Panasonic Viera CR852 55-inch curved 4K TV review
As many of you will already know, 2015 has been the first year of Panasonic entering the curved TV arena. The Japanese brand’s Viera LED range is headed by Viera CR852 series whereas the OLED flagship is the CZ950. I have been granted a few weeks with the 55-inch, TX-55CR852B 4K model.
It has been only been about a year since I got on the smart TV train and my 47-inch HD telly does everything I need it to. But with the CR852 loaner, there is an ultra high-definition (UHD) screen (3840 x 2160) a quad-core processor along with Panasonic’s own 4K Studio Master Processor. There’s also Local Dimming Pro, Studio Master Colour and my Home Screen 2.0 powered by Firefox OS.
Panasonic Viera TX-55CR852B design
The Viera 55CR852B is a lot of telly. The first point I feel that I have to make is that you’d better make sure that your stand is wide enough. This was something I wish I had checked beforehand as I had to employ my coffee table at the side of my AV stand in order to ensure that the feet on the CR852 had something stable to stand on – said feet on the telly are around 123cm apart.
The television does have a bar arcing behind it but the feet need to be on a stable surface.
Staying with the stand side of things, the screen leans back at a slight angle too and so you may have to allow for that also. The best way to get around all of these possible concerns is just to use the VESA wall mount fittings.
None of this detracts from the fact that the CR852 is a lovely looking television. The concave panel is surrounded by a slim, 1cm, bezel that’s finished in attractive brushed gunmetal grey, with only that pair of supporting feet peeking out from either end at the bottom of the screen. Once in situ the TV does not look huge or out of place after an hour or so.
The curve is quite gentle and I was looking forward to seeing how it performed in a real living-room instead of an exhibition hall or display room.
Panasonic Viera TX-55CR852B connections and controls
The connections can all be found at the left rear of the TV.
Facing downwards are two HDMI 2.0a inputs, one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel), along with dual tuners for both Freeview HD and satellite. There’s also an Ethernet port, although the CR852 has built-in Wi-Fi, and an optical digital output.
Facing sideways are inputs for another HDMI 2.0a, three USB ports (one of which can be used with an external HDD), a headphone jack, an SD card slot and a CI (Common Interface) slot.
Facing rearwards are the legacy inputs which are SCART, component and composite video, along with an analogue stereo input.
On the rear panel there are basic manual controls for power on/off, volume up/down, channel up/down and an input/OK button. Having these are always handy should you lose your remote or run out of battery but this shouldn’t really happen with the Panasonic sets as it comes bundled with two controllers.
The CR852 is buddied with a standard Panasonic remote which has a silver finish and includes a backlight for use in the dark. It’s nice and large and has a familiar layout and feel which makes it easy to use without really having to look at it.
There is also the more modern alternative in the touch pad controller. This is a small and curved unit and really comes in to its own when navigating the Firefox-powered smart TV platform.
Just like the small remote unit that came with my smaller Panasonic television, it includes a microphone for voice control. Of course if you’d rather use your smart device as a controller, there are also free remote apps for both iOS and Android.
The television weighs 26Kg and measures (WxHxD) 1236 x 764 x 275 mm including the stand.
Panasonic Viera TX-55CR852B specifications
As I have already mentioned, the 55CR852 has the smarts to dish out Ultra HD 4K resolution at 3840 x 2160, not only that though, the gently sweeping screen is kitted out with a VA (vertical alignment) panel which means that you get better native blacks.
The 55CR852 uses a direct LED back light and includes local dimming with 9 x 2 zones. Panasonic also beefs things up thanks to its Studio Master Colour for a wider colour space (using phosphors rather than quantum dots, according to the reading material) and supports High Dynamic Range (HDR). The CR852B includes a Quad Core Pro engine for faster performance and a 4K Studio Master Processor for superior picture processing.
Whilst all of that may mean something to the more telly technical of you out there, one of the most fundamental changes that most people will notice is that the new Viera Smart TV range runs My Home Screen 2.0.
