Panasonic's First OLED TV

Key Facts and Figures on the Panasonic 65CZ950

Panasonic TX-65CZ950
Is this what the next generation of TV looks like?. Panasonic

For many AV fans, OLED has long looked like the next natural step in TV technology’s evolution. The way each pixel in an OLED screen can make its own light and color presents a clear and present danger to the dominance of LCD technology in the TV world. Unfortunately, though, difficulties producing OLED screens in substantial numbers have severely hampered OLED’s once seemingly irresistible rise, with only one brand - LG - persevering with OLED TV technology into 2015. Until now.

For after receiving rave feedback on an OLED prototype at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show back in January, Panasonic has now announced that it finally feels ready to join the OLED party properly with an OLED TV you can actually buy rather than just dream about. So real is this Panasonic OLED TV, in fact, that it even has a model number: the TX-65CZ950. As its name suggests, the 65CZ950 is a 65-inch TV. And as you’d expect from a cutting edge TV in 2015, its screen packs in a 4K UHD resolution of 3840x2160 pixels. 

More controversially the 65CZ950’s screen follows the OLED trend of having a curved rather than flat screen. Whatever your thoughts about this from a viewing experience perspective, though, there’s no doubt that the curve gives the TV a seriously stylish appearance. Especially as Panasonic has underlined its TV’s opulent nature (we’ll come to the small matter of its price presently) by upholstering - yes, that’s right, upholstering - its rear in fancy artificial suede substitute Alcantara.

At which point I guess I can’t avoid the price question any longer. So here goes: Panasonic has announced an eye-watering UK cost for the 65CZ950 of £7999 - which converts to around $12,350 (though Panasonic has yet to confirm US launch details for its new flagship TV). It’s fair to say, then, that upholstering its rear in Alcantara is the very least Panasonic needs to do if it’s to persuade us to hand over so much money. Especially when LG’s 65-inch 65EG9600 OLED TVs are now available for just $6,000.

Cue Panasonic’s OLED-optimized 4K Pro video processing system. This aims to prove that just using an OLED panel is in truth only one part of the picture quality story; how you address and drive all those OLED pixels is just as important. 

There are a number of key elements to the Panasonic 4K Pro engine in the 65CZ950. The first is its use of a 3D Lookup table system for its color reproduction that covers all three primary and all three secondary colors to apparently deliver the sort of tonal accuracy previously only seen on hugely expensive professional monitors. 

Also potentially critical to justifying the 65CZ950’s cost is an advanced gradation system designed to eke out more subtle shadow detailing and gradations in dark areas. OLED is rightly famed for its ability to deliver an almost pure black color, but actually the step between complete, zero luminance brightness and merely low light levels is very difficult to achieve convincingly.

But Panasonic claims to have cracked the problem by drawing on ‘Absolute Black’ technology developed through its long experience of now defunct plasma technology. This should help the 65CZ950 avoid the sort of lighting ‘bands’ and sudden grey infusions seen at certain brightness levels on LG’s otherwise excellent OLED TVs (like the 55EG9600 reviewed here).

To cement Panasonic’s belief that the 65CZ950 gets closer than ever before to the brand’s mission of reproducing pictures from TVs that look exactly as film directors intended them to look when they created them for the cinema, it’s called on the services of renowned Hollywood colorist Mike Sowa to tune the 65CZ950’s colors. Sowa, whose film credits include Oblivion and Insurgent, has also given his official seal of approval to the 65CZ950’s overall picture quality, with his personal settings available on the OLED TV’s True Cinema picture preset.

The 65CZ950 is additionally the first OLED TV to receive THX certification. While this is certainly significant with regard to the 65CZ950’s capabilities with today’s picture quality standards, though, it’s less exciting for me than the fact that the 65CZ950 will also play the next generation of high dynamic range (HDR) video that’s now starting to be streamed by Amazon and UltraFlix, and which is also a mandatory requirement of the upcoming Ultra HD Blu-ray format.

Set to go on sale in Europe in October, the 65CZ950 will hopefully find its way onto my test benches in the next few weeks. So watch this space if you’re keen to find out if this potentially ground-breaking TV lives up to the hype - and that price tag.