Eager to see how Panasonic plans to compete, our intrepid TV/AV editor, Tom Parsons, jetted off to take a behind-closed-doors look at Panasonic’s 2023 TV lineup.
As well as getting a fresh hands-on look at the flagship Panasonic MZ2000 step-down MZ1500, he also had a chance to have a chat with some of the firm’s big-wig executives to find out more about the whole range and check out the cheaper models.
Here are the five biggest things he found out.
Only one model has MLA tech
Micro Lens Array (MLA) is a vogue screen tech that made its debut at CES 2023. It’s effectively an answer to the second generation screen QD-OLED screen tech seen on select flagship Samsung and Sony TVs, like the Sony A95L we’re keen to get into our test rooms soon.
The tech is important as, like QD-OLED panels, MLA aims to help OLEDs overcome their biggest perceived weakness, their lower max brightness levels. Specifically, it aims to let TVs hit a peak brightness of over 2000 nits. To put that in context, most traditional OLEDs struggle to get past 700 nits.
Having tested the tech on the LG G3 we can personally confirm it works brilliantly. During our checks, MLA let the new flagship LG OLED hit higher peak brightness levels than its predecessor, the LG G2, and deliver a wonderfully dynamic, fun-to-watch picture. In fact, our only annoyance was that it has driven prices for the new sets dramatically up.
Which was why we were sad to find out that Panasonic currently has no plans to bring the tech to any of its cheaper TVs. Like LG, the tech will be limited to Panasonic’s flagship MZ2000 set. Even the slightly cheaper MZ1500, which is set to rival the LG C3, won't be getting the tech.
There’s a heavy focus on gaming authenticity
If you’ve read any of our recent Panasonic TV reviews, you’ll know we’re huge fans of their ability to produce “as the director intended it” colour accuracy when playing movies. This is a key reason why its flagships are a staple fixture in our best TV guide at the moment.
It's also why we’re pleased to see Panasonic taking an interest in delivering the same accuracy for gamers with a new True Game Mode.
According to the Panasonic representatives on hand at the event, the mode should automatically improve colour accuracy while gaming, but as an added perk for real purists, it can also be fully calibrated using the Calman calibration system – though unless you really know what you're doing, even if the latter is of interest we'd suggest paying for a professional to do it.
We didn’t get a chance to really try it out during any of our hands-ons but it does have an impressive feature set. Highlights include source-oriented HDR tone-mapping and G-Sync certification for most of the more expensive sets. The latter is a feature designed to stop screen tearing while gaming.
But there are still just two HDMI 2.1 sockets…
Despite Panasonic’s overt focus on selling its new sets as “perfect for gamers” during the event, we noticed even the flagship MZ2000 still has one critical flaw that will diminish its appeal to next-generation Xbox Series X/S and PS5 owners – it only has two HDMI 2.1 sockets, one of which doubles as an eARC.
This is a key annoyance we have with a lot of TVs. The reason it's a problem is simple, you need HDMI 2.1 to take full advantage of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S’ most interesting features – chief of which is their ability to run games above 60fps and in variable refresh rates. Only having two HDMI 2.1s, one of which doubles as the eARC needed for a decent modern Dolby Atmos soundbar, is a real pain as it means you’ll need to constantly be swapping cables if you have more than one next-generation console.
There’s a 42-inch MZ1500 but it’s not coming to the UK
It’s no secret, we at What Hi-Fi? always love it when a company produces a decent small TV. While 65-inch and above TVs are great for immersive viewing, the truth is, especially for those of us in the UK, we don’t all live in places big enough to comfortably house them.
This is problematic as there aren’t many good small TVs around that come fully loaded with all the features seen on larger flagship sets. In fact, the only notable exception to this rule we’ve seen recently has come from LG’s C-line. This was most recently demonstrated by the 42-inch LG C3 which earned a perfect five stars when we reviewed it.
We’d hoped Panasonic would join the race and release a smaller MZ1500 this year. Sadly that won’t happen in the UK, with the company confirming it will instead launch a 42-inch MZ980 – which appears to be a slightly stripped down version of the full-fat MZ1500, based on our early look at it.
There’s a cheap(ish) OLED with Android TV and an LCD with Fire TV
The final, and potentially most interesting insights we gleaned from our time with Panasonic stemmed from its choice of TV software.
Interestingly, the company is set to release multiple TVs that don’t run on its own MyHomeScreen 8.0 operating system this year.
At the top of the pile are two mid-range MZ800 and MZ700 OLED TVs that will instead use the Android TV operating system seen on most current Sony sets. Both models will be available in 42, 48, 55 and 65 inches. Pricing hasn’t been confirmed but we were told they will be “affordable” by OLED standards.
At the bottom end of the range, Panasonic also has an affordable MX800 set that's surprisingly set to ship running Amazon’s Fire TV platform. This is a surprise as Fire TV is an OS directly tied to Amazon’s Prime ecosystem. Traditionally we’ve only seen it on Amazon’s own Fire line of TVs and very affordable sets from the likes of TCL. Details about the MX800 hardware are a little thin on the ground, outside of the fact it will have a basic LCD panel. We'll be curious to see how it compares to Amazon's flagship Fire TV Omni when we get both in for testing.
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