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Technology.

5 August 2021

How to buy the best Panasonic TV

With the promise of the world's most cinematic TV and a new processor to improve accuracy and detail, it could be a good year for Panasonic. We explain what's new with its OLED and LCD sets and how each series differs.
Martin Pratt
Lifestyle panasonic hz2000 oled 485826

Panasonic has the smallest range of the main four manufacturers (LG, Panasonic, Samsung and Sony) but every year it delivers exciting new technology in its OLED and LCD sets.

In this guide we'll highlight the differences between Panasonic's ranges and explain the technology that makes them tick.

Panasonic TV technology explained

New HDR formats and processors are just some of the features you'll find in Panasonic's TVs. 

Dolby Vision IQ

HDR (see below) is designed to improve the contrast of whatever you're watching, but we sometimes think it makes things worse. Our most common complaint is how the deeper blacks and brighter whites can obscure detail. Since HDR normally goes hand-in-hand with 4K, it's a crime to cover up the extra detail the higher resolution affords.

Dolby Vision IQ offers a solution by using the light sensors in the TV to adjust contrast based on your room's ambient light. We'll know how well this works when we test Panasonic's high-end 2021 TVs, but it's a good solution in theory.

Filmmaker mode

It's strange to think that when you watch a film on your TV that it may not look the way the people who made it intended. That's why the likes of Martin Scorsese, Ava DuVernay and Rian Johnson put their weight behind Filmmaker Mode, which disables TV-added effects that can compromise that original vision.

It should make for a more cinematic experience as motion-smoothing effects are blocked. In our tests we tinker with picture settings to get the best picture from each TV and motion-smoothing is something we often turn off ourselves. For anyone who doesn't want to delve into the deep recesses of TV picture settings, the Filmmaker Mode should be a welcome addition to Panasonic's high-end TVs.  

HCX Pro AI and Intelligent Processor

Panasonic's latest processor, the HCX Pro AI, will power its flagship OLED from its 2021 range, the JZ2000.

The Intelligent processor is also found in the HZ2000 from 2020. Panasonic drew on its experience making reference panels for movie studios. As a result, the HCX has been approved by Hollywood, according to Panasonic.

The HCX's principal job is to create more accurate, natural colours. This makes the image quality on Panasonic's TVs closer to the filmmaker's vision. We'll see whether those claims are true when we test the HCX Pro sets soon.

HDR10+ and HLG

All of Panasonic's 4K sets have two versions of HDR. HDR10+, which has also been adopted by Samsung, is supported by Amazon Video, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Paramount and Warner Brothers.

HLG is the type of HDR that broadcasters will use when they launch HDR channels. It's not so useful now, but given that most of us keep the same TV for years, it's good to know that it will work with new channels.

You can read more about the competing HDR formats and how they differ in our What is HDR TV?.

Local dimming

All LCD TVs have a backlight consisting of multiple LEDs that illuminate to create the picture on screen. Local dimming refers to the areas of the backlight turning on and off. The more specific areas of local dimming the TV has, the more control it has over what parts of the screen are lit.

This minimises lighter colours bleeding into darker areas of the screen. 

The reason you won't find any of this dimming technology on OLED TVs is because they don't need a backlight; instead, OLEDs have individual organic cells behind the screen, which produce their own light source. 

You can find out more about how OLED TVs work and how they differ from LCD models in our guide to OLED displays.

My Home Screen 6.0

LG has webOS, Samsung has Tizen and Panasonic his My Home Screen. It's the interface for the TV where you'll find your apps, menus and features. 

2021 TVs will be the first to have version 6.0 and the host of improvements that come with it. Getting the menus you use most will be quicker and voice control is now built-in, so you won't need to talk via an Amazon Echo or Google Home.

Upward-firing speakers

Dolby Atmos is technology that – in theory – makes the audio sound like it's coming from above you or passing over your head. It's a feature that TVs from several brands, including LG's, support – but without dedicated speakers sending the sound over you, it will only ever be simulated. 

Panasonic's flagship 2021 JZ2000 OLED has dedicated upward firing speakers and some pointed to the side, so it should be capable of some truly expansive sound.

