First look: Panasonic MegaCon 4K Dual Panel LCD TV

Before we move on, let's clear up the reasons for the rather unfortunate name that Panasonic has given to the new screen technology it just unveiled at the IFA 2019 in Berlin.

'MegaCon' is a reference to Mega Contrast. There is nothing to suggest that Panasonic's revolutionary new 55-inch screen is dubious or fake.

On the contrary, his extraordinary talents are already overwhelming, even though it is currently only in the "advanced prototype" stage.

In a nutshell

The best way to understand what the MegaCon is about is to look at the key specifications. First, a contrast ratio of 1,000,000: 1 is given – though it is based on LCD technology and not on OLED technology. Second, a brightness of 1000 nits is given – and this is not just about small areas with 1000 nits. The entire screen can reach and hold this brightness level.

This performance combines with the mammoth contrast ratio to clearly mark the screen as very good for today's high dynamic range (HDR) content.

The MegaCon display will also be able to play back 99% of the so-called DCI P3 color spectrum used in the digital cinema world – which is essentially the system currently used to create most of today's HDR content.

Unlike most other LCD TVs, the MegaCon can be viewed from a wide angle with minimal loss of contrast or color saturation. The most exciting thing is that the MegaCon reaches the pixel level dimming.

To put it this way for laymen: even though it is an LCD TV, the backlighting system can provide a separate amount of light for each pixel in the 4K image of the MegaCon. It is not the usual LED TV situation in which a relatively small number of backlighting zones must share their light over a large number of pixels to reduce the contrast and cause problems with "fading out" of the light.

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If you can get an LCD TV to control light down to the pixel level, the self-emitting pixel situation is essentially reproduced by OLED televisions. However, since the MegaCon is still an LCD TV, brighter HDR light peaks than OLED screens can be achieved without the problems of permanent image storage which theoretically is still an OLED TV problem.

(Picture credits: Panasonic)

No average LCD

How did Panasonic manage to achieve this seemingly impossible performance? Panasonic calls the dual panel LCD technology.

If you look at the diagram of the MegaCon screen structure shown above, you should focus on the last two steps on the right. These show a monochrome interior panel and a 4K exterior panel, with the dimming panel being used to modulate the light from the backlight array into individual light pixels, which are then fed into the final 4K color layer.

This approach to solving the traditional problems associated with LCD backlighting is not a completely new concept. For example, Hisense has introduced a dual-cell ULED system based on the same basic concepts.

Panasonic's adoption of dual-panel LCD technology, however, looks and feels like nothing we've seen before. For example, the screen is completely from Panasonic. Panasonic-made panels based on the knowledge of high-end self-emitting display technologies that Panasonic has accumulated over decades of experience with plasma and OLED displays are used.

A special system developed by Panasonic is also used to perfectly align the inner and outer monochrome layers so that lines and pixels in the final image do not suffer from ghosting or diffraction noise.

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panasonic tv

(Image credits: Trustedreviews)

On the contrary, the pictures of the MegaCon look amazingly detailed and precise. Edges with sharply contrasting edges look perfectly pixelated and perfectly defined, with no hint of misplaced light that you would expect for misaligned LCD layers.

The contrast between the brightest and darkest areas of the MegaCon images is unlike anything I've seen on an LCD TV before. Deep blacks can sit right next to massively intense and bright whites and bright colors without compromise. The bright parts of the picture do not have to be reduced in their intensity, while the inky black colors do not have to be exposed to areas with scattered light around the bright parts.

Basically it's like looking at an OLED TV, except that bright lights explode with amazing punch from the screen.

You can view the MegaCon from a viewing angle of about 60 degrees off-axis, without significantly affecting contrast and color. In fact, colors look extraordinarily natural and nuanced, as the screen's remarkably wide color palette harmonizes beautifully with the pixel-level light control on the screen.

The screen of the MegaCon has a matte finish that absorbs noticeably good reflections. This is very important for a monitor that is proud to handle dark scenes, so you can enjoy the truly exceptional rendering of shadow detail.

Dark areas of the image also show no signs of noise problems that can occur with many OLED televisions. In fact, there is nowhere an indication of noise. When you put all these things together, you get a picture performance that really feels like you're a generation ahead of where we are now.

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Innovation has its costs

Before you decide for one, however, you should know that Panasonic currently speaks only of the MegaCon as the next big thing in professional mastering monitors. It is not planned to introduce the technology in consumer TVs. In part, I suspect that the manufacture of such displays will certainly be very expensive due to the current difficulties and partly due to the fact that end products based on the MegaCon prototype will certainly be very expensive. And then some.

However, as we have already seen (especially from Panasonic), the technology used in professional mastering studios has the habit of eventually dripping into the TVs in our living quarters.

From what I've seen from this early Panasonic next-generation TV screen prototype, this drip-down effect can not be used soon enough.

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