Hands on: Panasonic GZ2000 4K OLED TV review

Who needs 8K when you’ve got a screen this gorgeous?

What is a hands on review?
TODO alt text

Early Verdict

Forget 8K – the Panasonic GZ2000 OLED TV builds an excellent case for investing in this fully-loaded 4K set instead.

For

  • Supports both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision
  • Dolby Atmos speakers built in
  • Superb colour and motion accuracy

Against

  • No HDMI 2.1 standard
  • Thick casing design

When it comes to home entertainment, the big story at CES 2019 is undoubtedly around 8K TV technologies, doubling the already-impressive pixel count of the now-de facto 4K screen. 

But 4K may still yet to have had its finest hour, if the Panasonic GZ2000 4K OLED TV screen is anything to go by. HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos and support for the leading voice-activated smart controllers, the Panasonic GZ2000 has got it all in a package that’s courting even the brightest minds in Hollywood’s creative communities.

We’ve been eyes on with this impressive new set at Panasonic’s Las Vegas showcase – read on for our enamoured early verdict.

Pricing and availability

The Panasonic GZ2000 is yet to receive a price tag, but given the specifications of this flagship set, you might want to start filling that piggybank. Note also that it’s been roughly two years since Panasonic last offered a TV set for North America. Though the Panasonic GZ2000 will be available in Canada, it’ll be most widely distributed in the UK and Europe. Expect to see it hit store shelves in July 2019.

Design

Available in 55 and 65-inch sizes, the Panasonic GZ2000 OLED TV is unassuming at first glance. Significantly thicker than much of the competition at CES 2019, it has a simple-if-plain industrial design, sat on a centrally-placed stand, with a thick lower bezel that hides the screen’s front-firing speakers. A breakaway panel on the rear hides input ports, with a cable tidy keeping everything behind the screen neat.

But the devil here is in the details, and while Panasonic hasn’t gone for a flashy industrial design, it’ll blow you away with the it’s specification sheet – it ticks pretty much every box you could imagine for a top-of-the-line 4K OLED TV.

So let’s start with the ‘world firsts’ built in here, of which two are particularly significant. For starters, this is the first TV in the world to support both of the leading HDR standards – HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Pushing the peak brightness of an image to bring greater detail and contrast to a scene and richer colours, other manufacturers choose to support one or the other. Panasonic offers customers both in the one set – a gift to the cinephile whose library of titles dips into both formats.

Secondly, not only does the screen support Dolby Atmos, but it’s also making use of built-in up firing speakers – a first as integrated into the top of the set. A soundbar sits in that lower bezel offering solid simulated surround sound channels, while the top channels deliver the enveloping overhead sounds that make the object0based Dolby Atmos sound mixes so captivating. These speakers have been tuned in collaboration between Panasonic’s Technics audio engineers and Dolby itself, using the Technics Jeno audio engine to deliver small details in busy scenes. The set also supports output to a discrete subwoofer, should you want to beef up the low end with another standalone unit.

Both Google Assistant and Alexa voice assistants are also supported, with the screen happily hooking up to a network containing an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker. You’ll be able to change channels, volume and web apps with a voice command, among other voice-activated controls.

It’s a generous and opulent 4K offering then, only made all the sweeter by the custom image tuning Panasonic has employed here. Panasonic has worked alongside renowned Hollywood colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld whose work includes Wonder Woman, A Star is Born and Star Wars: The Force Awakens to deliver what he calls “close to a reference grade on a consumer set” in terms of colour accuracy. For Company 3, the esteemed colour grading company for which Sonnenfeld is president and senior colorist, it’s now become the go-to reference monitor with which they tune Hollywood’s biggest upcoming hits.

This is all topped off with the new HCX Pro Intelligent Processor, with has been designed to eke the most out of the HDR modes, as well as delivering the smoothest possible motion where preferred, without delving into that uncanny, watery look some sets suffer from. The chipset works particularly well in delivering improved detail in the middle range of the set’s brightness, bringing extra texture to the surface. This is particularly noticeable with still imagery, where Panasonic supports the latest HLG still photography format.

The one thing missing? Full support for the latest HMDI 2.1 specification, meaning that adaptive and high refresh rate frame settings won’t be supported here. That probably won’t be off too great a concern for the cinephiles this is aimed at, seeing as there’s little movie or TV content taking advantage of the technology yet, but could turn off gamers looking for a set future-proofed not only for Hollywood’s finest films, but the possible features of the next generation of gaming consoles, too. A low-latency mode however should ensure that games still play responsively on the set either way though.

Performance

The Panasonic GZ2000 OLED TV is a stunner – the sort of screen that we hated to pull ourselves away from in order to see the rest of what was on offer at CES 2019.

Watching a few select demo reels, football (soccer, US readers) and clips from the 4K remaster of the stunning Blade Runner, we were blown away by what was on offer from the set.

Blade Runner is always a great test of a screen’s ability to find detail in a darkened scene without washing out the richness of the picture, with a smoggy futuristic LA dazzled by neon lighting, and the Panasonic GZ2000 delivered detail in spades. The scene where Harrison Ford sweeps through the city in a flying cop car, weaving through gigantic moving advertising billboards looked fantastic, with rich blue hues penetrated by the sharp lighting of the cars headlights. It perfectly demonstrated the screen’s ability to extract fine detail from a difficult to replicate screen. A Dolby Vision demo presentation was equally impressive. 

Fast moving sports scenes were also handled well. Footage of a cyclist passing a row of trees (referred to as a motion processing “torture test" by the Panasonic reps on hand) proved little trouble for the set, maintaining a well defined line around the cyclist. Waves washing across a sandy beach in extreme close up maintained the integrity and definition of each grain, too.

The performance of the Dolby Atmos speakers was just as impressive. While we think you’re likely going to want to take advantage of the optional discrete subwoofer input, the upfiring speakers did a great job of wrapping the sound around us as we listened, with shimmering detail in smashing glass and just enough oomph in the low end to let you bypass a dedicated surround system without too many tears.

Early verdict

The buzzword this year for TVs may be 8K, but it’s hard to imagine seeing a better 4K screen any time soon. The Panasonic GZ2000 ticks pretty much every box you’d want from a TV, especially if movie viewing is your primary concern. 

It may be the beginning of the end for 4K, but Panasonic is going to make sure it sees off the format in a kingly fashion.

  • Check out all of TechRadar's CES 2019 coverage. We're live in Las Vegas to bring you all the breaking tech news and launches, plus hands-on reviews of everything from 8K TVs and foldable displays to new phones, laptops and smart home gadgets. 

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.