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Review: Panasonic HZ2000

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Panasonic HZ2000 is the successor to last year's GZ2000 – a TV that earned our Reference Award due to its customized OLED panel with higher brightness. Besides the customized panel, the 2020 HZ2000 comes with Dolby Vision IQ, eARC, Filmmaker Mode, some minor updates to the MyHomeScreen app platform, and an improved speaker system for Dolby Atmos.

Has Panasonic managed to further improve the best TV on the market? Here is our in-depth review of the 65-inch HZ2000.


Price and retailers:

UK retailer
DE retailer

First impressions

Like its predecessor, HZ2000 is equipped with a speaker system co-developed with Technics that comprises a center/left/right channel soundbar plus a speaker box on the back of the TV with up-firing units for Dolby Atmos overhead effects. It is a 3.0.2-channel speaker system named '360 Soundscape Pro' and as you can imagine it makes the super-think OLED TV a lot thicker than it would otherwise be. HZ2000 looks like a Panasonic TV in form and function, and it looks distinctively different from other OLED TVs because of its more bulky and sturdy appearance. That is the price to pay for a more capable speaker system – or "More Hollywood to More Homes" as Panasonic prefers to say – and although we know that some enthusiasts are willing to make this compromise, we wish that Panasonic would offer a version without the speakers to let customers connect their own external speaker system. If you want more power you can connect an external subwoofer directly to the TV via the headphone jack port – just like last year's GZ2000. And HZ2000 indeed looks a lot like GZ2000, so much that we were hard pressed to find any differences in appearance. Solid stand, same anti-reflective coating, two logos (Panasonic and Technics), speaker grille etc. Unfortunately, Panasonic has not even managed to fix one of our main points of criticism. Many ports, including two HDMI inputs and two USB ports, are still facing the wall, which complicates wall mounting. It is not even possible to reattach the cover panel if you are using more than two HDMI ports. How is this still an issue in the year 2020?

User experience & features

After a brief partnership with Mozilla, Firefox OS in Panasonic TVs got rebranded to MyHomeScreen. It has reached version 5.0 this year. We have already extensively covered all aspects of Panasonic's TV platform, tuner capabilities, and menus. We will not be going over all of this again so we refer to last year's Panasonic GZ2000 review for more details. Here, we will only be focusing on what has changed.

Operating system & smart TV

With MyHomeScreen 5.0, Panasonic is introducing 'content previews' above app icons such as Netflix and YouTube (see picture on the right). At this time, it is only supported for a handful of big, international services as it requires developers to take advantage of the API.
MyHomeScreen 5.0
Samsung, LG, and Google have all offered content previews in their respective TV menus for a few years now, and many developers have yet to implement their APIs too. When it works, it can be useful but often these previews look a little too random, sometimes more like promotions than useful recommendations. Speaking of, there are now ads in the full-screen overlay that you bring up to access all of your apps (see picture). Bringing ads to one of the most expensive high-end TVs on the market is probably not a welcomed move in most homes but they are after all limited to content or partner services. We did not get any ads for random supermarket items or unrelated products. HZ2000 does not support hardware decoding of the new AV1 codec developed by the Alliance for Open Media with Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, and others. This was confirmed via AV1 test files. YouTube's AV1 streaming does not work either. YouTube's 4K HDR streams are instead delivered via the VP9-2 codec. Changes to MyHomeScreen in recent years have improved the user experience. The menu that slides up from the bottom – and now with content previews – is a better approach, and you can even mix apps with shortcuts to source inputs, live TV channels, and more, which is really useful. However, it does not fix the underlying problems with the MyHomeScreen platform that feels like what is; an overlay on top of Panasonic's ageing in-house platform. It is a very limited vision for what a Smart TV can be or can enable, even before you consider the limited app library that lacks major services like Apple TV+ and Disney+, app quality where apps work and feel more like web pages blown up to TV-size than applications, lack of multi-tasking, lack of anything that resembles a path to gaming support (no controller support, no network streaming, no cloud streaming, weak SoC etc), no cast support (like AirPlay 2 or Chromecast), no deep home automation support (like HomeKit), storage limitations, fragmentation, and no software update path. Every year we see small tweaks to MyHomeScreen that are mostly irrelevant in the bigger picture, and every year we see less than one year old TVs left behind with no plans to offer updates to the 'platform'. Compare that to, for example, Apple's tvOS (in Apple TV), or even Google's Android TV (that certainly still has its own faults and limitations too), and you will find that the gap is actually widening, not narrowing, with each year passing. It is probably not a coincidence that Panasonic has just launched its first Android TV in Europe. We are not sure if Android is the right approach for Panasonic with its limited software development ressources but from the consumer perspective we think you should make room for an Apple TV 4K or Nvidia Shield in your budget if you are buying this TV and wish to access the world of streaming.

