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Review: Panasonic HZ1000

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The second OLED TV on our test bench in 2020 is Panasonic's HZ1000, which is one of the more 'affordable' OLED models in the company's TV line-up for 2020. In addition to 4K and Dolby Atmos, HZ1000 features Dolby Vision IQ and Filmmaker Mode. It also comes with the company's in-house My Home Screen platform.

Panasonic HZ1000 will be available in 55 and 65 inches. We have the 65 inch model.

 Also read: Panasonic 2020 TV line-up


First impressions

Panasonic HZ1000 looks a little different from some other OLED TVs on the market as it is equipped with a swivel stand. We do not often see that on modern OLED TVs. It is perhaps debatable how useful a swivel stand is considering OLED's very wide viewing angles but a positive side effect is that it is way easier to assemble it compared to other OLED TVs. You literally just lift it onto the stand and I think I set up HZ1000 in record time. The stand is also more rigid than the wobbly stand for FZ800 a couple of years ago.
As for the actual TV, HZ1000 looks similar to most other OLED TVs on the market. It has a slim, minimalistic appearance with a thin metal bezel, which is part of the panel's back cover. A metal body enables TV makers to maintain the slim profile but in previous years multiple ports were positioned in such a way that they were pointing out towards the back wall, which complicated matters when wall mounting the TV. So we are happy to report that Panasonic has finally listened to our criticism and made sure to have all input/output ports point either to the side or down. Thank you Panasonic - this is right! It is also worth noting that the TV is equipped with 2x CI ports for TV channels, allowing users to insert two decoder cards, which is useful together with the built-in twin tuners. Of the four HDMI ports one is eARC-enabled so besides Dolby Atmos support in the TV you will be able to output or passthrough lossless multichannel audio to an external soundbar or receiver. The panel's coating is similar to other OLED TVs on the market. We hope that LG Display will follow in Samsung's footsteps and explore an anti-reflective coating that is more similar to the one found in Samsung's flagship LCD TVs. OLED TVs do a decent job of subduing reflections but once you have seen Samsung's coating you miss it. HZ1000 is not one of Panasonic's flagship TVs for 2020 so you are not getting the premium remote control that came bundled with GZ2000 last year.

User experience & features

The TV's user interface can be divided into two overall sections. The underlying system controls menu settings, TV tuners etc. A layer on top controls the "smarts", meaning apps and related UI elements. This layer used to be called Firefox OS but after Mozilla threw in the towel Panasonic took over development and rebranded it My Home Screen (just like before Firefox OS). In 2020, My Home Screen has learned a few new tricks.

Operating system & smart TV

"Still no AirPlay 2 in 2020"
The home screen menu slides up from the bottom to reveal a row of app icons plus a new content row on top. You can select apps from a relatively limited catalog of supported services. Some apps support deep integration allowing them to push recommended content directly to the new content row as seen in the picture to the right. We have encountered similar functionality in Android TVs as well Samsung Tizen and LG webOS. By adding support for a content row, Panasonic has tried to match features in competing platforms but the main limitation of My Home Screen remains its limited app support. You have Netflix and YouTube but new apps like Apple TV (iTunes and Apple TV+) and Disney+ are not available. Many local apps are also missing, and since Panasonic TVs lack support for AirPlay 2 and/or Chromecast there is no easy and convenient way to get non-supported streaming services into the TV other than buying new hardware such as Apple TV or Nvidia Shield. As more and more users opt to cut the cord and transition to streaming, Panasonic will struggle to meet their demands. Our recommendation is to connect a Chromecast dongle, or consider Apple TV 4K or Nvidia Shield - both offer a far more complete TV platform. It is hard to imagine that My Home Screen can survive for much longer given the current market situation. Venturing into the other menus in order to control picture/audio settings or sources you will encounter Panasonic's outdated graphical user interface on top of a system layer that has been used for as long as we can remember. The settings menu offers advanced adjustment and is intended for advanced users. For 90% of users a simple change of picture mode will give a good starting point, and we recommend that you switch away from 'Normal' to one of the more accurate pre-calibrated picture modes (see calibration section for measurements). There is a shortcut button on the remote control, too. If you want the best possible picture, however, you must venture further into the advanced menus and tweak things from there. See our 'measurements' table for recommended picture settings. Panasonic's picture menu offers one of the most comprehensive suites of picture adjustments on the market and although it lacks support for 3D LUT control (available in LG TVs), most other relevant picture adjustments are available, allowing advanced users to get very accurate picture quality.
One of the sub-menus reveal settings related to the optional HDMI 2.1 features that Panasonic has added in 2020, specifically ALLM and eARC. Strictly speaking this is not HDMI 2.1 as these features can be embedded on HDMI 2.0 chipsets, which some other TV makers also do. ALLM is Auto Low Latency Mode, meaning that the TV can switch to Game Mode automatically when it detects that a game console has loaded a game. HZ1000 supports game mode on all embedded picture modes, meaning that you can use a calibrated picture mode rather than having to switch to a separate Game picture mode, which is usually not very accurate. The HDMI eARC function lets lossless multi-channel audio pass through, including Dolby Atmos. HDMI eARC is relevant if you want to connect the Atmos-compatible soundbars to the TV.

