Since Panasonic stopped selling its TVs in the US, I don’t cover them on Forbes as much as I used to. I feel compelled to make an exception for the Panasonic 65GZ2000, though, on the simple grounds that it’s just so damn good. And since the best way to give you a feel for the 65GZ2000’s brilliance is to compare it with the also excellent step-down 65GZ1500, I’m going to look at that here, too.
The thing that makes the 65GZ2000 so exciting is that it actually introduces genuine OLED panel hardware innovation.
Typically with OLED TVs of all brands we’re looking at panels sourced from LG Display, so that the main differences boil down to variations in the processing systems different brands use to drive those OLED panels. For the 65GZ2000, though, Panasonic has used know-how picked up during its plasma days to add a proprietary hardware improvement to the panel that keeps it cooler. Which in turn means it can be driven harder (which essentially means brighter) without heightening the risk of long-term image retention.
The Panasonic 65GZ2000 in my living room. I wish.
It has to be said that delivering this hardware-level upgrade hasn’t come cheap. The 65ZG2000 costs £3,999 in the UK, whereas the step-down 65GZ1500 only costs £2,799. That’s a lot of money you could otherwise have spent on 4K Blu-rays…
The saying “if you want the best, you just have to pay for it”, though, could have been invented for the 65GZ2000. For even though the 65GZ1500 is itself an outstanding TV, the 65GZ2000 outperforms it in almost every way that counts.
The Panasonic 65GZ1500
With this in mind, let’s quickly look first at the GZ1500. The key points distinguishing this model from other OLED sets in the market are Panasonic’s latest HCX Pro Processor (born from extensive co-operation with members of the Hollywood creative community), and its support for both the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision dynamic HDR formats (only Philips Europe also offers OLED TVs that support both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision).
The support of Panasonic’s 2019 OLED TVs for both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision is a big deal. It means that no matter which of the two formats of premium/dynamic HDR a streamed source or 4K Blu-ray might have chosen to use, the 65GZ1500 will be able to take advantage of its extra scene by scene data. Most rival TVs only support either HDR10+ (most notably Samsung) or Dolby Vision (most notably Sony and LG), not both. But I have nothing but respect for Panasonic’s decision to put the consumer first by making its latest high-end TVs support everything.
The GZ1500 also joins LG’s OLED TVs in carrying onboard Dolby Atmos sound decoding and, naturally, you get the customary OLED strengths of self emissive pixels and wide viewing angles.
The Panasonic 65GZ1500 is an excellent OLED TV for its money.
Also worth quickly mentioning is Panasonic’s My Homescreen 4.0 smart TV system. This is as easy on the eye as it is to use, and impressively straightforward to customise. Most of the really important video streaming apps are present and correct – but it doesn’t seem that Panasonic is expecting to add the Apple TV app any time soon.
The best thing about the 65GZ1500, though, is its picture processor. This does a phenomenal job of making pictures look rich, clean, detailed, authentic and fantastically immersive right out of the box. Especially if you use the True Cinema preset. (Though Normal works well too if you’ve got a relatively bright room to contend with.)
Colors look rich and vibrant but also beautifully balanced and nuanced. Fine detail levels are strong – aided and abetted by the gorgeous color subtlety and some exceptional light management. This light control is particularly evident during very dark scenes, as the set picks out every last detail from even the darkest corners of the image without any hint of the near-black blocking noise or unstable local black levels most OLED TVs suffer with from time to time.
Even the infamous ‘peeping Tom’ scene in Vikings on Amazon Prime Video (Season 5, Part 2, Episode 12 between 35:27 and 36:33) appears more or less free of the usual mess that you see on most rival OLEDs (see this 2018 story for more on this).
Brightness on a 10% white HDR window comes in on the 65GZ1500 at around 775 nits max – though this drops to around 700 nits with the TV set up to deliver the all-round best picture quality. This isn’t quite as high as LG’s C9 OLEDs get, and as a result the 65GZ1500’s pictures aren’t quite as punchy with HDR as those of its LG rival.
The Panasonic TX-65GZ1500 OLED TV, set within a rather bizarre fireplace thingie.
The LG C9 also scores over the GZ1500 by having the latest high-capacity HDMI 2.1 ports, and responds fractionally faster to incoming video signals in its Game mode, achieving under 15ms vs around 21ms on the Panasonic. The cleaner looking dark scenes and consistently gorgeous levels of color refinement, though, together with a surprisingly powerful sound system, give the 65GZ1500 plenty of its own advantages over its LG rivals.
In fact, the Panasonic 65GZ1500 had made a pretty good case to me for being the best OLED TV of 2019. Right up until I saw the 65GZ2000.
