New Kid in Town: Panasonic OLED Ultra HDTV
Future scenarios aside, one thing is clear: Panasonic is determined to make a statement—and appears to have succeeded. Apart from its stunning industrial design—which includes a back panel covered in suede-like Alcantara, an ultra-modern stand, and (like it or not) a gently curved screen—the CZ950 combines professional-grade 4K Studio Master processing that references color tones against 8,000 registry points (versus “a typical 100”), and custom-built OLED panels to deliver “at least” 90 percent of the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) color space, which company officials say translates into the brand’s most accurate picture ever. They even hired Hollywood colorist Mike Sowa, who has done color mastering for more than 100 films, to help them get it right (as well as calibrate the set’s True Cinema setting).
The plan must have worked because the CZ950 has the distinction of being the first Ultra HD OLED TV to earn THX certification, which means it passed more than 400 rigorous picture-performance tests. The TV supports the playback of high dynamic range (HDR) content and employs processing to control light at gradation levels just above complete blackness for a more accurate rendering of the very darkest areas of the picture—a difficult feat, even for OLED.
Early reviews out of England suggest Panasonic has done its homework. A reviewer for What Hi-Fi? could hardly contain his enthusiasm: “It’s surely no secret that we love the Panasonic TX-65CZ952B [U.K. version]. Not only is this beautiful, thrilling picture one of the best we’ve seen, but we’re chuffed that TVs can look this good. The overriding sentiment here is ‘wow.’ ” TechRadar.com concurred, calling the picture the best they’d seen, ever.
About that gargantuan price: A Panasonic executive told reporters at IFA that he expects OLED prices to drop significantly in two or three years as panel yields increase, and noted that an (easier to make) flat version of the CZ950 is in the works.
It remains to be seen whether Panasonic will be able to rekindle some of the magic from the glory days of plasma and transfer it to OLED, but it sure seems to be off to a good start.