Operation

As opposed to last year's GZ2000, HZ1000 does not come bundled with Panasonic's premium metal remote control. Instead, you get a cheap plastic remote with swampy buttons and a low-quality feel. As usual, there are far too many buttons and it does not exactly help that some buttons get remapped depending on where in the menu structure you find yourself. For example, sometimes the 'Back' button acts as a 'Back' button but other times it acts as an 'OK' button. At least half of the buttons are dedicated to TV channel operation so if you watch primarily streaming services, most buttons will be superfluous. Like its TV platform, it is time for Panasonic to start over and design its TVs for the modern environment with a far simpler user interface and interaction rather than extending the life of a system that became outdated many years ago. Compared to Samsung's One Remote, Panasonic is miles behind. The remote control is the interaction point between the user and TV so it is not wise to ignore it.

Panasonic HZ1000 review

There are no built-in voice assistants in Panasonic's TVs but you can control certain aspects of the TV via external devices with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa. In our view, the absence of built-in voice assistants is not a shortcoming. We consider an external voice-enabled device as a better long-term solution.

TV & audio

Last year, Panasonic made some tweaks to the graphic user interface relating to TV channels, including a more streamlined look for the TV Guide. There are no eye catching changes this year, and it works as intended.
HZ1000 features a dual tuner and a Picture-by-Picture function that can handle multiple coded channels at once due to dual CI (Common Interface). The time it takes to change from one channel to the next cannot be characterized as "fast". It is comparable to most other TVs nowadays, including last year's Panasonic TVs.
HZ1000 supports Dolby Atmos, which in this context means that the TV is capable of decoding Dolby Atmos, for example from an internal app such as Netflix. Unlike the more expensive 2020 models as well as last year's GZ2000, HZ1000 is not equipped with a speaker system, or up-firing units, for Dolby Atmos. There is nothing wrong with having a TV support Dolby Atmos as it can provide several benefits to users. It gets more contentious when manufacturers start using Dolby Atmos heavily in marketing, without having capable speakers built-in. It is in many ways comparable to HDR, which is supported in pretty much any TV today. The outcome of this type of marketing is that the concept of HDR - or Atmos - gets watered down so much that it loses all meaning, which will negatively impact the perception and sales of true HDR TVs - or Atmos systems. HZ1000 does not in any way deliver the all-encompassing Atmos experience that is possible so the Atmos sticker on the box is certainly no guarantee for good sound. What you do gain, however, is decoding support and capabilities to output Atmos via the HDMI eARC port in the TV. This will ensure that your TV does not become a bottleneck if you invest in a capable external sound solution further down the road. The built-in speakers are not very powerful and sound is weak without volume or bass. You can address the latter shortcoming by connecting an active subwoofer to the headphone port in the TV, so if you are not interesting in investing in a full speaker set-up and a receiver you can improve things just by adding an inexpensive subwoofer. It will not do anything for the Atmos experience, though. If you want a significantly improved sound experience we recommend that you at least consider a capable soundbar. In our opinion a soundbar is a better investment than connecting a subwoofer to the TV.