Operation

HZ2000 comes with the same remote control as GZ2000 that we described this way last year; "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".

Panasonic GZ2000 review

It a classic remote control in the sense that it is IR-based (infrared) and has been designed for the TV channel/tuner ecosystem. It goes hand in hand with Panasonic's more conservative approach to the TV user interface and features. It is not a remote control designing for modern consumers with both feet squarely placed in the streaming world. The 'picture' button on the remote control can be customized to include only the picture modes that you use. Last year, Panasonic also refreshed its TV Guide with a more streamlined look (as seen below), and it carries over to HZ2000.

TV audio

With last year's GZ2000, Panasonic introduced its first TV speaker system with up-firing units for Dolby Atmos overhead effects. A refined version of the speaker system is found in HZ2000 that in addition supports HDMI eARC as opposed to regular HDMI ARC in last year's model. HDMI eARC lets you pass-through lossless Atmos (in Dolby TrueHD) from an UHD Blu-ray player via the TV. It is a welcomed upgrade and it worked fine together with the Sonos Arc soundbar. As for the speakers, they deliver good separation between left and right, and voices are clear – one big advantage with units facing towards the viewer as opposed to hidden speakers in many TVs. With a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, you get a somewhat wider and fuller sound-field from HZ2000 but it is not the all-encompassing Atmos experience that some might have hoped for. Like last year's GZ2000, the up-firing units in HZ2000 also have clear limitations. There are times where you can sense overhead effects but even in our perfectly square room with a flat ceiling, the up-firing units had clear limitations compared to the best soundbars with up-firing units. Like last year, the speaker system still lacks definition in midtones and the treble still has a tendency to go into shrill territory. The speakers are not capable enough to double as a music system either. Compared to the other TVs we had in for review at the time, HZ2000 delivered more dynamic and direct sound but Philips OLED805 still delivered better bass due to its built-in bass unit. You can connect a subwoofer to HZ2000 via the jack port, but there is still no option to connect rear speakers to the TV for better surround. Ultimately, HZ2000's speaker system falls victim to the same fate as many other high-end TVs of the past. You can fit more powerful speakers inside a small cabinet but the end result is not quite good enough to match a soundbar like Sonos Arc (and of course not a full speaker system), so you end up somewhere between two stools. At the same time, the system is not flexible enough as it cannot easily be extended to surround, neither wired nor wirelessly. HZ2000 produces wonderful, spectacular pictures that demand better sound than what the built-in system can deliver.

