Panasonic TX-65CZ950 review

Has Panasonic just made the best TV ever?

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Our Verdict

Panasonic has set out to make a statement with the 65CZ950. With an eye-watering price tag of nearly £8,000 ($11,150 or AU$16,130) it's clearly not a TV the brand expects to sell in large quantities, yet its combination of OLED tech, Panasonic's latest and greatest video processing and input from Hollywood have the potential to set new picture quality standards.

For

  • Best picture quality ever
  • Spectacular, super-slim design
  • Tackles previous OLED issues
  • Provides excellent picture presets

Against

  • You can't afford it
  • Curved screen is divisive
  • Doesn't carry Firefox OS
  • Sound is only average

At long, long last, OLED screen technology is starting to realise the huge potential it's always appeared to have. LG's investment in new OLED production facilities has enabled the Korean brand to start selling big-screen OLED TVs at prices low enough to take on the most expensive LCD TVs.

And now Panasonic has decided the time is right to jump in with its own debut OLED TV, the 65CZ950: a set which laughs in the face of cheapness but also, handily, sets a whole new bar for picture quality.

The TV, which just went on sale in the UK as the Panasonic TX-65CZ952 and costs £7,999 (about $11,150 or AU$16,130) is easily one of the best in the market - but will be ditto for the US and AU markets when it eventually launches in those territories.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though. There's much to get through before we immerse ourselves in the 65CZ950's stunning pictures, starting with its equally stunning design.

OLED's seemingly physics-defying trick of being able to deliver huge screen sizes from incredibly skinny bodies is to the fore once more, immediately making Panasonic's masterpiece look like it's travelled back from 2025.

Sharply dressed

The curved screen is as pretty as ever too, while the set's rear benefits from an uncharacteristic (for Panasonic) rush of design blood in the shape of a white Alcantara finish. This finish even extends to a clip-on panel that sits over the deeper section of the 65CZ950's rear that accommodates such things as the built-in connections, tuners and video processing circuitry.

Panasonic TX 65CZ952

While it's easy to imagine people being seduced by the curved screen on an aesthetic level, it's important to stress that curved screens can cause viewing issues in the shape of distorted reflections of bright objects in your room and impaired image geometry if you're watching from down the TV's sides.

It is usually possible to mitigate both of these issues in a sensibly arranged viewing room, though - and if you've just dropped eight grand on a TV, I'd say you owe it to yourself to try and do whatever you need to do to get the 65CZ950 into an optimum position!

Connections

Although it almost feels boring to talk about something as prosaic as connections on a TV like this, the bottom line is that they are actually very impressive.

The four HDMIs are all capable of handling 4K Ultra HD up to 60 frames per second and with HDCP 2.2 anti-piracy protocols in place. Following an upcoming firmware update they will also, we're assured, handle high dynamic range (HDR) sources such as Ultra HD Blu-rays when they appear.

The HDR support should also extend to USB sticks and streaming services (Amazon already offers a selection of shows in HDR, including Bosch, Mozart in the Jungle and the entire lineup in its Pilots Season). It's a real pity the necessary firmware upgrade to add HDR to the 65CZ950's considerable talents wasn't available in time for this review, but hopefully it will make Panasonic's TV even better when it does roll out.

Naturally the 65CZ950 is well stocked with multimedia connections, including three USBs and the pretty much inevitable wired and wireless network connections. You can use these to both stream multimedia over your network from DLNA-enabled devices or access Panasonic's online services.

4K streaming is available

These services are becoming decently comprehensive these days, with the 4K versions of Netflix and Amazon Prime both standing out. However, disappointingly the 65CZ950 doesn't carry Panasonic's brilliant new Firefox OS interface.

Let's quickly get back to the good news by thinking more about the OLED screen at the 65CZ950's heart. The thing about OLED is that - much like Panasonic's much-loved but now defunct plasma technology - every single pixel in its screen can produce its own light and color. This clearly has enormously positive implications for contrast, as in principle it allows a perfectly black pixel to sit right alongside a perfectly white one.

Panasonic TX 65CZ952

The beauty's in the processing

Making the potential shadow detail, contrast finesse and color nuancing from the 65CZ950 even more mouthwatering is the fact each of the screen's pixels is controlled via Panasonic's new 4K Pro system.

Developed initially for Panasonic's 2015 high-end LCD TVs, the 'Studio Master Processor' part of 4K Pro draws on light control and color techniques previously only found in professional monitors. These include using 3D look up tables for colors that enable the TV to reference tones against 8000 registry points (versus 100 on 'normal' TVs); 10-bit driving to produce more 'steps' of gradation; and a new Absolute Black Drive specially developed for OLED that manages to control light levels at the point just above black.

That last one is an issue that's proved challenging for LG's otherwise superlative OLED TVs.

From what I've seen of the 4K Pro system on UHD LCD TVs, the thought of what it might be able to achieve with an OLED screen where light output can be controlled down to individual pixel level is, frankly, mouthwatering.

Panasonic TX 65CZ952

The Hollywood effect

Obviously there's potential for over complexity in all the picture features a TV as sophisticated as the 65CZ950 carries. However, as well as the quality of its screen being so good it's quite forgiving of your picture setting.

Panasonic has sought to simplify things by getting acclaimed Hollywood colorist Mike Sowa - best known for his work on Oblivion - to calibrate the TV's True Cinema setting according to his own professional eye.

And this preset proves really, really effective, delivering wonderfully natural, engaging images - especially in a fairly dark room - without the need for any significant tweaking.

There are also a couple of THX modes, though for me these don't make quite such effective use of all the TV's OLED talents as Sowa's mode. The THX modes are still significant, though, because they mean the 65CZ950 has passed THX's battery of tough image quality tests - something no previous OLED TV has done.

Wrapping the 65CZ950's features up is 3D playback, delivered using the passive (cheap, non-electronic glasses) system. This means you shouldn't have to worry about the flickering or crosstalk ghosting noise that can plague the rival active 3D system, while the way passive 3D's onscreen filtering system reduces resolution should be negated by the fact that you're watching full HD 3D Blu-rays on a 4K-resolution screen.