Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: which step-down OLED TV will be right for you?

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: which step-down OLED TV is for you?
(Image credit: Future)

LG's C-series has long been the sweet spot in its range of OLED TVs, combining awesome picture quality and a sleek design in a (relatively) affordable package. But the competition is fiercer than ever. Not only has Sony's A80L taken a chunk out of it, but now Panasonic is queuing up to do the same.

Its new MZ1500 offers plenty that the C3 doesn't, such as a heatsink for added brightness and a soundbar-style speaker. Is it about to knock the C3 into third place?

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: price

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: price

(Image credit: Future)

These are both step-down models, so they're cheaper than their top-of-the-range siblings (the Panasonic MZ2000 and LG G3). The LG C3 launched recently at £2100 / $1900 / AU$3299 for 55 inches and £2900 / $2600 / AU$4299 for 65 inches. But both sizes have already seen some deals. In the coming months, you can expect plenty more where they came from, especially with Prime Day on the way.

The Panasonic MZ1500 doesn't launch until August, but we've been told it will cost £2200 (around $2800 / AU$4100) for the 55-inch model and £2900 (around $3700 / AU$5400) for the 65-inch version. Take these prices with a pinch of salt, as they are still subject to change.

But if they hold, that would make the MZ1500 slightly pricier than the C3 at 55 inches, and the same price at 65 inches. Factor in the deals the C3 is currently enjoying, and you'll see the gap between the two widen.

The MZ1500 will also come in 48- and 42-inch versions, but not in the UK.

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: design

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: design

(Image credit: Future)

The MZ1500 looks quite similar to the MZ2000 – but it doesn't have the same MLA brightness-boosting tech on the inside. Its slim bezels are barely noticeable, and the front of the TV is dominated by a bar of front-firing drivers mounted beneath the display. With any luck, that should negate the need for a soundbar, though we'll reserve judgement until we've had the TV in for testing.

It comes with a stand that's nice and narrow, so will fit on most TV cabinets without any trouble (some TVs' feet are very wide apart, and so require a wider surface on which to sit). 

The LG C3 looks very similar to the C2 that preceded it. Again, its stand has a small footprint making it easy to situate (though the feet of its 42-inch iteration are wider apart), and the TV is very slim bar a fatter section that houses the connections, processing smarts and speakers. At just over 16kg, the 65-inch model is lighter than most TVs that size, yet still feels well made and built to last.

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: features

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: features

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi? / Netflix, Animal)

Don't tell anyone, but the LG C3 and Panasonic MZ1500 actually use the same screen – an OLED EX panel made by LG Display. But these are supported by different processing technologies, and the MZ1500 adds a heatsink that should increase brightness. So don't expect both TVs to perform the same.

The brains of the Panasonic MZ1500 is the new HCX Pro AI processor that also features in the range-topping MZ2000. A new version of Filmmaker Mode adjusts the picture to the ambient lighting in the room, improving the visuals even when the sun is blazing through the window. Perfect for those summer movie marathons!

Gamers are catered for with True Game Mode, which should tweak the colour balance and contrast for greater accuracy. It also brings source-oriented HDR tone mapping for more accurate HDR performance in games – it should operate similarly to the C3's HGiG setting.

However, there are still only two HDMI 2.1 sockets, to the C3's four. One of the Panasonic's is the eARC port, which may well be taken up by a soundbar or AV receiver – if you intend on switching between consoles a lot, you'll be doing a fair bit of unplugging and plugging back in around the back of the TV. The MZ1500's HDMI 2.1 sockets are compatible with the main gaming formats such as 4K/120HzVRR (in both FreeSync and G-Sync) and ALLM, plus Dolby Vision gaming (though only up to 4K/60Hz, not the full 4K/120Hz). 