Panasonic HZ2000 review

Calibration

Normal consumers should not be bothered with calibration; buying a TV with accurate colors is a perfectly fair expectation to have. More recently, we have started measuring all of the relevant picture modes found in TVs, and included the results in our reviews. See the table to the right plus the highlighted results in the big table below. It is a simplification but you will want the vertical bars to be as low as possible (preferably lower than 3 for DeltaE) and the RGB line graph to track as closely to 0 as possible. The color dots should fall within the white squares in the color gamut graph to the right. Overall, HZ2000 resembles previous Panasonic OLED TVs. It is loaded with a plethora of picture modes so the exercise becomes; which one do you pick. To help users this year, Panasonic has partnered with the UHD Alliance and Hollywood to bring Filmmaker Mode to its TVs. That may give some users peace of mind but as you can see in our measurements Filmmaker Mode is more or less identical to the 'Professional' picture mode in Panasonic TVs. That is not too surprising because UHD Alliance's guidelines specify that Filmmaker Mode should be based on the most accurate picture mode in the TV – we have seen similar implementations in other TVs with Filmmaker Mode. The main advantage of Filmmaker Mode would be that it can be automatically engaged when you watch movies. However, automatic detection requires players and content providers to get onboard first. Amazon Prime Video will be one of the first content/distributor partners – sometime next year. For SDR, we recommend Professional 1 for daytime viewing and Professional 2 or Filmmaker Mode for dark environments. We advise you to steer clear of Dynamic, Game, Sport, and Normal. As you can see in our measurements, none of these adhere to the color gamut of the content so they all produce quite significant color errors. We still fail to understand why TV makers push SDR colors into wide color gamut in Game mode. In what world do gamers want their console games to look significantly different from what the game creators had intended? Overall HZ2000 delivers excellent picture accuracy in several of pre-defined modes – some of which could easily be removed. With a few tweaks, we managed to improve color accuracy further. You can try our calibrated settings on your HZ2000 but if you want spot-on colors you will need physical measuring equipment or pay someone to do it. HZ2000 also supports CalMAN AutoCal. For HDR, we once again recommend Professional or Filmmaker Mode, and advise against the same picture modes as mentioned for SDR. As you can see, we measured Rec.2020 coverage to 72% and DCI-P3 coverage to 98%. Like last year's GZ2000, HZ2000 once again hits 1000 nits peak brightness in 2% and 5% windows – where is really matters for great HDR. It delivers excellent performance but it is also worth pointing out that it is completely in line with last year's GZ2000.

