If you’re looking to splash out on a television, chances are you’re be looking for something with an OLED panel. Manufacturers are increasingly looking to OLED to offer a premium picture, and Panasonic is no exception, offering an expanded range of four OLED TVs rather than the two sets we saw last year – the FZ952/FZ950 and FZ802/FZ800.
We’ve already written our hands on review of the flagship GZ2000 OLED, with a custom panel and color correction from leading Hollywood production colorists. The remaining three models actually share the same panel and processor – so the picture won’t be much different between them, other than the size of the screen – but each of the GZ1500, GZ1000, and GZ950 vary in their shape, as well as what they offer in the audio department.
We went eyes on with the Panasonic GZ1500, which promises the most out of the three in terms of audio quality – a crucial consideration for that premium home cinema experience. Here’s we expect to see (and hear) from the set when it releases over the summer.
Pricing and availability
There’s no word on pricing yet, but keep in mind last year’s OLEDs ran into the thousands. We’ll be seeing the GZ1500 release to UK, EU, Australia and Canada - though not the United States - around June.
Design and features
Like the other three OLED TVs releasing this year, the GZ1500 features a pleasingly slim OLED panel, which expands into a bulked-out rear for housing the processor, speaker, and inputs.
The screen itself comes in either 55-inch or 65-inch sizes, with the now-commonplace narrow bezel, and an L-shaped stand providing some real support for the panel’s weight. The GZ1500 isn’t as discrete or compact as some competitors, but has the same sort of shape as the rest of Panasonic’s OLED range.
There are the usual smattering of ports shared between the side and rear of the set, with a minimal offering within easy reach at the side, and the rest huddled further around the back: one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0, Common Interface, Ethernet, composite, optical, and headphone outputs.
You get a total of four HDMI ports, including one with ARC (audio return channel) to let you transfer audio from the TV to an external hi-fi system if needs. The hope here is that you won’t need to: Panasonic’s ‘Blade speaker’ design shifts the speakers out of the main housing and into a soundbar fit to the underside the screen. The forward-firing speakers then – as the name suggests – fire towards the viewer for a more immersive audio experience than the rear-facing speakers found in most television sets.
Viewers after a really top-notch home cinema experience usually resort to an external hi-fi system, in order to draw out the audio detail and surround sound of more advanced audio formats. The GZ1500 speakers support the premium Dolby Atmos standard, meaning you get some semblance of surround sound without literally needing five-to-seven speakers placed around the room.
Our main complaint with Panasonic’s OLED TVs last year was the inconsistent support for Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision – the premium audio and video formats increasingly expected from premium home televisions. Thankfully, that’s been amended.
The GZ1500 – like its OLED siblings – will support basically every content format you’d hope for in a high-end TV. As a 4K HDR television, it supports the regular HDR10 standard, but also both of the more premium HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR formats – not to mention Dolby Atmos audio and Hybrid Log Gamma’s dual-SDR/HDR format. You’ll also get Panasonic’s HLG Photo mode, which allows you to view HDR images taken on Panasonic’s Lumix cameras up on the big screen.
Panasonic was one of the collaborators behind the Dolby Vision competitor, HDR10+: a premium HDR format that uses ‘dynamic metadata’ to vary contrast and brightness with each scene. But amid slow pickup of the new format, Panasonic seems to have decided to offer everything else as well – and the GZ1500 is all the stronger for it.
From what we saw in presentations, the GZ1500 captures the same rich visual detail and popping colors of its predecessors, with a beautifully smooth motion rate for action-packed movies or fast-paced sports viewing. It's no surprise Panasonic is partnering so closely with the likes of Hollywood, with color-correction in its OLED sets from leading, and a well-deserved reputation for use in post-production studios.
Honestly, if you bought one of last year’s models, it doesn’t look like you’re getting much of a better picture with the upgrade, despite a new HCX Pro chip under the hood – but the standard set in 2018 would be hard to improve on, to be fair.
The Panasonic GZ1500 was only announced in mid-February, with several sad months to wait before we get our hands on a review unit to test it out properly.
We were blown away by last year’s OLED TVs, the FZ952/FZ950 and FZ802/FZ800, praising their class-leading color handling and stunning SDR/HDR images – showing that OLED is still the leading panel technology for truly rich pictures. The GZ1500 leans closer to the FZ950 with its nifty Blade Speaker, even if Panasonic has gone one better with the upward-firing speakers of its GZ2000 flagship.
By filling in the gaps of format support, Panasonic could be on the way to making a perfect OLED TV. But we’ll fill you in when we can confirm that for sure.
- Panasonic TV range 2019: all the Panasonic TVs coming to market this year