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Hands on: Panasonic GZ2000 4K OLED (2019) review

The world's most cinematic TV? It just might be

What is a hands on review?
Panasonic GZ2000 4K OLED (2019)

For

  • HDR10+ and Dolby Vision
  • Dolby Atmos upward-firing speakers
  • Improved picture processing

Against

  • It won't be cheap
  • Thicker chassis

Panasonic settled for announcing just one new TV at CES this year, the company’s 2019 flagship, the GZ2000. Set to land in 55-inch and 65-inch screen sizes – the TX-55GZ2000 and TX-65GZ2000 – it’s a 4K OLED screen with a sound and vision feature set arguably more thorough than any other TV on the market, or indeed any of the 2019 TVs announced to date.

How so? Well, the Panasonic GZ2000 supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, the first TV to do so, as well as HLG, the flavour of HDR favoured by broadcasters, and standard HDR. So when it comes to delivering 4K content in its best possible form, this Panasonic OLED has got all bases covered. On the audio side, upward-firing Dolby Atmos speakers are integrated into the television, which is also a first. All told, Panasonic hopes the GZ2000 will deliver the "ultimate Hollywood OLED TV".

There's no word on release date or pricing for the Panasonic GZ2000 as yet but we expect to find out more in February at Panasonic's annual European convention. 

Design and build

Less has been more for a long time when it comes to TVs, so while screen real estate has crept ever upwards, the rest of the set has been shrunk into insignificance. Sure enough any hint of bezel around the screen is barely perceptible, and the central pedestal stand is sleek and unobtrusive. Front-on it looks smart, desirable and expensive – as a flagship TV should.

The GZ2000’s profile reveals an impossibly slim OLED screen; so far, so predictable. But tacked on to this is the upward-firing Dolby Atmos speaker. Hidden from sight when in front of the screen, it’s a rectangular speaker that juts out a couple of inches behind the central portion of the screen. 

There are two speakers inside this Atmos unit, aimed upwards to add extra height to the sound. This is joined by one woofer at the bottom of the back panel, plus a left, centre, right, three-speaker configuration at the foot of the front of the screen. Naturally this all makes the size of the TV that much chunkier than your average OLED. 

The sound has been tuned by Technics, Panasonic’s specialist audio brand, and there’s a logo to prove it on the bottom right of the front speaker.

Features

This is a 4K resolution screen. Unlike LG, Samsung, Sony and a whole host of others who have jumped on the 8K bandwagon with consumer TVs this year, there’s no sign  of an 8K TV from Panasonic. Considering the current availability of 8K content, this seems eminently sensible, even if it means missing out on a few headlines for now. The GZ2000 is much more rooted in upgrading your real world TV experience right now.

Panasonic is calling the GZ2000 a ‘custom Professional OLED panel tuned in Hollywood’. Of course Panasonic, like all the other OLED TV brands, uses LG Display panels, so it’s all about the extra work you can do on picture processing to make the end product look better than the rest. The company is also playing on its deep ties with the Hollywood film studios, which includes the Panasonic Hollywood Laboratory where engineers and industry professionals work to hone picture performance.

Behind the panel you crucially have, for the first time, the full suite of HDR video formats at your disposal. This comes in handy as different TV services, broadcasters and Hollywood Studios opt for different formats. So while HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are nominally competing standards, both are here. We were told HDR10+ would be the default should the TV be fed a signal that supports both, but the user would have the ability to choose Dolby Vision.

Elsewhere there’s also a new My Home Screen 4.0 interface, redesigned and customisable by the user. It promises a shortcut to live TV alongside the extended TV guide, the ability to add quick access to your favourite channels, and apps including Amazon Video, Netflix and YouTube. There’s some voice support, too, with Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa both offering degrees of control of the TV through a connected speaker.

Performance

It’s not typical to start with a TV’s sound but the upward-firing Atmos speakers are arguably the key differentiator here. We’re treated to a demo of this TV against last year’s flagship and the difference is night and day. Whether watching Panasonic’s demo clip, which mimics a Hollywood blockbuster action scene, or some football footage, the extra scale not just above but also around the screen is clear.

Shattered shards of glass fly further into the distance, the noise of the football crowd fills the room and extra detail and space is revealed throughout the soundstage. Last year’s set sounds predictably flat and small by comparison.

We’re told the upward-firing speakers will come into play no matter what the content, so you don’t have to feed it a Dolby Atmos soundtrack to hear the effect though we’d imagine the effect would be superior with a true Atmos signal.

While not quite as striking, the apparent improvements to the picture are almost as impressive. Panasonic says the peak brightness here is the same as the previous generation, but promises that you will benefit from a wider range of colours for a more dynamic picture thanks to the new HCX PRO Intelligent processor and the wider HDR support. 

With the GZ2000, Panasonic also says it “has extended the range and reduced the interval between calibration steps at the darkest end of the RGB and gamma scales”. This is said to be in response to demands from Hollywood pros.

Fast motion seems smoother, with the halo effect apparent on previous generations noticeably reduced without succumbing to the dreaded motion smoothing effect. Colours do appear bolder and punchier, but the trademark deep blacks remain every bit as solid while still offering up gloomy details when required. 

The 4K demo content was captivating, reminding us quite how good 4K HDR video can look when everything in the content chain is of retina-searing quality.

Verdict

8K, what 8K? Extra pixels may be grabbing the headlines where TVs are concerned at the start of 2019 but Panasonic has eschewed this somewhat premature trend and instead delivered a feature-packed flagship for the here and now.

The Panasonic GZ2000 aims to deliver the ultimate Hollywood experience in an OLED TV, marrying the latest tech when it comes to picture and sound. There's no denying it stands apart from the crowd on paper, and first impressions suggest it could deliver on its one-box cinema promise. We can't wait to get one into our test rooms.

MORE:

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What is OLED? The tech, the benefits, the best OLED TVs and OLED phones

HDR TV - What is it? How can you get it?

4K Ultra HD Blu-ray – all the 4K discs on sale and coming soon

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.