The Panasonic 65GZ2000
I’d expected to see a small improvement in performance on the back of the GZ2000’s hardware tweaks. The 65GZ2000 isn’t just a bit better than the 65GZ1500, though; it outguns its already talented sibling in almost every way.
The most predictable improvement comes from its brightness. Measuring its light output on a 10% (of screen area) solid white HDR window remarkably recorded figures ranging from around 900 nits to (when using the True Cinema preset) pretty much 1000 nits.
As well as being around 15% higher than the figures I’ve seen under the same conditions from any other OLED TV, 1000 nits has special significance in the HDR world. For this is the brightness level of Sony’s widely used BVM-X300 OLED mastering monitor, meaning the 65GZ2000 can get very close to tracking the full range of light found in many HDR masters, requiring less remapping of such sources’ brightest content.
The Panasonic TX-65GZ2000.
This chimes perfectly with Panasonic’s long-running ‘Hollywood To Your Home’ messaging, whereby the brand claims that its relationships with Hollywood creatives and mastering studios, together with the experience gleaned from its plasma days, enable its TVs to provide the most accurate recreation of creative intent you can get in your living room.
The extra punch the pictures get from the 65GZ2000’s extra brightness is instantly obvious. The average brightness level of bright HDR shots is higher, and the lightest peaks in an HDR transfer look much bolder. Where the light peaks in an HDR image are white or close to white, moreover, the tone of that white looks strikingly purer as well as more intense on the 65GZ2000.
The 65GZ2000’s higher natural brightness means, too, the very brightest whites and colors in the picture appear with less clipping (loss or subtle tonal differences) than they do on the GZ1500. This being an OLED TV, of course, it’s not just the extra intensity of the 65GZ2000’s peak brightness that makes its mark. It’s also the fact that this extra brightness is delivered against a backdrop of the sort of deep, rich black levels that OLED is renowned for. There’s none of the surrounding light pollution around bright objects you would expect to see with an LCD TV.
In fact, in an unexpected extra benefit of the 65GZ2000’s new panel design, its black levels are even better than those of the 65GZ1500. Which were themselves outstanding.
During the sequence in It on 4K Blu-ray where Beverly is first shown in her creepily lit home, for instance, the dark parts of the image – such as shadowy areas in Beverly’s hair – look darker on the 65GZ2000, and there’s more subtle gradation in the way the lighting works right across the image.
The Panasonic 65GZ2000.
As well as just making the image look more impactful and outright beautiful, the extra sense of contrast in the 65GZ2000’s pictures gives them a strikingly enhanced sense of depth. This affects any shot with a defined background (rather than an endless horizon view shot), drawing you more deeply into the image and making movie worlds look more realistic.
A great example of this enhanced sense of depth can be seen in the shot looking into a cavern at 07:24 into Mad Max: Fury Road on 4K Blu-ray. Running the 65GZ2000 side by side against a 65GZ1500, the more defined sense of light and shade you get with the 65GZ2000 helps the central section of the image, showing an array of cogs and wheels that go right back into the cave, look much more three-dimensional and layered.
I’d expected the 65GZ2000’s image to look brighter. But I hadn’t expected this to be coupled with so much extra precision in the screen’s light management.
One further knock-on advantage of the 65GZ2000’s extra brightness is that it enables less clipping (loss of subtle shading and tones) when showing extremely bright HDR highlights such as direct shots of the sun or bright street lamps.
The 65GZ2000’s extra brightness just makes HDR look more HDR, essentially. And in doing so delivers the most perfect combination of any TV released to date between the brightness advantages usually associated with LCD and the black level and local contrast advantages usually associated with OLED.
One thing that had concerned me about the 65GZ2000’s extra brightness when I first learned about it was that it might exacerbate the elevated compression noise during dark streamed content that numerous other OLED TVs have exhibited this year (as I noted earlier when discussing the GZ1500). Actually, though, this noise is relatively well controlled on the 65GZ2000, especially while using a relatively subdued setting like True Cinema.
And still I’m not done with the ways the 65GZ2000 outperforms its cheaper (but still brilliant) GZ1500 sibling. Its colors, too, are clearly superior.
The Panasonic 65GZ1500 again, as I’ve run out of pictures of the 65GZ2000.
This is particularly evident in the brightest parts of HDR footage. The glowing orange sunset as Max appears attached by a rope to a car early on in Mad Max: Fury Road, for instance, enjoys a richer, more natural red and way more tonal subtleties on the 65GZ2000 than it does on the 65GZ1500.
