Panasonic Honeycomb 4K TV

Can It Help LCD Compete with OLED?

The Panasonic 65DX900.
The Panasonic 65DX900

With the high dynamic range (HDR) TV era now firmly upon us, life has started to get a bit difficult for LCD TV technology. LCD screens have always struggled to control their light outputs on any sort of local level, and this shortcoming has started to be pretty ruthlessly exposed by the extra contrast and brightness demands now being imposed on TV screens by the arrival of ultra-dynamic HDR content.

Panasonic, though, used the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to unveil an innovative solution to this LCD problem based on something it likes to call Honeycomb backlight technology.

How the Honeycomb Works

The DX900 TV carrying the Honeycomb technology is based on two key innovations. First, the TV divides the LEDs placed directly behind the screen into hundreds of individually controllable zones, immediately giving a potentially massive boost to contrast versus normal LCD TVs that only have one external backlight or a relatively small array of individually controllable lighting zones.

Second, the DX900 uses very defined barriers between its different lighting zones to reduce the potential for light contamination. 

What this should all add up to is a situation where you can have deep blacks alongside bright whites on the DX900, without the sort of distracting light artifacts (blocks and haloes) you’d normally expect to see. In other words, the DX900’s light arrangement has the potential to get its pictures looking more like those you would expect to see from an expensive OLED screen, where each pixel produces its own light.

Processing Power

Driving such a complex light system clearly, demands a cleverer than usual processing system. In the case of the native 4K DX900, this processing is the brand new HCX+ engine. Short for Hollywood Cinema eXperience, HCX+ builds on the already powerful 4K Pro system Panasonic used in its flagship TVs of 2015.

As well as delivering the extra light management demanded by the honeycomb backlight design, HCX+ introduces more sophisticated color algorithms to partner its professional monitor-grade ‘3D Look Up Table’ approach to color reproduction - an approach that references colors against 8000 color registry points versus the 100 or so you generally get with LCD TVs.

HDR's Friend

The DX900 rounds out its HDR talents by using a ‘super bright’ LCD panel capable of transmitting light more easily (and hitting light peaks in excess of 1000 lumens), and implementing the latest version of Panasonic’s wide colour gamut technology for delivering the sort of colour range the new HDR generation of video is designed to support.

In fact, Panasonic claims that the DX900 is capable of reproducing around 99 per cent of the Digital Cinema Initiative’s P3 color spectrum, more than any other TV I’ve come across to date.

The DX900’s specifications are so potent that it comfortably hits all the targets set by the Ultra HD Premium ‘standard’ recently also unveiled at the CES by the inter-industry working group the Ultra HD Alliance. In fact, if it manages to hit its planned early February launch date in Europe (the US launch will follow at an as yet unconfirmed date) it will almost certainly be the first TV you can buy anywhere in the world that meets the Ultra HD Premium specification.

THX Approved

This won’t be the DX900’s only ‘badge of honor’, either. For Panasonic has also confirmed that the DX900 has earned THX certification, meaning it’s managed to pass the independent THX group’s challenging suite of picture quality tests. 

I got the chance to have a look at the DX900 in action at the CES and can confirm that despite some limited light haloing it looks like it may be able to deliver levels of contrast and color that really do give OLED TVs something to worry about. Look out for a review in the next few weeks.