Panasonic unveiled its first OLED TV at IFA 2015 in Berlin. The TV will not be cheap but it is surely impressive. We spent some quality time with the amazing 4K HDR enabled OLED TV. Here are our impressions.
A little history
Panasonic is not afraid to compare its first OLED TV to its now-discontinued to plasma TVs. In fact, in the dark room the company had placed the CZ950 OLED next to its ZT60 plasma TV, which is widely considered - together with the Pioneer Kuro - the best plasma TV ever made. They have even invented a new marketing word for the level of blackness that OLED can reproduce; “Absolute Black”.
The OLED was exhibited in the open area of IFA, in the backstage area, and in a dark room consisting of several setups designed to demonstrate black levels, HDR and color reproduction. We took the full tour.
Before we dive in, we think it is appropriate to do some reflection. Think over this. It has been less than two years since Panasonic stopped producing and selling plasma TVs. Since then, the industry has moved to 4K and now HDR. Innovation is accelerating. It is a commonly accepted fact that plasma TVs could not hit 4K resolution within EU’s limits for power consumption. But 4K resolution is nothing compared to HDR when talking about energy consumption. Even without energy restrictions, plasma TVs would have had trouble moving to HDR. It had to happen sooner or later.
And so here we are. Panasonic has embraced OLED. Actually, not only embraced but declared its love. OLED represents everything that Panasonic believes in and if you have ever read one of Panasonic’s press releases you will quickly realize that Panasonic’s press release for the CZ950 OLED was almost emotional. Not common for a Japanese company.
Hands-on with Panasonic’s OLED
We arrived at IFA early, which gave us a chance to observe the TVs in the open area of IFA before the hordes arrived. The open floors were illuminated by bright light projectors but the OLED TVs still looked amazing. The surface coating is blank so there are some reflections but black is still pitch black and colors are popping.
As you can see in the photo, the TV looks nice even from the back. It uses “Alcantara“ fabric on the electronics box and all ports are available from the left side (see the last photo). Even after running for several hours the TV still felt quite cool to touch.
We had arranged a tour with four Panasonic representatives later in the day where we got a chance to see the TV in a dark room and in the back room. For some strange reason Panasonic had not hooked up its new prototype Ultra HD Blu-ray player that was hidden in the back room to the OLED TV so let us instead talk about the dark room.
Inside the dark room Panasonic had a set up a demo to compare the CZ950 OLED to a ZT60 plasma and a small Sony professional OLED monitor. The Sony monitor was there for reference because it is what Hollywood studios use to grade 4K HDR content. The intention was to demonstrate how the OLED panel can outperform Panasonic’s best plasma TV.
The result was not surprising. Black is black on OLED. ZT60 is also capable of reproducing very deep blacks but in a side-by-side setup you will see the difference. Shadow detail accuracy on the OLED was way better, too. As you might know, plasma panels cannot reproduce dark grey tones so manufacturers used dithering (pixels changing between two or more shades to reproduce a third). That is why dark grey tones on a plasma TV look “alive” or “nervous”. OLED has no such problem and Panasonic has gone to great lengths to make shadow details look perfect on the OLED, they say.
The OLED has 4K resolution and it shows. Details were more pronounced. Colors were more vivid on the OLED, too. That is not huge surprise since it is capable of reproducing a larger color space (90% DCI P3) but it definitely adds to the picture experience (if you have the content, too). And of course, Panasonic’s OLED TV is capable of reproducing HDR so the dynamic range is wider. It can go much higher in terms of brightness than plasma and it offers more details in shadows and highlights. And maybe even more importantly; it can reproduce highlights and shadows at the same time.
Currently, Panasonic’s OLED panel has a peak brightness of around 400 nits (at 6500 Kelvin). That is not enough to reproduce the full dynamic range of current HDR definitions, but Panasonic, like LG, stressed that HDR is not only about peak brightness. And as we have said before, we can comfortably say that the best HDR pictures we have seen are on OLED.
Panasonic did not show a whole lot of motion in the dark room so we need to get the TV in for testing to evaluate that but all in all the CZ950 OLED is simply amazing. Panasonic was not afraid to compare it to its top-performing plasma TV, and we are not afraid to call it better than every plasma TV out there even after such short a visit. A full test will confirm how much better.
A quick note on the panel. Yes, it is an LG OLED panel. Panasonic says that it is “custom-made” and that it can reproduce 90% DCI, but just to be clear; LG is also selling curved 65” 4K HDR OLED TVs that can reproduce the same 90% DCI color gamut. It is LG who has made OLED TVs in 2015 possible.
Panasonic’s TV is obviously curved, which is not a popular choice, but with such amazing picture quality we can ignore that fact - at least for now. Panasonic will launch flat OLED TVs later.
Panasonic is certainly a believer and so are we. Look forward to a full review.