Hands on: Panasonic EZ1002 OLED review

A seriously smart form-factor

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Our Early Verdict

Panasonic's latest OLED, the EZ1002, offers a well thought out form-factor in addition to the kind of stunning picture quality we've come to expect from OLED panels. Its surprisingly capable audio quality is also impressive.

For

  • Detachable, replaceable, soundbar
  • Fantastic sound
  • Color quality is excellent

Against

  • No Dolby Vision support
  • Likely high price
  • Slight lack of sparkle in bright areas of image

It’s rare that we find ourselves getting too excited by a television’s sound set-up, but we did exactly that when we first laid eyes on Panasonic’s new OLED television, the Panasonic EZ1002, which was announced at CES 2017

The new set is Panasonic’s flagship television for 2017, and is expected to be available by around June 2017, at a price that’s yet to be announced. The set will have the model number EZ1000 in mainland Europe, and EZ1002 in the UK, the latter indicating the model’s support for Freeview Play. 

We got a chance to try the television out for ourselves on the show floor, and we came away impressed not only by the television’s image performance, but also by its audio set-up, which we felt offers a nice compromise between sound quality and thinness. 

Design

OLED’s have always faced a bit of a dilemma when it comes to sound. The television panels themselves can be made as thin as just a couple of millimeters, but it’s rare that you’ll actually see a television make full use of this fact. 

One of the reasons for this is that this amount of thinness is absolutely terrible for speakers, which need a decent amount of space to actually produce sound that isn’t weak and tinny. 

Both the Panasonic EZ1002 and the recently announced LG OLED W7 Signature Series have come up with novel solutions to this problem, although to our mind the EZ1002’s is the slightly more versatile of the two. 

Both sets achieve a thinner profile by separating their speakers from the panel itself, but the specifics of this process differs slightly between the two. 

In the EZ1002’s case, the core electronics of the television remain in the body itself, while the W7 puts it all into the soundbar. This means that the EZ1002’s panel itself is slightly thicker to accommodate the circuitry, but because only the sound has been outsourced to the bar, you’re free to swap out the included soundbar with one of your own choosing, which isn’t possible with the W7. 

It might not reach the same wallpaper thinness of the W7, but this design decision means the Panasonic EZ1002’s audio should be much more versatile.

The one caveat is that you'll have to wall-mount the EZ1002 if you want to detach its soundbar, as the speaker is an integral part of its stand. Detach the soundbar and the TV won't sit comfortably on your cabinet at all. 

In fact, if you do end up wall-mounting the EZ1002 you might want to detach the soundbar anyway, as we saw it forced to stick out at a rather ugly angle when it was wall-mounted at the event.

  • If you’re in the market, check out our guide to the best soundbars around today.

Performance

The EZ1002’s image quality hits the high’s that we’ve come to expect from OLED panels. Black levels are delightfully deep and rich, and colors are bright and vibrant. 

Somewhat confusingly, Panasonic is claiming that the television is “the world’s first HDR-capable, Ultra HD OLED TV” which seems odd given that LG’s OLED panels have supported the technology previously. 

It seems that this claim is born out of the EZ1002’s support for the new HDR standard, Hybrid Log Gamma, which broadcasters such as the BBC will be using for live HDR broadcasts. 

However, Panasonic has quickly been joined by LG in offering OLED HLG support, so it was a lead that was short lived. 

Regardless of the HDR confusion, we came away impressed by the HDR capabilities of the EZ1002, which Panasonic claims is able to offer almost double the peak brightness of conventional OLEDs. 

We saw it running next to Panasonic's previous OLED model, and the extra brightness was especially beneficial to the colors, which really popped. 

Color reproduction is excellent, and Panasonic claims this has been enabled by its own Hollywood Lab. We’re always a little sceptical of these claims, but the colors on display with the EZ1002 looked suitably impressive. 

Panasonic also demoed the set next to a recent LG OLED model, although they unfortunately were not disclosing which LG set it was exactly. 

This was done to show off the noise-reduction and color-banding removing capabilities of the set, but it also unfortunately showed off a lack of sparkle in the brightest parts of the image, which looked a little flat in comparison to the LG model. 

The sound quality of the EZ1002 is really excellent. Panasonic is advertising that the set is 'Tuned by Technics' (the company's audio brand), but all we know is that we heard the set running next to an LG OLED from last year and it had a fantastically open and balanced sound in comparison. 

This sheer amount of drivers in the EZ1002 probably have something to do with that. There are two tweeters, two squarkers, and four woofers, which work to create a fantastic sound that's was deep and open. 

You can of course remove this soundbar to replace it, but with it sounding this good only people who are chasing surround sound setups will probably bother. 

All of the EZ1002’s content is accessed through Panasonic’s  'My Home Screen 2.0' operating system, which looks like it might be one of the more intuitive TV OS’s out there. 

Early Verdict

The Panasonic EZ1002 is a great looking OLED that appears to have found a convenient way around the panel technology’s awkward compromise between screen thinness and sound quality. 

The screen itself is sleek and thin, picture quality is excellent, and in particular the set’s deployment of HDR is sure to turn heads. 

The big question is how much this set will end up costing. As Panasonic’s 2017 flagship it’s unlikely to be cheap, but we’re crossing our fingers that it doesn’t leave our collective wallets in too much pain. 

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.