Should I buy the Panasonic HZ980 OLED TV?

Should I buy the Panasonic HZ980 OLED TV?
(Image credit: Panasonic)

Should you buy the Panasonic HZ980 OLED TV? It’s a pertinent question, given the model was announced in mid-2020, and took us largely by surprise. 

As a cheaper alternative to the HZ1000, HZ1500, and HZ2000 OLEDs, it’s bound to attract attention, and those of you after an affordable OLED TV will no doubt want to know if the step down still offers a quality experience.

Starting at just £1,699, it’s on a par with other 55-inch OLEDs, like the LG CX (£1,799), but it does bring Panasonic’s premium TV range within reach of more buyers than before. We’re told that Panasonic wants to make sure the quality picture its sets are known for “is available through different step ups across the range” at a “variety of specifications and price points.”

If you lower specifications, of course, you’re likely seeing a drop in quality – though there’s actually very little that’s been sacrificed for this new OLED set.

Intrigued? You should be. Here’s everything you need to know about the Panasonic HZ980 OLED TV before buying.

Panasonic HZ980 OLED price and availability

The Panasonic HZ980 OLED is the cheapest 2020 OLED put out by Panasonic, retailing at just £1,499 for a 55-inch size, with a 65-inch model costing £1,999 instead.

By comparison, the 55-inch HZ1000 retails for £1,699, marking a notable £200 discount off Panasonic’s second cheapest OLED. (The price difference was larger when comparing these models' original RRPs.)

You’ll find Panasonic TVs on sale in the UK, Europe, and Canada (but not the US) – with Australia tending to get new sets a few months after the other territories. (Panasonic AU doesn’t yet list any 2020 OLEDs on its website.)

Panasonic HZ980 OLED design and specs

So, what does the HZ980 look like? The short answer: just like the HZ1000.

While the HZ980 offers a £300 saving over its sibling model, you’re getting largely the same package in terms of visual design and internal specs. The HZ980 features Panasonic’s impressive HCX Intelligent Pro processor, and is pretty much guaranteed to offer the high-quality, filmic images of other sets in the 2020 range. (It won’t be on a par with the HZ2000, though, which uses a custom OLED panel for rather spectacular results.)

As is usual for Panasonic, the HZ980 has universal HDR support, meaning you’ll get HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and HLG – as well as an HLG Photo Mode for viewing HDR photography from Panasonic cameras. You’re also getting Dolby Vision IQ, which calibrates DV output in response to the level of ambient light in the room – one of the most notable new additions to Panasonic’s 2020 lineup.

There are only two real differences marking the HZ980 out from its peers. One is the TV stand – while the HZ1000, HZ1500 and HZ2000 all feature a swivel stand, allowing you to easily adjust the direction the screen is facing in, the HZ980 has a static stand. This means you’ll have to shift the entire television if you want it facing elsewhere.

The other difference has to do with the set’s motion handling. The HZ980 uses a more basic version of the Smooth Motion Drive Pro technology found on the HZ1000 and above, making do with Smooth Motion Drive instead.

It may sound identical, but given the sizeable saving in the HZ980’s RRP, we expect there is a small-but-notable difference in the quality of the motion handling. That could translate to some slight judder, where objects seem to shift in location instead of smoothly tracking across the scene – important to get right for fast-moving sports broadcasts, as well as car chases and fight choreography so often found in the blockbusters Panasonic expects you to be watching.

A similar example might be the entry-level LG B9 OLED, which takes a hit to processing in order to undercut the more impressive C Series OLED. It’s still an excellent picture, but you are seeing a bit more video noise in dark scenes, with the B9’s a7 Gen 2 processor struggling to maintain detail and smooth motion as well as the a9 iteration used in the CX.

In terms of audio. you’re getting the same 30W Dolby Atmos speaker system as the HZ1000 too – though it’s still a cut under the 80W system deployed in the HZ1500, or the massive upward-firing Atmos speaker of the HZ2000.

The swivel stand on the HZ1500 won't be found here

The swivel stand on the HZ1500 won't be found here (Image credit: TechRadar)

Panasonic HZ980 OLED: should you buy it?

The Panasonic HZ980 OLED certainly seems like a smart buy, especially if you’re not fussed about the swivel stand used in higher-up models. It’s a good £300 cheaper than the HZ1000 at a 55-inch size, which is more of a saving than we’d have expected with the same panel, processor and speaker system thrown in.

It’s unclear what difference the downgrade in motion handling has, though, and Panasonic has refrained from offering review units, saying that the HZ980 isn’t a priority model for them this year. 

It’s probably safe to say the motion handling won’t be quite as advanced, and you should be aware of that when buying as your home theater centerpiece. Given the overall quality of the Panasonic OLED range, though – with the HZ1000, HZ1500 and HZ2000 all earning five-star reviews on lil old TechRadar – we’d say you can buy pretty confidently.

Check out the entire Panasonic OLED range here:

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.