The new user interface is now powered by the Firefox operating system and has a really clear and friendly graphical interface, and is very intuitive to use. This also means that the installed web browser is Firefox, which is no bad thing.
The home screen is pleasingly simple, with three default decks – Live TV, Apps and Devices. However, you can personalise the screen by pinning your favourite content and apps to it.
The platform also includes a new search tool, allowing you to easily locate content from a variety of video services, websites and any external devices you may have connected to your TV.
The new Freeview Play service now offers all the major catch-up TV players such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5.
Panasonic Viera TX-55CR852B performance
Most of you reading this are probably unlikely to go delving deep in to menus. I might have a quick look to see if I can tweak anything but only if there’s an undo function.
Panasonic do offer a range of settings as well as individual sliders to let those who know what they are doing calibrate the colours, contrast and other factors to how they prefer them. This is all well and good for the tweakers but, correct me if I am wrong, most consumers want to be able to unbox, switch on, veg out.
Thankfully, when I did just that (aside from building an extension for my AV unit), the 55CR852 was extremely impressive.
My first impression was that the image quality and colours were quite natural. I am sure that we’ve all been to high street stores where they seem to have ramped up the colours to a garish setting which must only be available to these places.
Everything seems to be of an even output and the blacks were nice and deep. The curved screen, in my living-room at least, seems to have remedied some of my reflection/glare issues that I have with a regular flat panel TV. I acknowledge that this is perhaps singular to me, but as someone who remains on the fence regarding curved TVs, I thought it only fair to mention.
Images were nice and bright and the screen was certainly able to keep up with fast-paced films and I even tested it with some football and F1.
Programmes and films in high definition looks amazing. Blu-rays played through my Oppo disc spinner looked vibrant and I could not see anything in the picture that should not have been there.
4K content such as Amazon’s ‘Man in the High Castle’ and ‘Jessica Jones’ on Netflix look gorgeous. Even with these I could not see anything untowards during action or panning shots.
Mid-bright and bright scenes looked really great and maintained those natural colours. Really dark scenes appeared to show a few areas of backlight inconsistency when I remembered that I was supposed to be more critical in my viewing.
This was mostly noticeable on space-based films which, for me, is slightly upsetting as I love my Sci-Fi. This generally would happen when switching from very light to dark scenes – for instance moving from the deserts of Tattoine to a shot of a Star Destroyer against the pitch black of space. Here there would be some haloing and space would be, for a brief moment, dark grey rather than those inky blacks we now expect.
I actually found that switching the local dimming off for space-based viewing helped. I am not sure if I just convinced myself that this worked or there is a reasoning behind it. It’s worth a try and if you know why this would sort out the apparent issue, please let me know.
Audio is delivered via two drivers, a pair of woofers and “Quad Passive Radiator” with a total output of 40 watts. This all proved OK and is certainly an improvement on my 47-inch telly.
Stereo separation is undoubtedly helped by the larger dimensions as is the bass response. Chances are though, if you are buying a 55-inch curved screen then you will be wanting the sound to go with it, in that case I would still suggest an AV amp and speakers.
Panasonic Viera TX-55CR852B review conclusion
The Viera TX-55CR852 has a lot going for it that’s for sure.
As someone who was not expecting much from a curved screen I found that the CR852 delivered realistic and even colour reproduction and that UHD 4K playback was amazing and smooth.
Contrast and especially the native black range was truly impressive and it only seemed when moving from extreme light to the blackest blacks that the local dimming (I think) was tested.
The 55CR852 is kitted out with plenty of connectivity options, including a range of legacy hook-ups which is definitely good to see. I also liked that you are armed with two remotes, both of which have their distinct strengths.
The new user interface is really slick and performs well and should become almost second nature to anyone who uses a mobile device, as it follows that design remit.
If I had my heart set on a curved screen then this has been the most impressive LED curved panel I have experienced yet and would recommend anyone to test it out.
More details can be found at bit.ly/Panasonic_Viera_TVs.
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