The MZ1500 runs Panasonic's own My Home Screen 8.0 OS. It looks very similar to last year's 7.0 iteration, which was a little simple but plenty responsive and easy to use. It did lack some apps though – only Apple TV+ app for streaming Apple's own content rather than the full Apple TV app, and no BT Sport or Now. Hopefully, Panasonic has plugged those gaps.

The C3's processor is LG's new Alpha 9 Gen 6. This includes some new picture processing modes such as the ability to upscale sources to near-4K while reducing noise but preserving intentional film grain, more picture zones for separate HDR optimisation, and greater sharpening of foreground elements. And it improves the audio by upmixing all sound formats to 9.1.2 virtual channels and stops some frequencies being overshadowed by others.

The new webOS 23 interface has a new, simpler layout and new folder system, plus a new Quick Settings menu for your most-used settings and features. The Game Optimiser menu also has a new sound sub-menu. And the C3 is, typically for LG, awesome for gamers – its four HDMI 2.1 sockets still shame most rivals’ TVs, and they support all the same gaming specs as the MZ1500 with the addition of Dolby Vision gaming all the way up to 4K/120Hz. 

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: picture

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: picture

(Image credit: Future / Netflix, Drive to Survive)

We haven't tested the MZ1500 yet, so can't comment definitively on its picture quality. But we did have a hands-on session with it at Panasonic's recent press event, which gave us some indication how it performs.

It might lack the MLA tech of the flagship MZ2000, but it does have a heatsink, which the C3 lacks. That helped the MZ1500 to look nice and bright during our demo. Brighter than the C3? Again, we'll have to reserve final judgement for now, but we certainly think so at this stage.

Our demo footage looked natural yet punchy, sharp and with plenty of detail. Which bodes well for movies and TV shows. We can't wait to settle down for a proper test.

The C3's picture is better than the C2's – which is quite an achievement – but not drastically better. The contrast between the dark and light parts gives the picture real depth, and there's a little extra pop and sharpness than its predecessor.

Colours are warm and rich without ever looking artificial. And the upscaling is a treat, resulting in a picture that's sharp and detailed, but doesn't look like it's been artificially enhanced.

But as we say, the competition has moved on – the Sony A80L has a bit more visual punch still. The C3 looks vulnerable. Can the MZ1500 relegate it to third place in the picture stakes? Wait for a full review...

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: sound

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: sound

(Image credit: Future)

Sound has been a real letdown for LG's C-series. Last year's C2 was disappointing, and the C3 has somehow managed to get worse.

The word that keeps cropping up in relation to its audio performance is 'dull'. It's all just a bit lifeless. You can tweak the sound, but this brings problems all of its own. The AI Sound Pro mode is meant to use the magic of AI to optimise the sound to whatever you're watching, but it's so harsh that we found it unlistenable. The Dolby Atmos setting is open, spacious and weighty, but introduces a rattly distortion at the deeper bass levels. Your best option is to keep these options switched off. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

Which leaves the MZ1500 with a real opportunity to shine. While we struggled to focus on the TV's audio during our demo – these press events can be pretty loud and hectic – we did get a sense that the forward-firing speaker bar is a bit more direct than the LZ1500's hidden speaker arrangement. We would be amazed if it sounded worse than the LG C3.

Panasonic MZ1500 vs LG C3: early verdict

Without having tested the MZ1500 it's impossible to say whether it's better than the LG C3. But it certainly looks promising.

With more prominent speakers and an added heatsink, it could well sound better and have a brighter picture than LG's step-down marvel. It will launch for around the same price as the C3 but, because it's newer, it could be a while before it gets a sizeable discount.

We only awarded the C3 four stars, after last year's five-star C2. The C3 has already been bettered by the Sony A80L – could it also lose out to the Panasonic MZ1500? We'll update this article once we've tested the Panasonic thoroughly.


All the info on Panasonic's 2023 TV lineup

Check out our Panasonic MZ2000 hands-on

LG C3 vs C2: which is better?

Joe Svetlik

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.