Just hours after we published our five-star review of Panasonic’s flagship 2022 OLED TV, calling the LZ2000 “as cinematic as they come”, we found ourselves standing in front of its 2023 successor – the MZ2000.
The only TV Panasonic unveiled at CES 2023 (it tends to announce its full lineup in spring), the MZ2000 represents the pinnacle of Panasonic TV for 2023 and builds on last year’s LZ2000 with a new OLED panel that benefits from Micro Lens Array (MLA) technology (more on that later) and a new heat management system, a revised Dolby Atmos speaker system with new sound modes, and processing upgrades geared towards gaming.
But where there is evolution there is also familiarity – the operating system is much the same as last year’s, as is the physical design and, mostly, the speaker hardware. That’s no bad thing exactly, considering the all-round quality of the LZ2000, which we highly complimented for its “dedication to picture authenticity and consistency combines with that spacious and atmospheric sound to create one of the most cinematic all-in-one solutions that money can buy”. And, owing to the timing of our review, we said that after we had seen most rival brands’ 2022 flagships...
Panasonic looks good to replicate that success with the MZ2000, and while it will be a few months until we can go 12 rounds with it to find that out for ourselves, we have already been fortunate enough to go a few of them courtesy of demonstrations at CES 2023.
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‘Micro Lens Array’ are three words we’ve heard a fair bit this CES, with LG Display having developed it as a solution to increase the brightness of its 2023 OLED panels, which are being used by the LG G3 and Panasonic MZ2000. Essentially the technology layers billions of micrometer-sized convex lenses – 27 billion of them on a 65-inch panel! – over the OLED panel’s pixels in order to retain and refocus some of the light that is ordinarily lost through OLED panels’ use of a colour filter. The upshot is a significantly brighter picture, addressing one of the innate issues of previous OLED panels. In fact, Panasonic says that this has contributed to the MZ2000 having a 50 per cent bump in peak brightness than last year’s models, as well as a general improvement in average brightness with HDR content.
In the demonstration, Panasonic measured the MZ2000’s peak brightness as 1,456 nits, and that of the 2022 LZ2000B that sat beside it at just under 1,000. This isn’t a difference that can only be seen through measurements, mind you. Panasonic flicked through several moving graphics and the new model’s upped brightness was very clear, with more fine details also apparent. And if you are wondering whether this increased brightness will affect the deep-black intensity OLED has always been lauded for, that should not be (and certainly didn’t look to be) the case. So long as Panasonic hasn’t taken a backwards step in any other area, the MZ2000 looks good to be a winner.
Panasonic doesn’t just take the LG Display OLED panel, stick it on two legs and whack a Panasonic badge on the front, of course. It uses its own HCX Pro AI processor and technologies (including a brand-new, Panasonic-engineered heat management system) to power and manipulate the display to its liking – and that all combines to create what Panasonic is calling the 'Master OLED Ultimate'. Slightly unusual, however, is that while the 55-inch and 65-inch MZ2000 fly the flag for this ‘Master OLED Ultimate’, the 77-inch model has a different (‘Master OLED Pro Cinema') panel that actually omits MLA technology and uses a different heat sink to the one in its smaller siblings.
Panasonic is one of very few TV brands that go the extra mile when it comes to integrated speakers on its flagship TVs, and it hasn’t changed its tact for the MZ2000. It too features a visible speaker bar mounted beneath the length of the screen, backed up by dedicated side- and up-firing speakers encased into pretty chunky (by today’s standards) casework that’s mounted to the TV’s rear.
While the Technics-tuned, Dolby Atmos-supporting speaker system hardware has hardly been overhauled, Panasonic says it has revised that front speaker array for a wider soundstage, so we can expect a sound output at least as big, open and atmospheric as the LZ2000B’s. We can cross our fingers that that upgrade has improved clarity and directness (two areas where the LZ2000B was beaten by rivals) too, as this isn’t something we couldn’t guage in our demo.
What some might find helpful are the three new sound modes that allow you to choose whether the MZ2000’s output should be directed at one point (Pinpoint Mode), shifted towards a certain place or group of people (Area Mode) or boosted in volume in one particular spot (Spot Mode).
New modes arrive in the favour of gamers, too. A new True Game mode has supposedly been as carefully calibrated as the Panasonic's most authentic movie presets – and is calibratable, with the Calman calibrated logo displayed loud and proud on the interface. That is complemented by two does-what-it-says-on-the-tin game audio modes that seemed effective in our demo – RPG (Role-Playing Game) for more immersion, and FPS (First-Person Shooter) for enhancing subtler sounds.
Staying on the gaming front, ALLM and VRR are supported once again, there’s a Dolby Vision Game Mode that tops out at 60Hz (not 120Hz, sadly), and G-Sync and Freesync are now onboard too. Once again, though, of the TV’s four HDMI sockets, only two are HDMI 2.1 for 4K/120Hz support – two fewer than rivals sets from Samsung and LG offer. One of these connections will also be used for eARC, so if you need that to output sound from the TV to a soundbar or AV amplifier, you’ll only have one top-spec input left for a console or gaming PC. Perhaps Panasonic doesn’t foresee many people adding an external sound system considering the effort it has put into its integrated one.
The journey from the My Home Screen 7.0 OS to the new 8.0 version on the MZ2000 seems to be largely defined by the arrival of new accessibility features, and the ‘my Scenery’ feature that displays a series of images or clips when you aren’t watching TV now includes Dolby Atmos audio accompaniments.
Despite appearing to represent evolution more than revolution, the Panasonic MZ2000 looks very promising indeed, particularly from the all-important picture performance point of view, with Micro Lens Array technology seemingly effective in improving OLED’s Achille’s Heel. If it really is, as Panasonic claims, the company's "best and brightest picture" yet, it's in good stead to remain competitive at the top of the TV pile this year, owing to the quality of the LZ2000B from which it builds upon.
The MZ2000 will no doubt have better-than-ever LG and Sony OLEDs and Samsung QD-OLEDs to compete with, of course, and perhaps it won't be the first choice for die-hard gamers, but the early signs are mostly very positive indeed.
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