Hands on: Panasonic GZ950 / GZ1000 4K OLED review

Taking a stand

What is a hands on review?
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Early Verdict

The expansion of supported HDR formats and smart assistants mean that the GZ950 and GZ1000 are shaping up for a hugely convenient experience for the average home viewer.

For

  • Panasonic's cheapest new OLED
  • Dolby Atmos
  • Dolby Vision and HDR10+

Against

  • Stand options unnecessary
  • No forward-firing speakers

Whereas the kinds of images on home televisions have long struggled to compete with the scale and impact of the movie screen, the move towards larger TV screens, more advanced panel displays, and a wider array of premium format supports has helped make home viewing a more cinematic experience than ever.

That’s nowhere more true than with the Panasonic GZ950 and GZ1000. Sitting at the bottom of Panasonic’s new 2019 OLED TV range, they both iterate on last year’s FZ800 OLED, hoping to offer an equivalent 4K HDR picture while broadening the amount and types of content the average viewer can get out of a Panasonic television. 

So if you’re looking to buy or upgrade to an OLED TV, what does that mean for you? 

Pricing and availability

No prices for the GZ950 / GZ1000 have been confirmed yet, though expect a four-figure sum. The sets will both release to the UK, EU, and Canada - though not in the United States - around June of this year. We expect a release to Australia too.

Design and features

Panasonic GZ950

Panasonic GZ950. Image Credit: Panasonic

(Image: © Panasonic)

Sharing an identical panel, and coming in both 55- and 65-inch models, the GZ950 and GZ1000 only really differ in terms of the stand design: the GZ950 sporting a cone-shaped support, while the GZ1000 carries itself with a broader fold-out shape. Both are available in UK and EU, so the difference will largely come down to your personal taste.

Stands aside, nothing else in terms of the hardware design really… stands out. Panasonic has gone for straightforwardly thin bezels and a plastic casing attached to the back of the display. It’s clear that the budget has gone towards the 4K panel, rather than jazzing up the casing around it – though the model is sturdy and far from cheap-looking.

When it comes to the sound, the GZ950 / GZ1000 packs in the same 50W Dolby Atmos speakers as the GZ1500, though they’re built into the rear of the television rather than facing towards the viewer – so those really hankering after immersive audio may want the upgrade. 

Either way, you’re getting premium quality audio that sounds three-dimensional, even if you’d naturally get more of a surround sound feel with a proper multi-speaker hi-fi setup.

Panasonic GZ1000

Panasonic GZ1000. Image Credit: Panasonic

(Image: © Panasonic)

What we think eager buyers will be after is enough of a price drop from 2018's models to bring this stunning display technology within their reach. Last year's FZ950 and FZ800 retailed for £3,499 and £2,499 respectively – and the nature of the annual product cycle may mean you’re better off buying a 2018 set at discount than a new model that jumps back up to the full RRP.

However, there are a few things the GZ950 / GZ1000 is doing different, as Panasonic has used the new range to launch a host of software upgrades and format supports for their TVs. 

The GZ950 / GZ1000 will be compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, enabling voice commands for UI navigation and the ability to connect to supported smart speakers. Want to turn on the TV, but can’t find the remote? Shout at your Google Home or Amazon Echo, and your virtual servant will power the set on for you, browse through menus, or find specific shows and streaming apps for you to enjoy.

Voice assistants are increasingly the standard for modern smart TVs, given how integrated the likes of Alexa are in modern smartphones and smart home gadgets. Even if you don’t fancy using the voice assistant much yourself, it’s reassuring to see all your devices playing nice with each other.

Panasonic GZ950 / GZ1000. Image Credit: Panasonic

Panasonic GZ950 / GZ1000. Image Credit: Panasonic

(Image: © Panasonic)

Picture quality

Speaking of playing nice, Panasonic managed to raise our eyebrows with its decision to support the Dolby Vision HDR format alongside the competing HDR10+ standard it helped to develop.

While Panasonic panels have a reputation among Hollywood’s colorists and post-production studios, HDR10+ is still attempting to gain a foothold in the same circles. The distinction might not seem too important for the average viewer, but trust us – if you’re watching on an HDR television, you want it to be able to play, stream, or cast content in HDR wherever possible. To that end, all of this year’s OLED TVs will be able to display Dolby Vision, HDR10+, HDR10, Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG) broadcasts, and HLG Photo mode for HDR photography.

As an OLED panel, you can expect pretty stunning contrast levels – and blacks that actually look black. The organic film in the OLED panel is able to emit its own colored light, so colors are naturally vibrant – instead of being washed out by imprecise backlights. Panasonic’s Absolute Black Filter, too, helps to minimize light reflection and keep those darker colors looking strong.

We’re waiting for a proper test period to see what difference Panasonic’s new HCX Pro Intelligent Processor – the most powerful chip made by the company – makes to the picture. From what we saw, the chip was well up to the task of fast-moving images and maintaining a smooth frame rate – though Panasonic's own testing conditions were always going to be flattering. And the picture wouldn’t need to improve much on last year’s FZ950 / FZ800 OLED models to impress.

HCX Pro Intelligent Processor. Image Credit: TechRadar

HCX Pro Intelligent Processor. Image Credit: TechRadar

(Image: © TechRadar)

Early verdict

It’s too early to say definitively if Panasonic has improved on its class-leading OLED displays of 2018, but the specs so far add up – while the expansion of supported HDR formats and smart assistants mean that the GZ950 and GZ1000 are shaping up for hugely convenient experience for the average home viewer.

Not to mention the updated Home Screen 4.0 smart TV interface, which will allow for more customizable layouts, and shortcuts for favorite apps and devices – especially useful for those making the most of the TV’s smart assistant support.

When the retail prices come out for the whole OLED range, we’ll be able to say whether the upgrade to the forward-firing GZ1500 is worth it – but the GZ950 / GZ1000 is going to be Panasonic’s most affordable OLED this year, and that means we’ll be paying close attention to see if it offers the best value OLED package out there.

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.