Panasonic TX-58AX802: Picture Quality
Once you’ve done the up-front set-up work, the 58AX802 delivers a really outstanding picture.
Images look especially mesmerising with native UHD sources. The amount of detail on show is incredible, and it’s underlined beautifully by the screen’s gorgeous colour response, which combines gloriously fulsome saturations with a degree of near-infinite subtlety. There’s no need to worry here about the impact of UHD’s resolution boost being reduced by inadequate colour response.
The combination of expert colour and pin-point detail accuracy ensures that the 58AX802 delivers fully on both the extra image depth UHD can give you and the overwhelming sense that you’re looking at real life rather than a mere TV picture.
Motion is also expertly handled by the 58AX802. Its native response time seems unusually good, so that, even with no motion processing in play, objects track around the screen with minimal judder or blur. But as suggested in the Set Up section, the power of Panasonic’s latest processing algorithms is such that you can eradicate practically all judder and motion blur via the Intelligent Frame Creation feature without leaving images looking unnaturally over-processed.
We maintain that UHD does not in fact need a huge screen to deliver clear picture advantages. But it’s also true that UHD’s advantages are more in your face the bigger your screen gets, so it follows that the 58AX802 is an even more scintillating deliverer of the UHD experience than its previously tested smaller sibling.
The 58AX802’s 58-inch screen also makes it easier to appreciate the quality of Panasonic’s upscaling. HD sources are shifted up to the screen’s native UHD resolution superbly, as the screen pulls off that key upscaling trick of adding more pixel depth and a greater sense of detail to images without making the results look noisy or artificial.
To be clear, upscaled HD is no replacement for the real UHD deal. But at least you don’t feel like you’d rather be watching HD on a native full HD panel, which is handy when you consider how much of the time you’ll be spending watching HD content until more UHD sources come on line next year.
In many ways the 58AX802 even handles standard definition content well. Colours, in particular, survive the enormous journey up to 3840×2160 pixels surprisingly credibly, even where skin tones are concerned. Upscaled standard definition can look a little noisy and blocky – but seriously, if you’ve bought a UHD TV and you’re not doing everything humanly possible to avoid feeding it standard definition, you are, with the best will in the world, nuts.
Looking at the 58AX802’s pictures in more general terms not related to its UHDness, its contrast performance is capable of being excellent. There’s a milkier look to the panel in its native state (with contrast-related tools turned off) than you get with the latest flagship UHD TVs from Sony and Samsung. But the contrast tools Panasonic provides are capable of delivering some impressively deep black colours in the same frame as punchy whites without you having to worry much about problems such as light ‘blocking’ around the bright image elements or excessive backlight ‘jumping’.
The 58AX802’s ability to control its light on a decently localised level also helps it to retain plenty of shadow detail in dark scenes, giving them the same sense of depth as bright ones. There’s also no doubt that the Studio Master Colour panel helps the 58AX802 retain more colour accuracy and vibrancy during dark scenes than normal LCD panels. Certainly the 58AX802 seems more or less a match for the Sony X9005B and Samsung HU8500 models in the colour department.
It’s hard to find much negative to say about the 58AX802’s pictures. We guess the biggest issue is that black levels, while very good, aren’t quite as profound as those of the Samsung HU8500 and Sony X9005B models. Dark scenes are also slightly more prone to artefacts like light banding or backlight clouding. To be fair, though, the Sony and Samsung models we mention are flagship 4K/UHD models while the AX802 series is actually Panasonic’s second-tier UHD solution beneath the upcoming AX902s.
Another issue is that, in common with many LCD TVs, the 58AX802’s effective viewing angle is quite limited. Colour and contrast reduce markedly without you having to move too far down the screen’s sides.