So, we brought you a full overview of Panasonic’s 2015 TV line-up a few days ago. Here are our first impressions of the 2015 TVs, HDR, wide color gamut, Firefox OS, Panasonic’s prototype 65” 4K OLED TV, and more.
Hands-on with Panasonic’s 2015 TVs
Panasonic will release a range of different TVs in flat and curved variants - some with HDR, most without. Ultra HD is the big theme for Panasonic in 2015. There is still no announcement regarding OLED, but Panasonic once again showcased a 65” 4K OLED TV at the event. We will get back to that in a bit.
The TVs are generally pretty with different stand designs based on the model. Most of the TVs are very slim and the higher-end models use nice materials such as aluminum.
Panasonic’s LCD TVs certainly look more modern that Panasonic’s plasma TV used to, and will look great in a family living room. The curved TVs are slightly thicker and will be more expensive that their flat counterpart, Panasonic says.
The new Firefox OS platform is a major improvement over Panasonic’s old TV platform with an emphasis on “a great user experience”. It delivers on that promise with a smooth and fast interface that makes a lot of sense. It is so simple that most will have no trouble navigating it, and that it a good thing.
However, few apps are available at the time of writing and not all of the old apps will be converted and ready for launch. Instead, you will be able to use the existing apps without all the optimizations in Firefox OS.
It is hard to judge picture quality at a scheduled event where all TVs are carefully set up to look great (which they did). But Panasonic had also set up some HDR and wide color gamut demos that were interesting as it gave us a glimpse in the future of TV where pictures are brighter, colors more true to nature, and black tones are more detailed.
Netflix and Panasonic announced that Netflix’s HDR 4K streams will be supported on Panasonic’s high-end TVs later this year. At the event Panasonic used Netflix’s Marco Polo series to demonstrate HDR.
HDR on Panasonic’s TVs
Panasonic stressed that it was using a prototype HDR TV, and that the 8 series models will receive a software update later this year to enable HDR once the industry has come to an agreement on a standard and the best practical approach. Still, the HDR video looked impressive. The photo here does not really capture the full effect, but generally we noticed the HDR effects in the brighter skies, and generally a wider dynamic range in pictures.
HDR looks more real and less like a picture in a frame. However, at times it was simply too bright, for example on a full white background with the red Netflix logo. Panasonic told us that this is one area that the industry is trying to address. You do not want eye-burning brightness every time a white frame comes on.
By now, we are pretty much convinced that HDR will have a future in the living room, but the industry needs to approach it with caution; use HDR only when it makes sense. We have now seen several demos, and the best example of great HDR content is probably Life of Pi, but Marco Polo also looks great. Panasonic will support the open HDR standard and has no current plans to support Dolby Vision.
A wider color gamut and OLED
Panasonic also wanted to demonstrate how it can increase the color gamut with its high-end TVs. Panasonic claims that its TVs can reproduce 98% of the DCI color gamut of movie theatres that is significantly bigger than the Rec.709 color gamut used in HD TVs. They also claim that quantum dot TVs typically reach only 92% of DCI and that their own phosphor-based solution is more energy efficient.
We have no way to confirm those claims at this point, but we did have a chance to see it in action and the colors from a wider color gamut surely look great. With a wider color gamut, next-generation TVs can reproduce some of the colors that are impossible to reproduce today, for example Coca Cola red. Panasonic compared its CX800 to a small-size professional OLED studio monitor (from Sony) as you can in the photo, and wanted to show us that it is approaching OLED picture quality with a LCD panel. And yes it can, but the OLED still looked considerably better (also several times more expensive).
However, once again we have to stress that you will not benefit from DCI unless you can get your hands on content graded in DCI. Current status on the consumer market: close to 0%.
Speaking of OLED, Panasonic once again exhibited its 65-inch 4K OLED TV and it continues to impress us. It was simply the best-looking TV at the show. If you have already experienced one of the new 4K OLED TVs this is probably not a surprise to you, and Panasonic appears to agree. They continue to assure us that they are committed to launching an OLED TV, and they told us that a launch by the end of 2015 is a “maybe”. We will believe it when we see it, but our fingers are surely crossed.
A wireless sound system
One last thing we wanted to mention is Panasonic’s wireless audio system for TVs. It is not the first of its kind and will certainly not be the last. It is now easier to connect surround speakers to your TV than ever without speaker cables, but you will obviously still need a power cable for each speaker.
You can add more Panasonic multi-room speakers to a setup as you please, and it is certainly an upgrade over the built-in TV speakers. To connect the system you need either the ALL70 soundbar or the ALL30 speakerboard as these act as a hub for the system. The functionality is still not built directly into the TVs.
Panasonic did not say specifically, but it appears that you can use the speakers with other brands of TVs, too.
Panasonic’s new TVs will launch in spring and summer, depending on the model. Prices have not been announced. Follow the link for information about Panasonic’s 2015 TV line-up.