What Hi-Fi (UK)
Panasonic TVS rather fly under the radar these days. If LG and Samsung are the cool kids in class, and Philips is the slightly weird extrovert who wears colourful trousers and just about gets away with it, Panasonic is the geeky kid in the corner who doesn’t really talk to anyone, but quietly gets on with their work.
A Panasonic TV isn’t flashy or super-stylish. It doesn’t have a ring of lights around it and it doesn’t turn into a picture frame when you’re not watching. It just goes about the business of producing the best picture possible; isn’t that all you really want from your TV? The HZ1000 was the first model we tested from the company’s 2020 OLED range, and we had high hopes for it, not least because the best OLED TV we had tested in 2019 was a Panasonic. Could this model follow that same form?
There’s generally little to differentiate one OLED from another, particularly with the stand or feet detached, but Panasonic does buck the trend for debadging by including the company name on a strip below the bottom bezel.
The stand is unusual, too, in that it swivels and has a footprint that’s just 39cm wide. That makes it a bit easier to find a position in the room for it and a piece of furniture for it to stand upon. By comparison, the Philips 55OLED805’S feet give it an 80cm-wide footprint, while the LG CX’S pedestal is more than 90cm wide. The Panasonic’s pedestal also combines a low profile with a fairly tall neck to make it more accepting of a soundbar than many rivals.
A bigger enclosure
As this is an OLED, the panel section is particularly thin, but grafted to the back of it is an enclosure that houses all of the set’s processing hardware, connection and speakers. Pretty much every OLED takes this approach (the exceptions are LG’S high-end ‘Wallpaper’ and ‘Rollable’ models) but, by covering almost two thirds of the set’s rear and taking its overall depth measurement to 5.8cm, the Panasonic’s is bigger than most.
The Philips OLED805 is also 5.8cm deep, the Sony A8 is 5.2cm and the LG CX 4.7cm. Perhaps surprisingly, Samsung’s Q90T QLED trumps all of these OLEDS by being just 3.5cm thick, but that is the same thickness at all points – there are no super-slim sections as there are with its OLED rivals.
While this screen has the same HCX Pro Intelligent Processor as the previous gen GZ950 and GZ2000, it also has the latest LG OLED panel and Panasonic’s new Smooth Motion Drive Pro.
Panasonic also joined LG in offering Dolby Vision IQ on its 2020 OLEDS. This new format sees a set’s ambient light sensor work in conjunction with Dolby Vision metadata with the intention of producing the most authentic Dolby Vision performance, regardless of the ambient light in the room. Unlike on LG’S sets, this appears as a dedicated, labelled picture preset that’s selectable in the HZ1000’S menus when an appropriate signal is detected.
As well as Dolby Vision, Panasonic continues to support HDR10+, HLG and standard HDR10. Even now, years after its inception, the value of HDR10+ remains dubious, but it’s nice to have the bases for both it and Dolby Vision covered – which isn’t the case on an LG, Sony or Samsung TV.
Patchy app selection
Panasonic’s app selection isn’t quite as comprehensive, but the major services are there. You get Netflix with full Dolby Vision and Atmos support, and Amazon Prime Video with HDR10+ and Atmos. BBC iplayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5 are present, all wrapped up in the Freeview Play package, and Plex is there if you have a hard drive full of video files that you want to access across your network. Apple TV and Google Play Movies & TV are both missing, though, so you’re pretty much reliant on the unsatisfying Rakuten app for pay-as-you-go movie streaming. The only music-streaming app included is Deezer.
Panasonic is also a bit behind the times when it comes to the HZ1000’S physical connections. The overall complement is perfectly complete – four HDMIS, two USBS, headphone and optical outputs, and satellite and aerial sockets – but the HDMIS are a little behind the times.
While full HDMI 2.1 certification is still disappointingly rare, HDMI 2.1 features are becoming increasingly common nonetheless and the Panasonic offers fewer than most. EARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) and ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) are on board, but HFR (High Frame Rate) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) are not. The lack of VRR will be particularly disappointing to gamers, although the HZ1000 is otherwise a good gaming monitor, with a respectable input lag of around 22ms. Though Panasonic now has a new style remote control, the HZ1000 comes
with the old model, which is rather disappointing given its premium price. This old remote is basic, rather cluttered and has spongy buttons. It gets the job done, but it isn’t really befitting of a TV at this end of the market.
Panasonic’s TV operating system is an odd beast, too, the front end being almost ridiculously simple, and the settings menus seeming somewhat over complicated. Perhaps that’s the point: those who wish to dabble have lots of options, while those who don’t get a straightforward user experience.
