A modern home theatre from Panasonic
TV viewing has changed. We now have access to high-definition and ultra-high definition content, be it through the more traditional sources such as direct-to-home (DTH) set-top boxes, or streaming apps such as Netflix (subscriptions start at Rs500 per month) and Amazon Prime Video (bundled with Prime subscription, costing Rs499 per year). So a top-notch audiovisual experience becomes essential.
Panasonic is trying to cover both bases with the Shinobi Ultra television range and the UA7 home theatre speaker system.
The Shinobi Ultra television builds on last year’s Shinobi Pro range, offering better specifications. The 49-inch TH-49EX600D has 4K resolution (3,840x2,160), high dynamic range (HDR) and smart TV features based on the Firefox OS, which is now developed by Panasonic.
The IPS panel ticks almost all the boxes—great colours, adequate sharpness, good viewing angles—and it is not very reflective either. The LEDs that illuminate the panel are brighter than before too, making for vibrant pictures. What really does stand out is the Hexa Chroma Drive feature, which pairs with the image-processing algorithms to genuinely improve the quality, accuracy and richness of colours. The fact that the Shinobi Ultra also has the HDR feature ensures that the very latest 4K content from streaming services such as Netflix will be available in all its glory. However, the backlight level, if turned down slightly to suit indoor lighting, makes the picture less vibrant. Skin tones too are sometimes not the most accurate, appearing brighter than they ideally should be.
The Shinobi Ultra’s panel shines through, irrespective of whether you are watching standard-definition (SD), high-definition (HD) or 4K content. The distortion-reduction algorithms are among the best we have seen, and they iron out the anomalies that SD content often shows when viewed on a high-resolution display. Panasonic has added a uniformity sheet behind the display panel to guard against the uneven backlighting that is quite obvious in many televisions sets.
Panasonic is now the only television company that is still using the Firefox OS platform for smart TV features. Yes, you have the basics in place, such as YouTube and Netflix, but this platform is fighting a losing battle. It’s not as visually appealing as Samsung’s updated Tizen, nor does it have the wide range of apps that Google’s Android TV platform offers.
One aspect where even the most expensive televisions struggle is with audio quality. Movie buffs always end up being disappointed by the lack of bass and vibrancy that television speakers offer. This is where the SC-UA7 speaker comes into the picture. First, it tackles the issue of clutter that home theatre set-ups generally suffer from—it essentially has a tower design that doesn’t take up too much space. The control panel sits at the top, with backlit touch controls.
Do not be fooled by the compact dimensions though. It packs in four woofers and four tweeters, and sound effortlessly fills the room. It can connect with your phone and PC via Bluetooth, but an optical cable for the TV’s audio connection would be ideal if you want the best audio quality. Once you have set this up, there is nothing you can do except sit back and enjoy the sound that, quite frankly, surprises with its richness, depth and powerful bass, the essence of surround sound and clarity. Even when pushed to really high volume levels, clarity does not suffer at all. The bass is powerful enough at the default setting but you can increase it further, which makes it a fantastic speaker for movies and music.
The only shortcoming of the UA7, perhaps, is that it doesn’t handle all Dolby Audio formats, but that is hardly a deal-breaker. Whether you own a direct-to-home (DTH) set-top box or a Fire Stick streaming media player, for instance, these devices can be configured to relay unprocessed audio (Pulse-code modulation or PCM) to the speaker, and let the UA7 do its own audio processing before you hear the sound.
This 49-inch Shinobi Pro TV is in competition with the Sony Bravia KD49X9000E (Rs1,49,990; Croma.com). The basic specifications remain the same; both have a 49-inch 4K display and HDR capabilities. The Bravia does have a significantly better Android TV platform for apps, but it makes sense to pair the Shinobi Ultra with the SC-UA7 speaker given the price advantage (combined price: Rs1.41 lakh). You have a home theatre ready without the clutter of wires and multiple speakers— and without it taking up too much space.