Panasonic The new GZ950 4K OLED Smart TV takes a big step-up in picture performance over LED TV to provide accurate color, deep blacks & precise detail thanks to the HCX Pro Intelligent processor.
Nearly every major TV manufacturer these days is offering an OLED TV range, but for the technology to really catch on sets are going to need to drop within reach of mid-range budgets.
That’s why the GZ950 and GZ1000, the cheapest OLEDs in Panasonic’s 2019 4K TV line-up, are such an interesting proposition.
The GZ950 is the cheaper of the two, with the GZ1000 adding a couple of hundred pounds to the price, for which you get a slightly fancier stand.
Making two near-identical models like this – and with such a clear price difference – seems more confusing than convenient, but having taken the Panasonic GZ950b model for a spin, we can tell you it doesn’t disappoint
Panasonic TX-55GZ950B Design
Looking at the GZ950, it’s clear that Panasonic has opted for minimizing the impact of anything other than the panel.
There’s a very narrow bezel, and only a thin wedge of casing along the bottom of the screen, with the Panasonic logo in view.
The GZ950b’s stand connects the set via a thick plastic cone to a rectangular base: nothing special, though nothing overly garish either.
Aside from that, you get the usual Ethernet, CI, headphone, USB, satellite, and component ports, behind a removable section of the plastic casing.
There’s also a handful of manual control buttons for power, volume, and changing channels, in case you manage to misplace your remote (it’s under the sofa).
Panasonic TX-55GZ950B Smart TV
The GZ950 uses the latest version of Panasonic’s own proprietary smart TV platform, known as MyHomeScreen 4.0, which gives you access to broadcast, catch-up, and online TV shows and films.
Clicking the Home button on the remote will give you the option of three pages to choose from: Devices, Apps, and Live TV by default.
You can however also select other apps to pin to this menu, which should make navigating your favorite TV streaming services that little bit breezier.
All the usual suspects are here: Rakuten TV, YouTube, Prime Video, Netflix, Chili, and the like.
You also get Freeview Play, meaning those in the UK have easy access to various catch-up services like BBC iPlayer and All 4.
Panasonic TX-55GZ950B HD/SDR Performance
Even with regular old HD resolution and standard dynamic range (SDR), the ability of the OLED panel to conjure vivid images is on show in some style.
Images are rich, with accurate colors and sharp contrast, while the self-emissive pixels in the panel allow for a huge amount of brightness control, minimizing blooming around on-screen light sources like candles or torches.
The colors could possibly pop a little more – compared to some of LG’s OLEDs the picture can look a little muted.
Watching the opening scenes of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, the eponymous ring had a more noticeable gleam on the LG C9 OLED compared to the GZ950.
This is still an OLED panel though, and the picture you’re getting is pretty breathtaking overall.
Panasonic panels have a good reputation among Hollywood’s colorists and post-production studios, and the color and contrast of the images on the show display a high degree of consistency and accuracy.
Watching the third season of Netflix’s Stranger Things in Dolby Vision, the clash of 80s neon and oppressive dark skies is brought out in full force, with the panel proving more than capable of handling the HDR scenes.
One of the greatest strengths of this tv is the broad array of formats supported, including HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), and HLG Photo Mode – all of which feature on Panasonic’s mid-range LCDs as well its OLED counterparts.
Panasonic caused some raised eyebrows with its decision to support the Dolby Vision HDR format alongside the competing HDR10+ standard it helped to develop – although the latter simply isn’t as widely used.
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Panasonic TX-55GZ950B Sound
When it comes to the sound, the GZ950b pack in the same 50W Dolby Atmos speakers as the GZ1500, although here they’re built into the rear of the television rather than facing towards the viewer.
Either way, you’re getting premium-quality audio that sounds three-dimensional. Dolby Atmos’ content sounds suitably expansive, with the sounds of crunching snow and gunfire in Altered Carbon rolling out in the forest beyond the screen.
You’d naturally get more of a surround sound feel with proper Dolby Atmos speakers, but you can certainly hear the difference on the TV speakers too.
Other Panels to Consider
Not everyone is offering OLED panels at this price range, but the TV makers who do should certainly be kept in mind here.
The LG B8 maybe a year older than the Panasonic GZ950b , but it still packs in a vivid display and is likely to get a price cut when the 2019 version lands later this year.
You may also want to consider the newer LG C9: it starts at a considerably higher £2,499 but offers the best price-to-performance ratio of any OLED on the market today.
Keep in mind the Panasonic GX800 too. As an LED television, it packs in the same format support as its OLED sibling, but at roughly half the price. If you’re not committed to an OLED panel, this might be the one for you.
WHAT ARE THE PROS:
- Class-leading color accuracy
- True blacks and wide viewing angles
- Multi-format HDR support including HDR10+ and Dolby Vision
WHAT ARE THE CONS:
- Very rare 24p HDR frame drops
- No VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) support
- Bright HDR scenes not as impactful as high-performing LED LCDs
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