Calibration

Panasonic offers the widest selection of picture modes in any TV, so most buyers will - understandably - feel intimidated even before they reach the picture settings menu. A shortcut button on the remote control gives you quick access to picture mode selection but you still have to decide which one to use. In 2020, Panasonic has added yet another picture mode, Filmmaker Mode - conceived by Hollywood and TV makers as a way to ensure that movies are presented "the way the filmmaker intended", which means disabling post-processing such as motion smoothing ('IFC' in Panasonic TVs). If you examine the various picture modes in Panasonic's TV (see table on the right) you will notice that Filmmaker Mode is identical to 'Professional 2', which has been calibrated to 100 nits brightness. Professional 1 or 2 provide a good starting point if you want accurate picture quality. The main differences are found in brightness. With a few tweaks to the grey tone we were able to get very accurate grey tone tracking. The same adjustments are required for SDR and HDR on our sample of the TV. Looking at SDR grey tone tracking we could, with a few adjustments, reach a result where only our test equipment could detect deviation from the reference. The last few things can be corrected through more advanced CMS adjustments. If you are not planning to spend money on professional calibration our recommendation is to use 'Professional 1'. The TV also supports auto-calibration via the CalMAN software, although support is a little less comprehensive than in LG's TVs with auto-cal support. Auto-calibration for Panasonic 2020 TVs currently requires the beta release of the CalMAN software. Switching our attention to HDR, the same adjustments for color are required, and like last year's GZ2000, HZ1000 delivers almost perfect PQ EOTF luminance tracking, with the only divergence being a soft roll-off near the TV's peak luminance level - necessary not to crush highlights. Within the limitations of the panel, there is nothing to put a finger on here. Compared to Panasonic's GZ2000 you will notice that HZ1000 does not reach the same peak brightness of 1000 nits. It maxes out at around 800 nits, which was expected since it does not have Panasonic's modified OLED panel. HZ1000 delivers roughly the same coverage of the DCI-P3 / Rec.2020 color gamuts as other OLED panels on the market. Again, no surprises here.

Measurements

In our "measurements" section we include all measurements and our suggested calibration settings. If you want to learn more about our test methodology click here 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.
Panasonic HZ1000 review

Picture quality

Evident from our measurements in the previous section, HZ1000 delivers very accurate pictures and with minor tweaks its picture parameters approach our current reference display, GZ2000. Panasonic is promoting its TVs as "Hollywood to your home" or filmmakers' favorite displays, and it is clear that even a step down from the reference TV still delivers excellent picture quality. However, there are differences because HZ1000 does not feature the same modified OLED panel as GZ2000. Brightness is approximately 20% lower. We also observed some mild temporary retention after exposing the panel to our HDR measurement patterns, whereas last year's GZ2000 seemed to be immune even after lengthy sessions with test patterns on the screen. In this regard HZ1000 is more comparable to other OLED TVs on the market so if you had hoped to see the improvements in GZ2000 trickle down to more affordable Panasonic OLED TV this year, you may be disappointed. You will have to chase deals on the GZ2000 or its successor, HZ2000, instead.
Staying on the subject of HDR by comparing HZ1000 to GZ2000, we actually saw less banding in the brightest areas (smooth gradients) on HZ1000 but it may be attributable to panel variance. Overall, HZ1000 is a solid performance in the HDR discipline, not least due to its relatively high (effective) peak brightness that it can maintain up to 10% coverage of the screen area.
HZ1000 comes with support for HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Dolby's format has much stronger momentum at this time and with its 2020 generation Panasonic has added support for Dolby Vision IQ, which means that the TV employs its built-in light sensor to measure the ambient environment and compensate the picture. It effectively means that it adjusts the PQ EOTF curve - the luminance curve - and as a result it changes the way that Dolby Vision content is presented. It may help some users get better results in a bright viewing environment but you should know that it is one of those systems that move the picture away from the reference. Dolby Vision IQ is implemented as a separate profile in the picture menu so you can select between the normal Dolby Vision picture mode and the IQ mode via a shortcut button on the remote control. We did not observe any problems with grey tones near black so the issues that we spotted on FZ800 a few years ago appear to have been resolved. HDR pictures on HZ1000 are highly dynamic in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision. We can even go as far as to saying that dynamic metadata, which are used as a key selling point for Dolby Vision, are of more importance on mediocre display hardware than on OLED displays that by nature are strong performers in the area of HDR due to pixel-level luminance control. But that is obviously not a fault of HZ1000. Another aspect of near-black performance is panel homogeneity and unfortunately our sample of HZ1000 suffers from some issues here. I am saying "our sample" because after having tested OLED TVs for several years now it has become clear that panel homogeneity can vary from one panel to the next. The left side of the panel was visibly different from the right side on our HZ1000 in darker grey tones (as seen in the photo below). It cannot be characterized as banding in the traditional sense but more as a difference in color tone. We did not observe any issues in the brighter tones, which is a good sign considering the OLED panel lottery in the past.
Before we round off HDR I want to address motion reproduction, specifically in relation to Dolby Vision. 24Hz Dolby Vision playback on Panasonic TVs still suffers from sporadic stutter. We have in the past raised this issue in our reviews of Panasonic TVs. It shows as sporadic single-frame micro-stutter but is there is no recognizable pattern. Sometimes we see several occurrences in very short order and sometimes it happens only occasionally. It is perhaps one of those things that you either see immediately or not at all. It is a shame that Panasonic has yet to get rid of this issue because even with the IFC system (motion interpolation) engaged, we were not able to eliminate the micro-stutter.

