Panasonic Ultra HD OLED TV Review
- - Phenomenal contrast
- - Great natural colours
- - Soundbar in flagship model
- - Entry-level model lacks Absolute Black Filter
- - Not as bright as LED-backlit rivals
- - No Dolby Vision
Fantastic picture quality and elegant design, but it's hard to ignore LG's rival OLEDs
Australia's OLED television market is no longer a one-horse race, with the Panasonic stable putting forward an Ultra HD thoroughbred to challenge in the lounge room stakes.
LG has has dominated OLED for several years, leading the way when it comes to television picture quality, and Aussies with an eye for detail have backed the screen technology as a winner. Australia has the world's second-highest OLED take-up per capita, after Sweden, and now Panasonic wants a slice of the action (with Sony following close behind).
Panasonic is bringing two Ultra HD OLEDs models to Australia; its flagship EZ1000 series (65-inch $8899, 77-inch $TBA) and the more affordable EZ950 series (55-inch $4199, 65-inch $6599). These prices stack up well against the equivalent LG models.
Thankfully you're not asked to sacrifice picture quality, as both Panasonic models rely on exactly the same OLED panel, although only the EZ1000 features an "Absolute Black Filter" to reduce reflections and screen glare. You'll appreciate it if you regularly watch television in a brightly lit room. As for audio, the flagship OLED features a soundbar built into the base.
Both Panasonic models rely on a thin, elegant panel design with the bottom half of the back of the EZ950 protruding slightly to make room for the television's electronics. The EZ1000 restricts this rear bulge to the bottom quarter of the panel, while offering better cable management.
Brightness and contrast
OLED's lack of a backlight lets it produce perfect blacks without unsightly halos around bright objects on a dark background. The result is phenomenal contrast which contributes to amazing overall picture quality.
Panasonic's OLED panel pumps out 900 nits brightness, roughly on par with LG's OLEDs, making both of them easier to watch in a brightly-lit room than previous generations of OLED. Admittedly this still falls short of LED-backlit televisions like Samsung's QLED, but OLED's ability to display darker shades means there's still enough range to reveal plenty of detail in the brightest highlights rather than blowing out.
Panasonic's OLED doesn't disappoint, with incredible detail in the darkest parts of the picture to let you peer into the deepest shadows. You'll also see the finest stars in the night sky which are lost on televisions with a backlight. Panasonic's OLEDs match LG's ability to reveal the finest details in the shadows, although LG still comes out ever so slightly ahead when looking at detail in the brightest highlights.
High Dynamic Range
The ability to display a bright full moon without compromising on the deep blacks of the night sky allows Panasonic's OLEDs to support the HDR10 High Dynamic Range format used by Netflix, Ultra HD Blu-ray movie discs and some console games.
The overall picture quality sees Panasonic's OLEDs gain Ultra HD Premium certification, but they don't support the Dolby Vision HDR format used by LG which recalibrates the screen for every scene in a movie. A handful of Dolby Vision titles are available on Netflix and it's coming to Ultra HD Blu-ray this year, requiring a compatible disc player. It remains to be seen whether movie-makers will embrace the new format.
Colour and motion
This is where Panasonic's breeding shows through, with remarkably natural and lifelike colours. The televisions have THX 4K certification with a wide range of picture calibration modes, even when displaying HDR content.
If you're a fan of Samsung's vibrant QLED colours you might find Panasonic's OLED slightly understated but it comes down to personal taste. Purists would argue that QLED's eye-catching colours are overdone, adding a little punch to blockbuster action movies but falling short of Panasonic when it comes to doing real life justice.
OLED also eliminates motion blur but viewers with an eye for detail will notice that Panasonic's motion interpolation video processing, dubbed Intelligent Frame Creation, is a little more fickle than LG's when it comes to smoothing out panning shots.
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