A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be given (well, leant) two state-of-the-art demo unit 4K televisions to try out and compare. It was this that led to my article last week re-visiting the current state of 4K. And so, after two weeks, of hard work (watching TV), the results are in and it’s time for Samsung to go head-to-head with Panasonic in the battle for the best 4K televisions around £1000 (bear in mind, that’s actually reasonably cheap for a 4K TV - hence probably why we’re still waiting for the mass public to adopt them). So without further ado, let’s get wired in.

Receiving them both on the same day, I was eager to try them both immediately, but there’s only so much room a living room has, and while my geeky self loved the thought of having a 48” and 50” TV side-by-side, the practicality of it won over and I decided to be patient with one. So first up was the (deep breath) Samsung UE48JU7000 LED 4K Ultra HD 3D Smart TV with Freeview HD/freesat HD and Built-in Wi-Fi (catch breath). It seems with titles of televisions these days, the longer the better. Essentially, what all that meant was that it was a big, ultra-sharp smart TV with a bunch of different ways to get TV shows. So out the (huge) box it came and up on the TV stand. Wow did this thing look slick. It was (as a lot of top-end TVs are now) ultra slim, incredibly fragile-looking and, for lack of a better word: sexy. Up until around 12 years ago TVs had been, since their inception, boxes. Now they’re thinks planks, different in size, shape and dimension. Damn, it looked good.

I’ll skip the switching on - that’s always the most boring part of getting a new television (please select a language, a Wi-Fi network, your country, your cat’s dress size etc). Fast-forward fifteen painstaking minutes and she was good to go (all televisions are female, just so you know). Now, I’ll just quickly note one thing: smart TVs annoy me. It doesn’t matter how expensive you go, they’re never, ever as fast as you feel they should be. We’re so used to having expensive smartphones, tablets and computers that we expect a smart TV to be able to run as fast - if not faster - than them, and they simply never do (though they are getting better, year on year). This thing was showing me what I’ve been missing all these years watching measly “High Definition” 1080p. It’s amazing, sometimes, the way technology makes us wonder how on earth we lived without it before, even when it’s something as fussy a the move from HD to Ultra HD, but wow did it do just that. I’ve seen 4K televisions playing 4K content many times in electronics stores, but it doesn’t quite compare to the first moment you switch it on in your own living room and witness it where you used to see 1080p before. Stunning.

Now this particular TV boasts a number of features:

  • Precision Black Pro - deeper blacks and brighter whites
  • PureColour Technology - (you guessed it) more vivid, bright colours
  • UHD Upscaling - makes your 1080p content look more like 1081p (okay, I’m exaggerating, it tries to make it look as close to 4K as possible - doesn’t ever quite manage it though).
  • Superior Viewing Angles - 178 degrees, so it doesn’t get all faded if you’re not directly in front of the screen
  • Plus a whole bunch of ‘under the hood’ features such as Samsung’s own ‘Tizen’ operating system (a bit like Google’s Android but not as good), a bunch media apps built in (BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix etc - all the same stuff as almost every other Smart TV) and more.

Now I’m not one to be taken in by fancy claims of super-speed and a vast itinary of apps and gadgets. I need to see, use and hear something to believe its bold claims. So test it I did. I loaded up YouTube and headed straight for some 4K content I could rely on. I was, quite simply, blown away. I can only imagine this was how people felt the first time they viewed colour TV after only seeing black & white before. It was staggering. This was what I expected it to be like the first time I saw 1080p (and was left disappointed). It was more like looking out a window that staring at a flat screen - and I wasn’t even looking at something in 3D. The colour was mind-blowing - every rainbow shade was vivid, bright and energetic. The blacks were as blacker than if the screen was off and the whites we like paper. The greys were… well, there’s not really a metaphor for grey, they were just grey. Moving on.

I tested this TV to its full potential over the following seven days. I watched 4K content, I watched 1080p (trying to be) upscaled to 4K, I played around with the Tizen OS (wishing it was Android), I tried gaming (but then remembered I have a PlayStation 4 and there’s no need for TVs to have games on them). The only thing I didn’t try was 3D. Why? Because despite this TV retailing for £1,170, they still want you to buy the 3D specs separately and I’m not willing to buy something addition for something I’m meant to be testing. If it doesn’t come in the box, I can’t test it - it’s that simple. That being said, I’m not a fan of 3D televisions anyway, so apart from the disappointing lack of them in the box, I wouldn’t have been bothered by it anyway.

At this point, I didn’t really see how the Panasonic effort was going to be able to top this until I remembered, all the fancy gadgetry aside, the thing I was blown away by was the picture quality - and the Panasonic boasted the same. So week two came. I said goodbye to the Samsung beauty as I slid it carefully back into the box and said hello to the Panasonic. I almost disliked it immediately, purely because it was replacing the Samsung one. That dislike faded immediately the moment the stunning (breath in) Panasonic Viera TX-50CX802B LED 4K Ultra-HD 3D Smart TV, 50” with Freeview HD/freesat HD, Built-in Wi-Fi and Voice Assistant (give me a moment, I nearly passed out there) appeared in the Samsung’s place. Samsung? What Samsung?

