Panasonic will introduce two new, more affordable OLED TVs as well a series of mid-range LCD TVs. FZ950 and FZ800 are also the first OLED TVs to support the HDR10+ format. Later this year, Panasonic will bring Alexa and Google Assistant to its 2018 TVs. FlatpanelsHD brings you the full overview of Panasonic’s 2018 TV line-up.
There is no new LCD flagship for 2018. The Japanese company has repeatedly said that it views OLED much like it viewed plasma. Self-emitting display technology has pixel-accurate luminance and color control so like last year OLED will be used exclusively in Panasonic’s high-end TVs.
The two new FZ950 and FZ800 OLED ranges will be available in 55 and 65-inch sizes. The current 77-inch EZ1000 will carry over into 2018. Panasonic confirms that FZ950 and FZ800 have the exact same picture quality. They both have the latest panel with the company’s best anti-reflective filter (sans magenta tint) and the HCX video processor. What sets them apart is the powerful Blade speaker, and thus design, in FZ950.
Panasonic confirms that FZ950 and FZ800 have the exact same picture quality
We recently received a quick demonstration of the new Blade speaker in FZ950 side-by-side with last year’s EZ1000. It now has deeper bass with more depth and width. To us, it sounded like a real improvement. Panasonic says that it is 40% more powerful and tuned by Technics. There is a small Technics logo in the lower right corner. Both TVs will also come with the silver-colored premium remote.
Panasonic continues to shun Dolby Vision – at least on its TVs. It has previously referred to Dolby Vision as a “black box” in that sense that Dolby retains full control of some video processing tasks. Instead, Panasonic has partnered with Samsung to put it weight behind the open HDR10+ format that also employs dynamic metadata to optimize HDR video playback. FZ950 and FZ800 will be the first OLED TVs to support HDR10+ and Panasonic will additionally partner with Amazon to make the streaming giant’s full HDR catalog available in living rooms via the app that will receive HDR10+ support later this year.
To go along with the new shiny OLED TVs, Panasonic will introduce three UHD Blu-ray players that support HDR10+. There are still no HDR10+ discs available but 20th Century Fox and Warner have committed. The twist here is that two of these UHD Blu-ray players will also support Dolby Vision, making them the first combo Dolby Vision / HDR10+ players available on the market. There are currently some 30 Dolby Vision discs available. However, since there is no support in Panasonic’s TVs, these discs will fall back on the base HDR10 layer. More information on the new UHD Blu-ray players is available here.
All of Panasonic’s 2018 4K TVs will support HDR10, HLG, and HDR10+. The former is the base format to ensure compatibility. HLG is a HDR format for live broadcast and streaming. Specifically for the 2018 OLED TVs, Panasonic explains that it has worked to improve picture quality in mainly two areas; the brightest tones (better detail in highlights) and better definition in shadow details. By implementing a new dynamic 3D LUT (look up table) it can allocate more bits to either end of the scale, depending on the scene and type of content. Panasonic will also continue to partner with colorists in Hollywood to make sure that its OLED TVs are fine-tuned. Or as the company puts it: “Hollywood to your home”.
Support for HDR10, HLG, and HDR10+
The Japanese company has had a strange and unsteady run when it comes to “Smart TV”. For years, it insisted on developing a platform in-house dubbed ‘My Home Screen’. It was a cluttered mess, layered on top of the 1990s-style TV menus, and it added almost nothing of value. It was mostly a distraction for the company but when it finally admitted defeat, it chose the most unlikely partner in Mozilla with its Firefox OS. As expected, Firefox OS did not stand a chance against Amazon, Apple, and Google’s TV platforms. Mozilla threw in the towel and many had expected Panasonic to find a new software partner.
But Panasonic didn’t. To everyone’s surprise it once again took development in-house, this time by continuing down the path that Mozilla started with Firefox OS. The Firefox OS platform has since been renamed to ‘My Home Screen’ again and this year’s models will include a refreshed 3.0 version where apps and shortcuts have been moved to a bottom bar (see photo below). The TVs support 4K HDR streaming from Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube but other than that there are relatively few apps available and the company is facing an uphill battle in the competition against more advanced TV operating systems like Apple’s tvOS and Google’s Android TV.
Later this year, Panasonic will add support for Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant to all of its 2018 OLED and LCD TVs via a software update – in the UK and Germany initially. This will enable users to speak voice commands to their TVs and control video playback.
Switching our attention to the new LCD TVs, it is clear that LCD technology is increasingly being pushed down into lower price segments. OLED is expanding from the top into the lower high-end and possibly upper mid-range later in 2018. The new FX780 will incorporate Panasonic’s most advanced LCD technology in 2018 that encompasses 4K resolution, an HCX video processor, edge LED backlighting, and HDR compatibility (including HDR10+).
FX780 and FX740 are also “extremely thin, fashioned in glass and beautiful to look at from any angle”, the company said. The more affordable FX700 and FX600 ranges will offer a “switch design”, meaning that you can attach the two feet at two different fixing points to make the base either wide or narrow. This allows you to place a large TV on small furniture.
3D is still dead. None of Panasonic’s TVs will support it. The company has also completely phased out curved TVs. In fact, it happened last year. The curve was a short-lived fad.
After Panasonic discounted plasma TVs, it also pulled out of the US. The 2018 TV line-up will not make it to USA either.
FX780 and up will have a twin tuner built-in. This enables you to record one channel while watching another. You just need to connect an external USB hard drive. In addition, Panasonic offers ‘in-house streaming’, meaning that you can stream recordings and TV programs from one TV in the house to another via the home network. FX780 and up will serve as servers for this functionality, whereas the cheaper more will act only as clients (receivers).
The TVs also come with built-in WiFi and comply with the VESA wall bracket standards. In addition, they support PIP/PAP and DLNA as well Control4 and Creston that lets you integrate the TV into IP home control systems.
Lastly, Panasonic will sell a few HD models that are more or less stripped for features. 4K has already become the norm.
Panasonic’s 2018 LCD TVs will start shipping in Europe from April/May, depending on the format and model. The 2018 OLED TVs will start shipping in May/June. We will update the overview as we receive and confirm more specific details and prices. You can tell 2018 TVs apart from previous years’ models by the letter “F" in the model name (i.e. FZ800 OLED or FX780 LCD). F = 2018, E = 2017, D = 2016, C = 2015, A = 2014. The company skipped “B”.
Panasonic FZ950 OLED
FZ950 is Panasonic’s new flagship OLED TV with an improved ‘Blade speaker’ over last year’s EZ1000. It will be available in 55 and 65” sizes, with the 77” EZ1000 carrying over into 2018.