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 HZ2000 review

Picture quality

Compared to its predecessor, HZ2000 features Filmmaker Mode and Dolby Vision IQ. We have already covered Filmmaker Mode in the calibration section and Dolby Vision IQ in our Panasonic HZ1000 review, so let us jump straight to the point here: HZ2000 is essentially a refreshed version of GZ2000. It has the same customized OLED panel (but with 120Hz BFI - we'll get to that) and the new features are mostly software-bound. Panasonic could bring, for example, Filmmaker Mode to its 2019 models but it has no plans to do that. On the other hand, you can get the same effect by just switching using the 'Professional' picture mode. If we start with HDR, HZ2000 once again hits just above 1000 nits peak brightness. That may sound unimpressive compared to some LCD TVs that boast 2000 or even 3000 nits in specs, but as discussed and demonstrated in other reviews, LCD TVs do not actually reach those levels in practice. Most of the time, you are lucky if LCD TVs approach 1000 nits – and if they try, excessive blooming will typically ruin the picture. That is not High Dynamic Range; it is high brightness. Two different things... HDR is an expanded dynamic range, hence the name, and HZ2000 delivers those very bright nits where it actually matters; in small segments of the picture without affecting other parts of the picture. Together with pure blacks, this is the recipe for sparkling stars, shiny reflections, glowing lamps, and those fantastic HDR moments in movies and games.
And HZ2000 produces truly excellent HDR picture quality. Together with GZ2000, it is the best HDR picture quality we have seen on any TV available to normal consumers. Next to Philips OLED805 and Sony XH90, OLED805 approached HZ2000 with its peak brightness with 800-900 nits, which is obviously good news although many other OLED TVs still have trouble going past 700 nits. The difference in HDR picture quality was on the other striking next to Sony XH90 that in comparison looked relatively lifeless with poor contrast, greyish blacks, heavy blooming, and under/overluminated colors whenever it tried to flex its dimming zones. The fact that a TV based on self-emitting display technology finally hits 1000 nits still excites us, but HZ2000 is obviously not perfect. As our measurements show, brightness starts to drop around the 10% window (10% of the screen being full white, rest being black). Ideally, we would like it to maintain its brightness levels to at least 25-35% coverage, and also have higher full-screen brightness for daytime viewing. As you can see, our HZ2000 sample hit 152 nits full-screen, which is actually not higher than Philips OLED805 and just 10 nits higher than LG CX – an insignificant difference.
Other than that, we are satisfied with 1000 nits peak brightness for now until OLED panels offer a significant jump in brightness capabilities. 1000 nits may already look too bright in a dark room to some viewers. If you feel that way, Panasonic gives you the option to decrease peak brightness in small increments via the picture menu (either hard clip or with tone-mapping to preserve highlight details). As you may recall, dynamic range is measured in "stops", with one stop being equal to a doubling of the brightness level. You need another "stop" to have your eyes appreciate a significant difference. The next "stop" after 1000 nits is 2000 nits. Perhaps OLED will be able to reach those levels someday but a more likely candidate for pushing peak brightness above and beyond is microLED. Unfortunately, affordable microLED TVs are still years away. All of this is a little beside the scope of this review but seeing people often just cite a single number for peak brightness, we think that things need to be put into perspective.
We no longer observe noise in the very brightest tones in HDR pictures and it would appear that Panasonic has tweaked performance compared to GZ2000. HZ2000 also delivers clearly defined shadow details, although you can, if you move close enough, see some artefacts from Panasonic's 'dithering' implementation (see picture on the right) used to avoid brightness pops in the darkest grey tones. In our view, this is not an ideal solution. Other than that, we would suggest that you read our GZ2000 review in combination with this review for a few other perspectives on picture quality. HZ2000 still supports four HDR formats; HDR10, HDR10+, HLG, and Dolby Vision. In addition to the Dolby Vision IQ system that adjusts the picture according to your surroundings, Panasonic has developed its own 'Intelligent Sensing' system that works with content outside of Dolby Vision, meaning SDR, HDR10, HDR10+, HLG content – in Filmmaker Mode SDR and HDR too. There is a light sensor in most TVs these days so adjusting brightness level of the TV according to daytime, mid-day or nighttime is nothing new, but Panasonic (and Dolby) try to approach it a little more intelligently by also enhancing shadow details and adjusting the picture in slight ways. It works pretty well and is not overly aggressive but you will sacrifize some accuracy. There is a light sensor in the TV but it is highly directional so it does not take into account the full environment, which we found to be a little problematic at times, for example if there are windows behind or near the TV. Several years ago, B&O implemented a 360-degree light sensor in their TVs that better analyzed the full environment. We think such an approach could help improve these ambient light systems going forward. We did not observe any noteworthy problems with banding or color tinting on our sample. And even after lengthy sessions with static test patterns, there was no hint of image retention to observe anywhere. As we said last year, we do not yet know how resilient the latest generations of OLED panels are to burn-in over the long term but early indications look positive.
Switching our attention to SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) content, HZ2000 again delivers great pictures, but obviously not better than the source content. Content in sub-HD resolution will look like content in sub-HD. HZ2000 is not equipped with fancy "AI" upscaling but still has great, neutral upscaling. For SDR content, our only gripe is that the OLED panel could use a little brightness boost during daytime viewing, especially for winter sports. As for gaming, HZ2000 comes with a single HDMI 2.1 feature that can be enabled on HDMI 2.0 chipsets, namely ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode). It just means that a compatible game console can switch the TV into its Game Mode. Here, it is worth highlighting that Panasonic's Game mode can be activated independently, meaning for all picture modes. This allows you to enable Game mode on top of another picture mode. That is great because we would advise against using the 'Game' picture mode found alongside the other picture modes (see calibration section). HZ2000 is not equipped with high-bandwidth HDMI 2.1 ports, which is unfortunate. Adding HDMI 2.1 ports would have made HZ2000 a worthwhile upgrade over last year's GZ2000. Instead, it feels more like a rehash. Launching a flagship TV that lacks an important next-generation industry standard such as HDMI 2.1, and so close to the launch of next-gen game consoles and possibly streaming players, seems a little disconnected. Especially because the much cheaper OLED TVs that do offer HDMI 2.1 ports come very close to matching GZ2000/HZ2000 in picture quality.
We measured input lag to 22 ms with Game mode enabled, which is low but not the lowest we have seen. Outside of Game mode input lag exceeds 120 ms, which causes noticeable delay with a game controller in our hand.