This thing was a work of art. Even before I switched this thing on I was in love - wondering what Barclaycard would say if there was an unexpected £1,220 payment on my card. Fresh out the box, this thing beat the Samsung in terms of looks. But this wasn’t just an expensive ornament, it was a TV, and switched-off aesthetics were not the important issue here. On the power switch went. Fifteen minutes later (English. Vodafone Home Broadband. United Kingdom. He’s a cat, I don’t know his dress size - what a weird question) and it was time to put this futuristic-looking panel through its paces. It had a similar-sounding list of features:

  • Local Dimming Pro - Like the Samsung Precision Black thing
  • Studio Master Colour - Like the Samsung TrueColour thing
  • UHD Upscaling - like the Samsung UHD Upscaling thing… You get the idea

It had virtually the same features, just with different trademarked names for them. This one used the Firefox OS (still wish it was Android) rather than Samsung’s Tizen OS, but it amounted to a very similar end result. It had a bunch of (the same) apps for finding content to view online and it was able to play games (for people who realise after spending over a grand on a TV that they don’t like watching TV).

The truth of the matter is, I was well-aware that these two TVs would be almost identical in every way, minus only a few very minor details and names. And by all means, they were. They were similarly-priced, almost identically-specced, similarly-sized and both powerhouses. Sure, they’re not the £8000 top-end 4K TVs, but let’s face it, who reallyspends that kind of money on a TV? Most people probably don’t even spend £1000 on a TV - I know I haven’t. Yet (“Hi, is that Barclaycard? Look, I can explain”). Once again, the picture was out of this world.

So since I can’t physically show you the picture quality, or let you hear the sound these two put out, I’ll split my experience into five categories, and rate the two units head-to-head. This is based purely on my own week-long experience of each, so here goes:

Picture Quality - Sharpness

Samsung: 9.5/10

Panasonic: 9.5/10

Both looked identical. Superb and just a pixel away from real-life crispness (that sounds like Christmas if you say it out loud). The 0.5 they’re missing is simply because I assume the £8000 ones look ever-so-slightly better and I need to leave room for them to improve the picture for the extra £7K.

Picture Quality - Darks and Whites

Samsung: 9/10

Panasonic 8.5/10

Once again, both looked stunning. The Samsung pipped it only slightly due to its ability to makes blacks look even darker than when the TV was switched off, whereas that’s what the Panasonic did. As for the whites, both looked as white as I can imagine white gets.

Picture Quality - Colours

Samsung: 9/10

Panasonic: 9.5/10

Panasonic took it this time for one simple reason: while both sets made colours look more beautiful than I can even begin to describe, the Panasonic one made them look a little more realistic. The Samsung one, while looking stunning, left me thinking they were maybe ever-so-slightly over-saturated. It’s hard to find the balance between colours looking over-saturated and washed out. Panasonic seemed to find it just slightly better than the Samsung.


Samsung 8/10

Panasonic 8.5/10

This one was a little tricky. Smart TVs always leave me wanting when it comes to performance, as I explained earlier, and these two were no exception. Maybe I’m just a little fussy and maybe I’m just too used to flash-storage making electronic life faster (I’ll explain that another day), but I always seem to find them laggy to respond. The reason Panasonic won this category was because (while I would still have preferred Android OS, as you may have noticed) I preferred the Firefox OS over the Tizen one. It’s not a big deal for me, but it was worth half a point.

And finally, Design

It’s hard to stand out when it comes to designing a TV. They’re essentially all just thin, rectangular panels with screens. The things I looked out for with these two were thinness, bezel-size (the border around the edge of the screen), and overall look. In terms of thinness, they looked the same unless I had the two side-by-side, so they both scored equally there. For the bezel, the Panasonic looked smaller, making the screen look bigger (which, in fairness to the Samsung, the Panasonic was 2 inches bigger in screen size). And the stand for the Panasonic was a little more unique. It’s a tiny thing but at the end of the day, when you’re spending that much cash on a TV, you want it to look good whether it’s on or off and for me, the Panasonic one just won out in that category, and so

Samsung: 8/10

Panasonic 9/10

And that means, overall

Samsung: 8.7/10

Panasonic 9/10

So Panasonic won it, for me, this time. Now this is not a comparison of the two tech giants overall, simply of these two particular TV side-by-side. They’re not exactly matched in terms of size and price but they’re very close. Perhaps it was the extra few quid and two inches that ended up gaining the extra 0.3 points for Panasonic, but for me, it was just a little bit of attention to detail in terms of design, combined with a little better and more realistic-looking colours. Had it been any two other models from the same company and who knows, maybe it would have been the other way round, but this time, Panasonic won it.

So if you’ve got that kind of money to splash out on a fancy new TV, and you’re thinking of either of these two, there’s all the information you need to make up your mind. And I look forward to looking at more products at the next opportunity.

Seriously though, cat dress size?