision Bright' viewing mode, and from there its picture-making remains accomplished. Picture noise reduces with this much more modern material, and the stability of motion-tracking takes a little upturn too. Edges are smooth and well-defined, depth of field is impressive, and detail levels are prodigious.
Stepping down in resolution is a test of any 4K TV, but the HX940 does admirable work with a 1080p of O Brother, Where Art Thou? The sepia-tinted white tones stay respectably clean (although the numerous shots of landscape and open sky can provoke more than a smattering of picture noise), and detailed levels remain impressive. There are some minor tribulations around movement exposed by the lower-resolution material, but some fiddling with the HX940's 'intelligent frame creation' and 'clear motion' settings can minimise these difficulties.
It's with really antique content that the Panasonic starts to overtly struggle. Enter The Dragon looks soft and short on detail, and motion is rather haphazard no matter how you seek to finesse the 940's menus. There's a serving of picture noise in virtually all circumstances, and when the going gets dark the black tones can be crushed to uniformity. Mind you, there are plenty of 4K screens around that are borderline unwatchable with content like this - but that's not a category in which the HX940 belongs.
There's a lot to be said for using a great big TV as a games monitor, but lightning-fast response time isn't always among them. The Panasonic turns in a respectable-we-suppose sub-19ms in Game mode - which isn't as rapid as some alternatives (Samsung and LG in particular), but then again isn't the lethargic catastrophe of some others (Philips in particular).
- 20W speaker output
The HX940 isn't the first TV to feature audio quality that lags behind its picture quality, and it won't be the last. But the fact is that while the Panasonic's sound isn't in any way disastrous, it entirely lacks the poise and confidence of its pictures.
The Dolby Atmos soundtrack to Da 5 Bloods is rendered pretty flat and undynamic by the Panasonic's stereo array. It's capable of decent volume, and there's reasonable detail and subtlety to its sound - but it's a narrow presentation, and doesn't feature much extension at either end of the frequency range.
'Flat' is better than 'hard' where the sound of your TV is concerned, but nevertheless it's not ideal. So think about the physical size of this screen, then consider the size of your monetary outlay, and then accept that you should buy a soundbar to go along with it.
As long as the rather wilful selection of screen sizes doesn't put it outside the realms of possibility, there's very little reason the Panasonic HX940 shouldn't go on your big-and-brilliant-telly shortlist.
It's a tidily made, easy-to-operate TV that's capable of delivering very watchable 4K images no matter the source. It's a decent upscaler too - up to a point - and while it doesn't sound all that impressive, it's not a sonic disaster either.
As 4K LCD sets with LED backlighting go, the Panasonic HX940 has plenty of clout - making it easy to recommend.
Samsung's QLED refinement of LED technology has plenty to recommend it, and the Q65T range might be the best pound-for-pound Samsung series of 2020. It lacks the Panasonic's nap hand of HDR standards, and it sounds no better than the HX940 - but it serves up punchy, high-contrast images and is a very adept games monitor too.
Get over the (basically inexcusable) lack of UK catch-up TV apps and the LG has an awful lot to recommend it. Not least its lovely 4K HDR images (though it doesn't have the full set of HDR standards).