Panasonic has sprinkled stardust over its 2019 OLED TV line-up by launching the new flagship GZ2000, which features a customized OLED panel, optimized by Panasonic's engineers, besides new features such as Dolby Vision HDR support as well as Dolby Atmos support and speakers.
Panasonic GZ2000 is available in 55 and 65-inch sizes in Europe. We have the 65-inch version.
Also read: Panasonic 2019 TV line-up
Price and retailers:
As per tradition, Panasonic's TV arrives in a gigantic cardboard box, which would seem to suggest that the TV is larger than it actually is. We have the 65-inch model and after unboxing it we immediately noticed how it visually differs from other recent OLED TVs that we have tested. GZ2000 is equipped with a speaker system developed in partnership with Technics. It comprises a soundbar, sort of, underneath the TV plus a speaker enclosure that takes up a significant part of the back of the TV, packing up-firing units for Dolby Atmos.
GZ2000 brings back fond memories of the long-gone Pioneer plasma TV that we for many years after the death of plasma kept around as our reference. GZ2000 is almost as heavy as the 50-inch Pioneer, too, but of course considerably larger at 65 inches diagonally. A few other not-so-welcomed memories were also brought up because, like many TVs of the past, GZ2000 has several rear-facing I/O ports, including 2 HDMI ports, SPDIF, all analog input, and 2 USB ports. This complicates wall mounting, making it impossible to access these ports if you use a slim wall bracket. Why do TV makers continue to ignore this issue?
On the side of the TV we found a single USB port, LAN, 2 HDMI ports and tuner inputs so it is possible to access at least some of the input ports when the TV is in a slim wall-mounting configuration.
The input/output ports on the back of the TV can be hidden behind a plastic cover, which is most useful when the TV is placed on furniture. The stand provides a solid foundation and brings up total weight to a hefty 40 kilograms, of which the stand weighs 6 kilograms. Dismounting the stand will still leave you with a 34 kilogram TV so be sure to find a wall bracket - and wall - that provides adequate support.
When placing a hand on the panel, GZ2000 feels cooler than other OLED TVs that we have tested, which is a result of Panasonic's modification of that panel that involves using a metal back plate to transport heat away from the panel. Otherwise the display panel mostly resemble competitors' OLED panels, with a black bezel and the same type of anti-reflective filter, which is not as effective as Samsung's latest filter but still better than the filters in most other TVs. The nuance of the reflections has shifted from a slightly reddish nuance in last year's panel to a slightly more bluish nuance this year.
Since this is a premium TV, Panasonic has bundled its premium remote, which we know from other high-end Panasonic TVs of the past. We will get back to that in a moment.
User experience & features
Panasonic continues to bet on its own TV platform, morphed from the failed Firefox OS into My Home Screen, now in version 4.0. The latest update will continue to be exclusive to new models, meaning that previous models - even flagship TVs - will not receive the new software.
"No AirPlay 2?"
Unlike its competitors, Panasonic does little to promote its smart TV platform - and rightly so. My Home Screen is by far the least ambitious attempt to create a TV platform amongst European TV makers, and it is clear that Panasonic has a much smaller team working on its platform than for example Samsung (Tizen). In our region, we have access to the most popular apps, including Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube. This year, we have also gained access to the Rakuten TV app, which offers movies in up to 4K HDR.
Panasonic has not partnered with Apple to equip its TVs with AirPlay 2, like several of its competitors. It is a little unfortunate but on the other hand not a big deal since we would recommend that you buy and connect a media box like the Apple TV anyway. Many apps are still missing so if you are transitioning from cable or satellite to streaming TV you should put you faith in a more feature-rich and better supported TV platform than My Home Screen.
If you on the other hand just want a little extra on top of your cable TV bundle you have access to a handful of streaming apps that are available as shortcuts in 'Home' menu, which has been repositioned as a bottom menu. Much like Sony TVs, you can now assign apps to shortcuts and mix them with shortcuts to TV channels and more in the bottom menu. Switching to the full app home screen, however, will illustrate the lack of breadth in Panasonic's app selection. It may be worth noting that Disney has no current plans to support Panasonic's My Home Screen for Disney+ either.
You will encounter some confusing elements as you navigate the system. For example, some input sources such as USB or networked devices do not show up in the "AV" menu that can be called up with the remote control (and added to the 'Home' menu). In the past, we have been pointing out Panasonic's failure to deeply integrate Firefox, now My Home Screen, with its legacy TV platform underneath. The choices made and limitations of this two-part system leads to user confusion when navigating the menu, and GZ2000 does nothing to remedy any of that.