Brightness with BFI

SettingBrightness
Auto
360
438
Min
311
375
Mid
186
222
Max
128
154
SDRHDR
A new feature in HZ2000 compared to last year's GZ2000 is support for 120Hz BFI (Black Frame Insertion). 120Hz BFI is also found in other 2020 OLED TVs, including the LG CX and Sony A8. Like those TVs, enabling BFI will lead to lower brightness. The reduction in brightness is too significant in HDR mode on HZ2000 for us to recommend use of BFI in any form, but some may find it useful in SDR mode. There is also an 'Auto' setting that varies between Low or Medium (and sometimes even Off), depending on the content. We have included our measurements of brightness at the different BFI levels in the table to the right. You can compare those to our measurements in the LG CX, Panasonic HZ1000 and Sony A8 reviews. Note that BFI even at 120Hz causes flicker that can lead to eye strain or headache for some people. Regardless of BFI performance, it is however important to not lose sight of the bigger perspective. OLED displays are lightning fast but are being held back first and foremost by all of the low frame rate content out there. If you really want better, smoother, and far more detailed motion on your TV, you should help push the content industry to adopt high frame rates of 120fps or beyond. The first significant step towards that goal comes with the launch of PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X, although they may still not be powerful enough to make it commonplace. Unfortunately, you will not be able to enjoy it on HZ2000 due to its lack of HDMI 2.1 ports. While it is a great TV for existing game consoles, it is not a good choice for next-gen game consoles.

Conclusion

Panasonic HZ2000 is the successor to GZ2000, and many would probably be hard pressed to tell the two apart, but there are a few differences under the hood. Besides content previews in MyHomeScreen 5.0, you get HDMI eARC, Filmmaker Mode, and Dolby Vision IQ. There is also 120Hz BFI in the OLED panel. Are those worthwhile improvements? HDMI eARC is a welcomed upgrade but Filmmaker Mode is just Panasonic's 'Professional' picture mode under a new name. The gap between MyHomeScreen, which lacks the Apple TV app and Disney+, and great TV platforms like Apple's tvOS, is widening – not narrowing – with each passing year. If you are into streaming media, you will need to connect an external box and then what is the point of MyHomeScreen? 120Hz makes the BFI system useful under some scenarios but for gaming there is no escaping the fact that HZ2000 lacks HDMI 2.1 ports for next-gen game consoles. The answer to the question above would be that the new features in HZ2000 as compared to last year's GZ2000 are minor tweaks, while Panasonic has missed the more important steps. Still, we love HZ2000! It produces the best SDR and HDR picture quality that we have seen on a consumer TV. Panasonic's dedication to picture accuracy is admirable. It is the best TV for watching movies and TV series. It is not the best TV for sports and not the best TV for gaming but it is still great. The speaker system is good but falls between two stools. Not flexible and good enough to serve as an alternative to a great soundbar and not cheap enough to just ignore – for great movie sound you would need to invest extra money in external speakers. HZ2000 is a refined version of last year's GZ2000 that earned our Reference Award. It is still a premium TV with a price tag to match but as an enthusiast you have always paid a premium to enjoy the last percentages. Our Reference Award will stay with HZ2000 for now, but Panasonic must up its game in the area of gaming if it wants to stay on top in the coming years.
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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 MyHomeScreen (Firefox OS).

Price and retailers:

UK retailer
DE retailer

Color accuracy & processing
Perfect black
Viewing angles
HDR picture (with 1000 nits)
Dolby Atmos sound


MyHomeScreen not receiving updates
TV/media menus outdated
Several rear-facing ports
No HDMI 2.1







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