Brightness (HDR) with BFI

Off753 cd/m2
Auto423 cd/m2
Maximum (60 Hz)151 cd/m2
Medium (60 Hz)219 cd/m2
Minimum376 cd/m2
On the other hand Panasonic has gained a new feature relating to motion as LG Display has implemented its more advanced system for black frame insertion (BFI) in the 2020 OLED panel. A BFI system has been embedded in the OLED panel for some years now but has been effectively non-functional due to heavy flicker caused by its low frequency (60Hz) of operation. The improved system is now closer to 'scanning backlights' in LCD panels, where a black bar scans the picture from the top to bottom. The purpose is to reset the human eye's inherent memory function of bright light that remains for some time. If you can achieve that, you can create a perception of improved details in motion. With a scanning bar you can also reduce the drop in brightness that is usually associated with the technique because the screen no longer turns off completely between every two frames. In SDR it is a useful setting that can benefit sports viewing. In HDR the benefits are more limited as the the BFI systems sacrifices brightness. In the table to the right you can see how the system affects brightness for every setting option of BFI. The measurements were made in HDR mode and as you can see there is still quite a significant loss of brightness. Only Panasonic's Auto setting is able to maintain more than 50% of the original brightness. In our opinion this is still a high price to pay, even if flicker is vastly reduced, so our recommendation would still be to play with the IFC system if the goal is to increase motion resolution. As for standard, non-HDR content and low-resolution content, Panasonic's HCX processor once again demonstrates that it is a very capable system. It handles upscaling of lower-resolution content convincingly, which continues to be relevant even as more streaming servicers are transitioning to 4K. We expect TV broadcast to remain in HD or lower resolution for many years still and HZ1000 can obviously only do so much in this area. If you demand better quality consider your sources. Panasonic HZ1000 will also let you fully enjoy your collection of HD Blu-rays.
Panasonic's picture mode called 'Game' will pull everything into the wider DCI-P3 color space, and unless your game is in HDR it is not created or intended for presentation in wide color gamut. As mentioned earlier in the review you can engage game mode in other picture modes, i.e. Professional 1, which is a more optimal solution if you want accurate pictures. We measured input lag to around 21 ms, comparable to last year's GZ2000. It places HZ1000 somewhere in the middle of the field.

Conclusion

From a picture quality perspective it is status quo for OLED TVs, except for GZ2000 (and HZ2000) with its customized, higher brightness OLED panel. Unfortunately, that panel has not trickled down to HZ1000 or any other 2020 OLED TVs. Regardless, HZ1000 is still a top performer based on great HDR performance, deep blacks and wide viewing angles - up there with many other OLED TVs. There is not much new to say about Panasonic's TV platform My Home Screen either - same look and feel as previous iterations. Many popular apps, including Apple TV and Disney+, are missing and the new 2020 features, including content recommendations in the bottom menu, do little to change the picture. Very few apps support content recommendations at this time. HZ1000 supports Dolby Atmos but mostly in name as HZ1000 is not equipped with speakers to deliver the Atmos sound experience. You can output Atmos via HDMI eARC (new for 2020) but none of the ports are HDMI 2.1 ports this year. We miss Panasonic's premium remote control because the one that comes bundled with HZ1000 is a cheap plastic clicker that does not do the TV justice. On the other hand Panasonic has finally changed its connection panel so all input/output ports face either down or to the side - no longer out towards the back wall. It is hard to find compelling arguments in favor of Panasonic HZ1000 given the competitive environment with especially LG CX, which is ahead on almost all fronts except picture quality (more or less equal). Current Panasonic TV owners will perhaps find the user interface recognizable and safe but Panasonic has some ground to cover before it can match the best TVs in this price class and segment.
!
Change in test parameters: In 2018, 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.

Colors & processing
Perfect black
Wide viewing angles
HDR picture quality
Dolby Atmos support, eARC


Peak brightness not ideal
MyHomeScreen not receiving updates
TV/media menus outdated
No HDMI 2.1
24Hz Dolby Vision stutter







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