While My Home Screen may lack some of the fanciness of Tizen, webOS or Android, it is on the other hand relatively snappy. We did not encounter the same stutter or pauses as we have encountered with Tizen. Venturing into the more advanced menus will give you tons of options, including picture adjustment options. The enthusiast will appreciate all of this choice as it gives him the freedom to tweak the picture but for most users it may be a bit overwhelming.
Since GZ2000 is a premium TV, Panasonic has included its premium remote control, which has a metal top surface with backlit buttons, and a soft plastic underbelly. The company has added some weight to heighten the sense of quality, and the buttons have tactile feedback, making them pleasurable to operate. Panasonic's premium remote control is miles better than the plastic remotes that come bundled with most TVs.
The button layout, however, is as chaotic as ever with a myriad of buttons, most of which are ambiguous as they have different functions depending on where you find yourself in the menu structure. The majority of the features found in GZ2000 could easily have been simplified into a button layout akin to what Samsung has done with its simpler remote control. It would obviously require a complete redesign of the remote and user interface in Panasonic's TVs but that is long overdue anyway.
The remote lets you control external devices via HDMI CEC, too. Panasonic has not ventured down the path of more comprehensive universal control like LG and Samsung in their latest TVs. In that sense, external device control resembles that of TVs from Sony and other TV makers relying on standardized HDMI CEC.
The remote control relies on infrared to control the TV and since there is no microphone built into the remote Panasonic does not rely on a secondary Bluetooth connection for any functions. Panasonic has not equipped its TVs with built-in voice assistants either. It is possible to link the TVs to an external device with voice assistant capabilities; specifically Alexa or Google Assistant devices (or an app on your smartphone). This method is a simple control scheme, meaning that the TV will not display the results of the voice commands (i.e. a list of movies). Instead, it is limited to basic voice commands such as "turn on/off TV", "change to HDMI1 input on TV", "open Netflix on TV", "set volume to 40 on TV" etc. In our opinion, this is not very useful and as an example you cannot ask the TV to start playback of a specific TV show on Netflix.
TV & audio
The TV channel interface is one area of the user interface that Panasonic has actually refreshed this year. As we have pointed out in the past, Panasonic's TV Guide had remained largely unchanged for many years. This year, the company has refreshed the look by reducing the 'guide' area at the bottom (also removing the space-consuming pictogram), thus dedicating more screen real estate to actual channel info in the TV Guide. It is a more streamlined look and a welcomed update in my opinion.
Other than that TV channel features remain unchanged. Like other Panasonic TVs, GZ2000 is equipped with a dual tuner (and two CI ports), which also supports Picture-by-Picture (PbP). However, PbP does not support all of the picture modes in the TV.
It still takes several seconds to change the channel, which is something most people have had to come to grips with after the transition from analog to digital. If you want a richer TV channel experience you still have to rely on TV broadcasters' set-top boxes. Panasonic's TVs also support HbbTV.
Switching our attention to sound, GZ2000 is equipped with a Technics-tuned soundbar combined with a solution for up-firing audio, designed to unlock some of the potential in Dolby Atmos. The TV is categorized as a 3.0.2-channel system, meaning 3 front-facing channels (left, center, right) plus 2 up-firing units. The headphone jack doubles as an output for an active subwoofer allowing the user to expand the system to a 3.1.2 configuration. Unfortunately, we did not get our hands on a subwoofer in time but adding a subwoofer will obviously add lots of punch. How much will depend on the specific subwoofer. During TV set-up, the user is prompted to fine-tine the up-firing units for Atmos via a new menu section. This is in mainly an exercise in adjusting timing relative to the other channels.
It is worth adding that the optical SPDIF in GZ2000 is, unfortunately, still limited to 2.0 stereo audio output
Even without a subwoofer, the sound system in GZ2000 makes a difference compared to the typical TVs with weak built-in units. GZ2000 supports Atmos via built-in apps as well as HDMI ARC (but not lossless via eARC). Overall, the system delivers an expanded sound stage but it obviously fails to deliver the full, clear-cut Atmos experience. Still, GZ2000 definitely delivers a more encompassing audio experience (it also supports up-conversion for non-Atmos sources), which adds to the sense of immersion. In addition, it manages to separate left and right channels - at least to some degree. GZ2000 does not support optional rear speakers, which is a shame since it would be a good way to improve the audio experience without having to invest a huge sum.
