New Kid in Town: Panasonic OLED Ultra HDTV

I hate to open on a downer, but you need to know right up front that the magnificent TV shown here is available only in England and Germany. Did I mention it’s a Panasonic? And an OLED? Or that its U.S.-equivalent price is eleven grand? Yes, it’s true: The one-time plasma stalwart is making moves in a territory that until now has been ruled by LG. The Viera TX-65CZ950 was unveiled at the IFA electronics show in Berlin last September and shipped to select stores in Europe a month or so later. Panasonic also demonstrated the 65-inch TV at the CES 2016 in Las Vegas, giving us hope that it (or its more reasonably priced progeny) might be headed our way. There was no announcement regarding U.S. availability, however.

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.

COMMENTS
davidbe's picture

What is new about this? To quote the article itself: "The Viera TX-65CZ950 was unveiled at the IFA electronics show in Berlin last September and shipped to select stores in Europe a month or so later." It's been available in Europe for quite some time and is still curved and still uses 2015 LG panels and not the improved 2016 LG panels. Great set, but I see nothing new here. If it were flat and used 2016 panels, THAT would be new and something to really celebrate!

Traveler's picture

Why do companies still do selected markets like this? Put it on Amazon and sell to the world.

Warrior24_7's picture

Keep it!

life_portal's picture

I've owned several Panasonic TV's including the amazing 65" Plasma unit that won the TV shootout a few years back. I'm a big fan! Hated to see the Plasma's go but understand the engineering challenges that caused it. Panasonic should be applauded for using great new technology and remaining focused on building the best possible TV on the market. It's sad that the marketing department is involved in engineering decisions and pushing the curved TV's. I absolutely have ZERO interest in curved TV (what a gimmick) so I'll wait for a flat version. The Smart TV market is laughable. Success never comes when trying to be all things to all people. Smart TV's are too complex, require too many software updates (when I just want to turn it on and watch TV). The external devices ALWAYS have a better user experience and are updated/refined much more frequently than TV interfaces. GO Panasonic! Keep up the good work and show up with some flat TV's.

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