Pana­sonic’s FZ950 OLED TV

SmartHouse - - CONTENT - Writ­ten by JOHN ARCHER

Pana­sonic has un­veiled their new OLED TV range for 2018 claim­ing to take the brand’s ob­ses­sion with pre­cisely recre­at­ing the film­mak­ers’ vi­sion to a whole new level. And from what I’ve seen of them so far, they look set to make good on those claims in em­phatic fash­ion.

One of the prod­ucts in the range, the FZ950 uses the lat­est LG OLED TV pan­els. While this is good to know, though (espe­cially as it means both sets get the Ab­so­lute Black fil­ters that stop their screens from ex­hibit­ing a slight ma­genta tone in dark scenes), what re­ally sets Pana­sonic’s new OLED range apart is their pro­cess­ing.

The lat­est HCX pro­cess­ing en­gine they carry has been de­vel­oped via a com­bi­na­tion of the ex­pe­ri­ence of

Pana­sonic’s pro mon­i­tor di­vi­sion, Pana­sonic’s Hol­ly­wood Lab­o­ra­tory, ma­jor Hol­ly­wood mas­ter­ing stu­dios, and Pana­sonic’s old plasma TV prow­ess.

They also fea­ture more so­phis­ti­cated colour look up ta­ble (LUT) sys­tems than Pana­sonic’s pre­vi­ous sets and mark the first time an OLED TV has sup­ported the new HDR10+ type of high dy­namic range.

Par­tic­u­larly strik­ing dur­ing the time I’ve man­aged to spend watch­ing the FZ950 in ac­tion is its new ‘dy­namic LUT’ sys­tem. This en­ables the screens to con­stantly an­a­lyse the con­tent of the im­age (ev­ery 100ms) and draw the best val­ues from its new ul­tra-pow­er­ful LUT sys­tem, rather than just ap­ply­ing a sin­gle set LUT to the film’s en­tire run­ning time. As well as de­liv­er­ing con­sis­tently more nat­u­ral, de­tailed colours, this dy­namic LUT ap­proach boosts both the bright­ness and sharp­ness of HDR pic­tures. And not by a lit­tle bit, ei­ther: the dif­fer­ence

com­pared with 2016 mod­els dur­ing head to head com­par­isons was sub­stan­tial, and made the screens’ HDR pic­tures look con­sid­er­ably more, well, HDR.

Also tak­ing HDR to an­other level is the new sup­port for the HDR10+ dy­namic range sys­tem. HDR10+ adds ex­tra scene by scene in­for­ma­tion to the HDR sig­nal to help screens op­ti­mize the way they han­dle it, and it seemed to de­liver a clear dif­fer­ence with a spe­cially pre­pared HDR10+ clip of Alien Covenant.

The dy­namism of this se­quence in Alien Covenant seemed to ben­e­fit con­sid­er­ably from HDR10+.

Dur­ing the scene in the load­ing bay where Daniels tries to jet­ti­son the alien into space, the com­bi­na­tion of stark white on black light­ing and hun­dreds of gleam­ing par­ti­cles of glass float­ing through the dark­ness of space looks both spec­tac­u­lar and ex­quis­ite in HDR10+. The dy­namic range seems ex­tended, espe­cially in the bright­est ar­eas, and there seems to be more crisp­ness in those bright­est ar­eas too.

The dy­nam­ics of the Alien Covenant footage are also en­hanced, though, by a marked im­prove­ment in the FZ950’s han­dling of the film’s rich, deep black lev­els. Both screens ben­e­fit from more pro­cess­ing thrown at the dark­est end of the light spec­trum, re­sult­ing in more greyscale re­fine­ment, more shadow de­tail, and more ac­cu­rate colours in the dark­est parts of the pic­ture.

The lat­est HCX pro­cess­ing en­gine they carry has been de­vel­oped via a com­bi­na­tion of the ex­pe­ri­ence of Pana­sonic’s pro mon­i­tor di­vi­sion, Pana­sonic’s Hol­ly­wood Lab­o­ra­tory, ma­jor Hol­ly­wood mas­ter­ing stu­dios, and Pana­sonic’s old plasma TV prow­ess.

This is im­pres­sive in­deed con­sid­er­ing that ‘near black’ per­for­mance was one of the big­gest strengths of Pana­sonic’s pre­vi­ous OLED gen­er­a­tion.

Hand­ily, both Pana­sonic and LG used Kings­man: The Golden Cir­cle dur­ing demo ses­sions of their OLED TVs at the cur­rent CES in Las Ve­gas, and it was in­ter­est­ing to see the dif­fer­ences in ap­proach. Dur­ing the se­quence in Champ’s of­fice to­wards the film’s end, for in­stance, the LG’s pic­tures looked slightly punchier with its high­lights and slight more ag­gres­sive with its colours. How­ever, the Pana­sonic’s pic­tures looked more bal­anced, de­tailed and re­fined - and in do­ing so felt to me as if they were likely track­ing closer to the way the film was mas­tered.

To sum all this up, the FZ950 model has im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly in a num­ber of ar­eas on the al­ready very well re­ceived pic­tures of the pre­de­ces­sor.

Ac­tu­ally, the FZ950, at least, also sounds bet­ter than its EZ1000 equiv­a­lent. The new Tech­nics-de­signed ‘Blade’ sound­bar that forms part of the TV’s desk­top stand (or de­taches for wall hang­ing in­stal­la­tions) is reck­oned to be around 40% more pow­er­ful than the EZ1000’s, and you can clearly hear the ben­e­fits of this in the EZ950’s much more widely dis­persed sound­stage and more dy­namic mid-range.

There’s thank­fully a much meatier feel to the lower mid-range and bass parts of the sound, mean­ing it should sound much more well-rounded and sat­is­fy­ing with ac­tion movie sound tracks.

I said SHOULD sound bet­ter back there be­cause the only demon­stra­tions we were given at the CES were with mu­sic, not movies. But more bass and a fuller midrange should hold good with any source.

I did feel that some of the finest treble de­tails in the sound have per­haps been sac­ri­ficed in the quest for more bass, but over­all the change in tone and power seems to be an over­whelm­ingly pow­er­ful one.

To sum all this up, the FZ950 model has im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly in a num­ber of ar­eas on the al­ready very well re­ceived pic­tures of the pre­de­ces­sor.

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