As for the speaker system as a whole, it lacks definition in midtones, and treble often transitions into shrill territory, especially if you dare to put on music rather than movies. The soundbar has natural limits to how high you can adjust volume so you will never get the full cinema experience with GZ2000's soundbar. In my opinion the built-in soundbar is not powerful enough to displace a dedicated cinema system and I think many viewers would be better served by a $700-1000 external soundbar. On the other hand, the soundbar in GZ2000 is definitely better than a cheap soundbar and the majority of integrated TV speakers. Consider adding a subwoofer to GZ2000.
As usual GZ2000 comes loaded with a plethora of picture modes - surely an overwhelming situation for most viewers. Several of these picture modes hit quite close to the reference but for the typical viewer it is hard to know which one to pick. The remote control lets you assign a specific picture mode to a dedicated button, which is useful but it does little to not solve the overload situation.
We used Professional 1 as the basis for our calibration. This mode is quite accurate and through some minor adjustments we managed to remove red tint and fine-tune the gamma curve. We also used the opportunity to lift the gamme curve slightly at around 30 IRE, which is one of the fine-tuning adjustment options that Panasonic offers. The picture purist should calibrate his TV to get the best result but we are talking about very small deviations here.
Panasonic supports AutoCal via Portrait Display's CalMAN software and GZ2000 has a new, more advanced version of this feature that no longer requires an external pattern generator to be connected via HDMI. Instead, it can generate the required patterns internally. We previously released a video on our YouTube channel to demonstrate how it works. Panasonic's AutoCal still uses the normal user-facing picture menu options rather than the underlying 3D LUT (like LG OLED).
As for HDR, GZ2000 tracks the EOTF curve almost perfectly all the way up to 1000 nits (spoiler...) and it represents the most accurate representation of HDR luminance that we have seen to date, without having to rely on AutoCal for adjustments. The modest roll-off effect that you see near 1000 nits is necessary to avoid a full 'hard clip' of all highlight details above the panel's capabilities. While some argue in favor of a hard clip, we consider this the best approach for a consumer TV. GZ2000 has roughly the same coverage of the DCI-P3 color space as other OLED TVs. Panasonic's modification of the OLED panel is carried out with the sole purpose of increasing luminance.
Note: We include calibration settings only for SDR, not HDR. For our calibration we have deactivated the ambient light sensor that automatically adjusts the backlight setting according to your environment. You may prefer to have it enabled.
If you read the calibration section, we spoiled the surprise. So let's start with HDR picture quality, specifically GZ2000's ace up the sleeve in the form of higher brightness. GZ2000 is the first OLED TV capable of hitting 1000 nits peak brightness. It can maintain this level of brightness up to a 10% window (10% of the screen area), while it drops to around 630 nits with a 25% window. To put that into perspective, Sony's latest A9G OLED has peak brightness of around 650 nits.
You may be wondering if it even constitutes a difference and yes, it does. Comparing GZ2000 side-by-side to a Sony OLED, GZ2000 packs serious punch. It is clear that GZ2000 is capable of maintaining a high brightness level with larger coverage area than other OLED TVs on the market today. Together with pixel-level luminance control it is an ideal partner for HDR video.
Furthermore, GZ2000 adheres almost perfectly to the reference EOTF curve from start to end. Panasonic has opted for a modest roll-off; almost a 'hard clip' at the top end. This does not leave the panel with much headroom to resolve highlight details in content mastered to brightness above 1000 nits, which also brings us to our main point of criticism with GZ2000 (yes, so you can skip to the end after this). In highlight details we spotted occasional banding effects, mostly visible in sunset scenes (as seen below). If you look closely at the details around the sun (please ignore that the camera struggles to capture the full dynamic range), you will see some hard gradient transitions.
With that being said, I must emphasize that I almost never spotted the issue on real content, meaning HDR video.
Our generic test patterns revealed the issue (see example to the right of the text) but my advice would be to not let it deter you. It is not a serious issue in any way and GZ2000 delivers superb HDR performance in all respects and easily takes the top spot in this area. Of course, HDR is more than just peak brightness. At least as important is the panel's handling of shadow details; and once again GZ2000 did not disappoint. It has exemplary control over dark grey tones, leading to no shadow details getting lost in the darkness. The shadow detail issues affecting Panasonic's FZ8000 OLED are gone and GZ2000 now resolves all steps on the grey tone scale.