VRR (variable refresh rate)

With TVs now capable of supporting frame rates up to 120Hz (meaning the screen can display 120 images per second) and games consoles capable of playing 120Hz games there's more chance of dropped frames. This is where a console drops one or more frames. 

This can cause a jarring stutter that can look like a momentary freeze in the action or a slowing of the movement as the frame rate drops to less than the optimal 120Hz. VRR adjusts the frame rate dynamically to account for these stutters and dropped frames, and makes it much harder to spot them happening. 

Panasonic's 2021 TV overview

Panasonic JZ2000 OLED 

Panasonic tends to release its TV later in the year than LG, Samsung or Sony, but we still know plenty about it top-tier OLED for 2021. It keeps pace nicely with rival high-end sets with the HCX Pro AI processor, which does what all good processors do by optimising what content you throw at it to look its best. All processors promise to do much the same thing of course, and we're always keen to see which manufacturer's chip does it best.

A game mode has been added and the JZ2000 has VRR (variable refresh rate) and HFR (high frame rate). These two technologies combine to make a smoother picture at higher frame rates (frame rate refers to the number of frames the TV can display per second) particularly when gaming.

The speaker array has both side and upward firing speakers to make the most of Dolby Atmos surround sound technology. Audio should feel more expansive and come from all angles rather than direct from the TV.

Both the picture and sound have been tuned by Hollywood experts. That's been one of Panasonic's main selling points with its high-end TVs in recent years. It works with people who know their stuff when it comes to the audio visual to create a picture that's ideal for films. 

Panasonic's 2020 TV overview

We've tested the majority of Panasonic's 2020 range. Find out how they differ below and use the links to head over to our full reviews.

Panasonic HZ2000B OLED range

Panasonic HZ2000 OLED

 

Panasonic aims its high-end TVs at people who like to tweak the picture settings. But even before you get your hands on a HZ2000, it will already have been tuned to make it a TV that does justice to a filmmaker's original vision. 

It means that if you want the best picture with zero fuss, the HZ2000 should deliver. For those who want to tinker, it offers a range of options, including being able to adjust the look of Dolby Vision HDR content. This is something no other TV can do.

Dolby Vision IQ and Filmmaker Mode are included, too.

Backlit TVs, such as LCD models, are generally brighter than OLEDs, but Panasonic says the HZ2000 OLEDs will be 20% brighter than rival models. 

Read our reviews if you want to see if Panasonic's top-tier range is as good as it claims.

Panasonic HZ1500B and HZ1000B OLED range

These two similar ranges have one key difference: the sound. The 1500B range has an integrated sound bar at the base, whereas the 1000B range looks far more traditional with hidden speakers behind the screen. 

A criticism often levelled at modern TVs is poor, thin sound. By giving the speakers more room, the 1500B should have richer audio.

Picture quality should be similar between the two ranges. Both use the same HCX Pro Intelligent processor and support the same HDR formats.

Read our reviews of these ranges to see how much difference that integrated sound bar makes to the audio.

Panasonic HZ1500B reviews

Panasonic HZ1000B reviews

Panasonic HX800B 4K LCD range

These mid-range LCD sets tick a lot of high-end boxes. They support HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, which are both advanced formats capable of adjusting contrast to suit each scene. Dolby Atmos is supported, too, so audio should feel more expansive and full. 

They have a full array backlights, which sit behind the screen for more control over what areas of the screen are lit. This should improve contrast and help avoid the sort of colour banding that we see on inferior TVs, where areas of colour can look blocky – like ripples in a pool.

Read our reviews to see if the HX800B's high-end features make them an excellent mid-range choice.

Panasonic HX580B 4K LCD range

The cheapest Panasonic TVs sit in the HX580B LCD range. There are some pleasant surprises we didn't expect to find in a low-end range, including Dolby Vision. This advanced HDR format is favoured by Netflix, so the HX580B should look good when you're streaming 4K HDR content.

Some other things we expected to see are missing though. There's no PVR for recording programmes onto a USB hard drive, and you can't control any aspect of the TV with your voice.

That said, we've seen a fair few basic TVs in 2020, and some have managed to impress us. Are Panasonic's the pick of the bunch?