Panasonic reveals two 4K HDR OLED TV ranges ahead of CES 2018

The FZ800 and FZ950 series, which come in 55in and 65in sizes, comprise Panasonic’s 2018 OLED line-up alongside last year’s 77in EZ1000 model.

CES 2018 may not be officially kicking off in Las Vegas for another 24 hours, but What Hi-Fi? has been fortunate enough to spend the weekend in Hollywood with Panasonic, who has lifted the lid on its first 2018 AV products ahead of its official CES press conference on Monday.

Compared to previous years and indeed other TV brands, CES 2017 was a rather muted affair for Panasonic. The Japanese TV giant modestly announced only one OLED TV, alongside some 4K Blu-ray players and Technics’ SL-1200GR turntable, while TV rivals indulged in the announcement of multiple models.

But Panasonic has fired up the burners in 2017 – and the upshot shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Yes, more OLEDs (and three 4K Blu-ray players) are on the 2018 spread.

The Z950 (TX-55FZ950 and TX-65FZ950) and FZ800 (TX-55FZ800 and TX-65FZ800) models feature new OLED panels (which will no doubt feature on rival 2018 OLED models), as well the latest generation of Panasonic’s proprietary HCX processor.

The TX-77EZ1000 – launched at IFA last September – will also continue this year.

The biggest change brought by the HCX processor is the introduction of ‘Dynamic LUT’ (or ‘Dynamic Look-up Table’). A LUT, which is essentially a table of nuumbers that takes an image and corrects it (whether that be in terms of saturation, brightness and contrast – or all three), is typically fixed and applied to the content source once.

Making that process dynamic, however, means the picture is analysed every millisecond to select most optimal LUT on a scene-by-scene basis depending on its brightness. Why? To bring picture improvements – especially to mid-brightness scenes. As HDR with dynamic metadata (i.e. Dolby Vision and HDR10+) is now a ’thing’, Panasonic believes this has become necessary.

Panasonic expressed its pride (several times, actually) at its EZ1000 TV being the reference consumer monitor for Technicolor and Deluxe’s post-production firms, and, after a request from the industry, has also increased calibration steps at the lowest end of the RGB colour scale. That means that the four new OLED models support calibration points at 5 per cent and – in an industry first – 2.5 per cent luminance within Panasonic’s Colour Management System settings, allowing users extra tweaking of luminance levels in low-lit scenes.

The Panasonic FZ950 and FZ800 models will also be the first OLED screens available in 2018 to support HDR10+, which the HDR10+ Alliance has just announced a logo and further certification for. That means owners will be able to watch Amazon Prime Video’s HDR catalogue in the format, as well as future content from 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros.

Frustratingly but not all that surprising, Dolby Vision HDR (a direct rival to HDR10+ dynamic metadata) has been left off the spec sheet – despite appearing on the one for Panasonic’s flagship 2018 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.

Panasonic has also introduced a Dynamic Scene Optimizer function, which is designed to mimic dynamic metadata when playing straight-up HDR10 content. Last but not least on the picture side, an Auto HDR Brightness Enhancer function allows users to adjust (manually or automatically) how HDR content looks in a brighter room.

The new TX-65FZ950 (left) vs last year’s TX-65EZ1000

The primary difference between the two series? That lies purely on the audio side.

While the (we guess more affordable) FZ800 has built-in speakers, the FZ950 models are accompanied by a Dynamic Blade soundbar-like speaker, which has been tuned by Technics and is the next-gen version of the Dynamic Blade speaker that complemented Panasonic’s 2017’s EZ1000 models. The 80-watt, Technics logo-branded speaker features a 20-watt tweeter, 20-watt midrange and 40-watt woofer, as well as two passive radiators in front of and behind left and right speaker units.

The big reveal wasn’t without a brief picture demo, which confirmed that the TX-65FZ950 offers an improvement to the TX-65EZ1000 (its predecessor) it was sat next to. The Dynamic LUT system proved quite effective in the beach, sea and sky scenes, adding brightness and definition

On Monday, we’ll be witnessing HDR10+ at work and getting a chance to wrap our ears around the new Dynamic Blade speakers.

What we’ll have to wait a little longer for, though, is pricing. The OLED TVs are expected to launch in spring, with pricing to be announced closer to that time.