To round off the subject of shadow details, let us examine panel homogeneity. Vertical banding and other homogeneity issues have plagued OLED TVs since the inception but GZ2000 is almost flawless in the area. We had to take long exposure shots of 1% and 4% grey to spot anything that can remotely be characterized as "clouding" or "banding", and even then the results are significantly better than what any of our previous OLED TV samples have managed even at shorter exposure times. We did not observe tint on bright full-screen colors either. A very convincing result.
This year, Panasonic has added support for Dolby Vision HDR, in addition to existing support for the HDR10+ format. If you are confused about the many HDR terms out there, read our latest article on HDR. Panasonic is one of the founding members of the HDR10+ alliance, and many had probably expected the company to resist Dolby Vision for a longer time but nevertheless we are happy to see the company add support for Dolby Vision. Mainly because the library of Dolby Vision content is multiple times broader than that of HDR10+, and despite several companies vowing to support HDR10+ at some point in the future, Dolby Vision has established a clear lead in physical discs and on streaming platforms.
As shown in the calibration section, some of the built-in picture modes adhere nicely to the picture reference so it easy to get GZ2000 to deliver fairly accurate colors and great picture quality. It impacts user friendliness that there are so many picture modes to choose from but we hope that buyers of GZ2000 are well-versed in the subject, at least enough to know not to use the Standard or Dynamic picture mode. That would be a shame.
Game mode can be activated independently, meaning that it can be activated for all picture modes. You are not required to switch to 'Game' picture mode to get the benefits of lower input lag. This is useful because the dedicated 'Game' picture mode expands the color space to DCI-P3 for SDR content, leading to inaccurate colors, which affects the game experience as well as the mood of the game. If you own a game console without support for Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) it is recommended that you adjust the dedicated 'Game' picture mode, too. It comes in handy that Panasonic lets you assign shortcuts to picture modes to a button on the remote control.
Last year's Panasonic LCD TVs reached record-low input lag levels but the company's OLED models are not as fast. We measured input lag to 21 ms in Game mode. That is nothing to sneeze at - it is in fact very good for a TV - but it is not as low as the Korean brands' latest TVs.
Looking at HDMI 2.1 support in general, GZ2000 lacks the HDMI 2.1 ports of LG's latest OLED TVs. It does not support any optional HDMI 2.1 features other than ALLM, meaning that there is no support for eARC (enhanced ARC), VRR (variable refresh rate), HFR (High Frame Rate) or QMS (Quick Media Shift). QMS is a derivate of VRR so without VRR a TV is very unlikely to support it.
Another discipline where we continue to find differences between top TV manufacturers is in motion. We are not fans of algorithms for motion smoothing, and with the recent focus on "Filmmakers' intent" we are likely to see at least some TV makers focus on having no motion smoothing in the future.
Having said that, we think it is important to add that there are situations where it can be an advantage to make the picture appear sharper in motion. Such as sports. Furthermore, displays with ultra-low response time, like OLED, "suffer" from an effect that can best be described as the 'stroboscope effect'. It is quite simple actually. With low frame rate video (24p), especially in scenes with fast motion and bright images, the ultra-low response time can lead to a stroboscope-like effect. Perhaps controversially, I personally prefer to have a little compensation added to these situations to avoid this effect, but unfortunately not all motion systems are up to the task. Panasonic's IFC (Intelligent Frame Creation) motion system is decent at its lowest setting, and the bit of stutter that you may encounter can be removed by either manual adjustment or by using the 'Minimum' option. Unfortunately, this introduces a different type mild stutter in the form of random insertion of an extra frame, which makes the image occasionally appear still for a split second. The BFI (Black Frame Insertion) system in the OLED panel is as useless as always. We are still waiting for LG Display to unlock the 120Hz BFI system that was removed from the 2019 OLED panel in the eleventh hour.
The availability of 4K content is improving fast these years but for TV broadcast there is not a lot to be found. This means that most broadcast content will still have to be upscaled to 4K. Most modern TVs pass our upscaling tests and Panasonic's HCX Pro processor is no exception so even your HD video sources, including your Blu-ray discs in 1080p SDR, will look good on GZ2000. But of course, in this situation the weakest link of the chain will always be source quality.
