Panasonic TX-55AX630: 3D Picture Quality
The 55AX630 is a mostly good 3D performer let down by a single distracting flaw: crosstalk.
You can often see crosstalk’s double ghosting over a bright background or mid-field objects, and its appearance is regular and obvious enough to have to class it as quite a distraction at times. Especially as its defocusing impact is slightly exaggerated by the otherwise very impressive levels of detail and sharpness in the upscaled-to-UHD active 3D images.
The good news, apart from the excellent detailing already mentioned, is that the 55AX630’s strong contrast performance helps it deliver a rich and well-defined sense of 3D space, even during dark scenes. Also, the motion processing proves startlingly effective at helping everything stay fluid, and colours look surprisingly rich if you opt for the Dynamic picture preset.
One last negative, though, is that we did occasionally feel aware of slight lip-sync errors while watching 3D, as with a number of other TVs this year. But the slippage is relatively minor and not often noticeable.
Panasonic TX-55AX630: Sound Quality
The 55AX630 is a fairly average audio performer by the much-improved overall standards of this year’s flat TVs. It sounds fine with relatively simple, dialogue-heavy sources, leaving voices sounding well rounded and believable, with no hint of crowding in the mid-range.
Tougher, denser audio material, though, sounds a bit soupy and muffled, and bass struggles to emerge as forcefully as we’d like. The slightly squished mid-range also means that treble detailing isn’t particularly good – though on the upside nor does the treble sound harsh or brittle.
One little tip, if you don’t have neighbours to worry about, is that the 55AX630’s audio actually sounds better at high volumes than mid to low ones.
Other Things To Consider
The 55AX630 ships with two remote controls: a well-designed standard one packed with buttons, and a smaller ‘smart’ one featuring a touchpad and fewer buttons.
The smart remote is probably intented to be used most, but actually we struggled to feel comfortable with it. We didn’t like the circular shape of the touchpad, its inconsistent responsiveness, or the rather fiddly way you need to tap the pad to select an option you’ve got highlighted on the screen.
If you’re a gamer, the 55AX630 proves passable rather than brilliant. The contrast-rich nature of its pictures is well suited to the dark scenes many modern games present you with, but our tests measured input lag at around 66ms, even when using the set’s provided Game mode and turning off as much residual video processing as we could find. This figure is roughly double what we like to see on TVs, and has the potential to cost you a few lives with time-sensitive games such as online shooters.
Should I buy a Panasonic TX-55AX630?
The ace up the 55AX630’s sleeve is its ability to deliver mostly very good UHD and upscaled HD picture quality for a very aggressive price. It comfortably outperforms – and undercuts! – its most direct 4K/UHD rival, the Philips 55PUS7809.
Also admirable are the 55AX630’s smart features, especially now Panasonic has got Freetime on board.
You can get richer colours and greater sharpness if you spend vastly more on models such as the Sony X9005B series, Samsung’s HU8500 sets and Panasonic’s own AX802 tellies. Or you can get slightly more 4K sharpness and cleaner motion if you spend around £600 more for Samsung’s 55HU7500.
If £1,300 is your budget, though, the only thing that might give you pause for thought is the 55AX630’s inability to handle HEVC streams of the sort used by Netflix’s UHD video streaming service – and, most likely, the video streaming services of other future UHD streamers. However, it’s likely that external UHD streaming boxes will start to appear next year, and the 55AX630 has three 4K-friendly HDMIs ready and waiting for such boxes.
The 55AX630 sets impressive picture quality and price benchmarks for the new ‘affordable’ 4K market. It’s great to find it sporting three 4K-friendly v2.0 HDMIs and a full version of Panasonic’s latest, greatest smart TV system – complete with Freetime.
The only catch is the lack of integrated HEVC decoding for 4K streaming services – though external solutions to this issue will likely start appearing next year.
Score in detail
3D Quality 7
Smart TV 9
2D Quality 9
Sound Quality 7