We’re actually rather disappointed with the Panasonic’s Dolby
Vision performance. The dedicated Dolby Vision IQ preset is rather dull and dark, and lacks shadow detail even when viewed in a near-pitch-black room. And while most TVS have a Dolby Vision Bright setting that takes the prescribed values for Dolby Vision and brightens the image slightly for more typical home viewing, the HZ1000 instead has a Dolby Vision Vivid that is horrible, and nothing like how we expect Dolby Vision to look.
Thankfully, an HDR10 4K Blu-ray of Blade Runner 2049 reveals the full glory of the HZ1000. Little adjustment is necessary here – using the default Normal preset, we add Sharpness, turn off HDR Auto Brightness and the noise reduction options, and switch Colour Temperature to Cool1. The resulting picture is beautifully balanced, combining most of the punch of LG’S CX with most of the crisp definition and detail of the Philips OLED805.
Out of the darkness
Unlike the Philips (and Sony A9) the Panasonic doesn’t hold back when confronted with an overwhelmingly dark scene with small patches of bright light. When the white text appears on the black screen at the start of the film, it appears far more brightly on the Panasonic than on those rivals.
Further into the film, as K and Joi fly out of the city and towards the orphanage, the ‘Now Leaving Greater Los Angeles’ sign shines brilliantly brightly, and the set digs up lots of the dark detail of the scene that on most sets is lost to the general murk. The Philips delivers more drama with its bolder blacks and more definite edges, but the Panasonic trumps it in terms of punch and insight.
Despite having switched to the Cool1 colour temperature, there’s no lack of vibrancy to the Philips’s colours. Joi’s transparent yellow jacket is actually a touch more vivid on the Panasonic than the Philips, and her skin tone is very similar for tone and subtlety on both.
One area in which you may feel the need to make some further tweaks is the Intelligent Frame Creation motion processing. The default Max is fantastic a lot of the time, producing super-sharp, super-smooth pans and rarely looking unnatural. It’s not flawless, though. There’s quite a lot of fuzz around Sapper Morton’s hand as he withdraws it from the murky water of his protein tank, and around the wipers of K’s car as they battle against torrential rain.
Some people will barely notice these flaws – or will willingly ignore them, arguing that the pros far outweigh the cons – but our preference is to drop Intelligent Frame Creation to minimum. This allows in a little bit of judder and blur at times, but motion is still sharper and smoother than is offered by most rivals, and without any fuzz.
This excellent handling of motion continues as we drop down to the Full HD, non-hdr Blu-ray of The Duchess, as does the set’s general naturalism. Most of the tweaks made to the HDR Normal picture mode are carried over when watching an SDR source and, while that’s not usually ideal, they translate rather well.
There’s a bit of noise that is tempered by dropping Sharpness a little, and those looking to add a bit of Hdr-style punch should test out the Dynamic Range Remaster feature, but the balance is more or less spot on as it is. Colours are rich but realistic, detail levels are excellent, and edges are supremely sharp without ever looking exaggerated. It’s not as bright or vivid as the Philips OLED805 here, but it is more nuanced.
The HZ1000 is an excellent handler of standard-definition content, too, with even old episodes of Spaced looking clean, controlled and naturally balanced. Few sets can handle low-quality signals as well as this Panasonic, so if you have a much-loved library of DVDS, it should go right to the top of your shortlist.
The HZ1000 has a fairly basic, 30W speaker system but it sounds clear and direct and is particularly good at projecting dialogue. There’s a crisp lightness to the delivery and a surprising degree of dynamic subtlety that’s good at conveying the emotion in a voice.
That said, it’s lacking the weight, scale and spaciousness of the best in class, and sounds a little harsh when pushed to high volumes. In short, the sound is better suited to everyday TV than movie night.
The Panasonic TX-55HZ1000B is an absolutely brilliant TV. It’s just so balanced in its delivery: punchy but natural, sharp but not exaggerated, vibrant but controlled. It makes the most of 4K HDR but it also does a superb job with lower resolution, SDR content. It’s motion handling is fantastic, too.
It’s a shame that none of the Dolby Vision presets feels quite right, and we would have liked to have seen some more advanced HDMI features. The supplied remote really isn’t befitting of a TV of this quality, either.
Those are fairly minor flaws, though. A slightly bigger one is that the HZ1000 is currently more expensive than its obvious rivals, and those TVS are all excellent, too – better than the Panasonic in some ways. Still, this is undeniably one of the best TVS you can currently buy. If you’re in the market for a premium OLED, you really should check it out.
“The Panasonic TX-55HZ1000B is an absolutely brilliant TV. It makes the most of 4K HDR, but also does a superb job with standarddefinition content”