OLED continues to be at the center of a sometimes heated debate about burn-in. Since OLED is a self-emitting display technology, where the light source ages during use, it is indisputable that each light emitting diode will age at a different pace, meaning inhomogeneously, if you abuse the screen by constantly displaying static content. The real question is "how much does it take"? We cannot answer that question during our time 2-3 week review period but curiously GZ2000 exhibits different behavior than other OLED TVs. Normally, we can provoke temporary retention through the use of our test patterns for calibration. This retention will disappear again soon after. GZ2000 seemed almost immune to our torture tests. Even after long test sessions with a 1000 nits static window there was no retention to be found on the panel - not even on a grey verification pattern. Of course, it is far too early to conclude that Panasonic has cracked the code but one possible explanation could be that since the panel is equipped with a more effective heat dissipation solution, cool off time for the diodes is reduced. If this is indeed the case, the risk of burn-in is most likely be reduced, too, since ageing of diodes is greatly accelerated the warmer they get (that's why accelerated tests typically take place at elevated temperatures).
Like other OLED TVs, GZ2000 comes with firmware that acts as a screen saver solution. One feature is the infamous “dimming” function that detects static content on-screen and dims brightness if it is deemed critical. The problem with this algorithm - which appears to be implemented on the panel level - is that there is no option to turn it off, even if you are willing to take the chance. GZ2000 will dim its panel in both SDR and HDR mode, if you let static content remain on the screen. With SDR content, GZ2000 reduces panel brightness by approx. 20% after 5 minutes. With HDR content, panel brightness continues to drop until it almost hits the floor - or you change the content. Below, you see a graph that maps the dimming algorithm in action. After 5 minutes you can see that panel brightness drops significantly, and then returns to normal as we call up the TV's settings menu.
As mentioned, this algorithm appears to run on the panel level so it most likely applies to all brands of OLED TVs (since LG Display is the only supplier of OLED TV panels). The challenge with the dimming algorithm is not necessarily that it exists but rather that it tends to confuse video in motion - i.e. sports with a static scoreboard or a console game with a HUD - for static content (and it then assumes that the viewer has left the TV), leading it to dim the panel when it should not. The algorithm has been improved since the early implementations that were far too aggressive but you may still encounter the issue from time to time, depending on your usage patterns.
If you resisted skipping to the conclusion, you may have noticed that it is difficult not to get excited about GZ2000. We had actually not expected it to improve much compared to other OLED TVs this year and last year, since OLED picture quality tends to be quite consistent across brands. But with its new GZ2000 flagship TV, and its modified OLED panel, Panasonic surprised us.
Panasonic has created the first OLED TV that can hit 1000 nits peak brightness and maintain it in a relatively large section of the screen (compared to other OLED TVs), while at the same time delivering exemplary shadow detail performance. And despite its higher brightness, Panasonic appears to have further reduced the risk of image retention (we cannot comment on burn-in) in an effort to assure buyers. Our only picture-related complaints would be that we spotted some mild banding in HDR highlights and the recurring problem of random stutter when the IFC system is engaged.
Turning our attention to other aspects, the addition of Dolby Atmos support combined with integrated up-firing units is a plus in our book as it considerably elevates the sound experience compared to other TVs on the market. The option to add a subwoofer will delight those users who seek more punch but still want to keep it simple.
After years of complaining about rear-facing input/outputs, we are inclined to refer to the situation as hopeless. Several ports, including HDMI ports, face out directly towards the wall, which complicates wall mounting. On the other hand, GZ2000 comes bundled with a remote control that is miles better than Panasonic's usual plastic clicker. If they would only remove all the redundant buttons, too.
As for software, there is not much new to add to the conversation. My Home Screen version 4 has a new bottom menu but it still feels mostly like a ghost town. The TV platform offers only the most popular apps and it is missing features such as Chromecast and AirPlay. The TV Guide has received a facelift but other than that the underlying system, including the user experience, remains largely unchanged.
Panasonic GZ2000 is a premium TV with a price tag to match but it quite simply delivers top-notch picture quality, surpassing all other OLED TVs on the market. Luckily, we have two Awards so while GZ2000 does not qualify for our value-for-money Highly Recommended Award, we are convinced that it deserves our Reference Award. It raises the bar of our dynamic score system and GZ2000 will serve as the reference in our future TV reviews.
Change in test parameters: Last year, we made a change to a test parameter that relates to the features score, following years of poor practice in the TV industry. Unless a manufacturer of a given "Smart TV" can provide FlatpanelsHD with assurance that the TV platform will be updated to the next major version, the feature score will be lowered by 10 points. We hope that our initiative can help highlight the problem, start a discussion, and change the practice.
Panasonic has not been able to give us such a guarantee for My Home Screen.
Price and retailers:
Color accuracy & processing Perfect black Wide viewing angles HDR picture (with 1000 nits) Dolby Atmos sound
Banding in highlights MyHomeScreen not receiving updates TV/media menus outdated Several rear-facing ports No HDMI 2.1