Similarly, the glowing hot skull branding iron you get a close up of during Mad Max’s pre-title sequence enjoys a deeper, richer and more consistent orange tone than you see on the 65GZ1500.
It’s not only bright colors that benefit from the 65GZ2000’s unique panel design, though. Tones right across the board look more vibrant but also more natural. The yellow of Patrick Hockstetter’s T-Shirt as he searches the sewers before his unfortunate encounter with Pennywise in It looks much bolder against the (also deeper) darkness around him. Or for a subtler but still clearly obvious example, the red of Beverly’s hair in It as she cuts it in her bathroom at home is strikingly more intense but also more natural-looking on the 65GZ2000.
Then there’s the tricky blue-grey color tone of the dark dusk scene on the beach in Exodus: Gods And Kings the night before Moses crosses the Red Sea with his followers. This looks so much richer and more natural on the 65GZ2000 that it leaves the 65GZ1500 looking slightly jaundiced by comparison.
Add this unexpectedly wide-ranging color enhancement to the improved light management, and the 65GZ2000’s images just look more refined and three-dimensional with pretty much every frame.
No, wait – found another 65GZ2000 photo. This one’s a lovely stand and speaker detail.
I did spot a couple of minor niggles with the 65GZ2000’s pictures during the comparisons with the GZ1500. First, dark areas of its pictures can look a little more crushed than they do on its cheaper sibling – especially when you’re using any preset other than True Cinema. The shadows under the rear bumper of the car in the opening shot of Mad Max: Fury Road as Max surveys the horizon look darker on the GZ2000 than they do on the GZ1500, for instance, leaving you able to see a little less subtle color shading. You can also see less low-level shadow detail in the walls around Patrick Hockstetter as he walks through the sewers in search of ‘the fat kid’ in It.
For me the pros of the 65GZ2000 make this slight loss of shadow detail a very small price to pay for so many other strengths. Especially as the deeper look to shadows typically creates a richer sense of contrast. And in any case, the True Cinema mode largely puts the shadow detail back if you really find yourself missing it, at the cost of only a little dynamism.
The other small issue I had with the 65GZ2000 is that while its colors typically look more refined, just occasionally a particularly dramatic shift in tone can appear a little noisy. As the camera pans down to catch the falling star that precedes the parting of the sea in Exodus: Gods And Kings, for instance, there’s a noisier look to the edge of the darker color that kicks in to the image’s bottom right on the 65GZ2000 than there is on the GZ1500. Similar noise can occasionally appear at the edges of some of Mad Max’s horizontal cloud formations, too – particularly if there’s an orange or pinkish tone to them.
That’s pretty much it for picture negatives, though. And they don’t even get close to derailing the 65GZ2000 from delivering the best picture quality I’ve seen from an OLED TV to date.
On paper, at least, the 65GZ2000’s ground-breaking Dolby Atmos speaker system looks like it’s got everything it needs to keep the good news coming. After all, it comprises a ground-breaking five-speaker, 140W configuration that includes two drivers that fire up out of the TV’s top edge, in a bid to give you a sense of Dolby Atmos’s distinctive height effects.
Another image of the 65GZ2000 I’ve managed to find. It’s only the back, admittedly, but it’s still … [+]
It’s no great surprise, then, to find the soundstage presenting impressively accurate effects placement and a great sense of space. During the opening voiceover of Mad Max: Fury Road, for instance, the ghostly voices of his remembered loved ones seem to appear from multiple different audio positions to left, right and above the screen. The height effects tend to sound accurately positioned in terms of their relative verticality too – almost uncannily so at times.
The speakers can go loud without starting to cause cabinet rattle or speaker drop outs too, and the sound spreads an impressive distance away from the screen.
The soundstage tends to appear more behind the TV than out in front of it, though, and the main soundbar speaker can sometimes sound rather boxed in, meaning that dense soundtrack moments can sound a bit harsh and muddy. So when, for instance, the crowd roar and the score kicks in as Immortan Joe lets out the water in Fury Road, the score becomes a bit hard to distinguish from the rather harsh roar of the crowd.
Immortan Joe’s speech at this point sounds strangely detached from the rest of the mix too, lacking both presence and directness. Ramping up the volume really high (you need to get past volume setting 65 before Atmos starts to have any real impact at all, actually) can help vocals in such dense moments achieve a bit more stature, but only at the expense of extra harshness elsewhere.
The 65GZ2000’s bass performance was improved during my time with it by a software update (which also fixed a long delay with the TV responding to volume changes, and a previous crackling problem). But it still feels a little underwhelming relative to other aspects of the set’s sound.
The 65GZ2000 does let you add a subwoofer via its headphone jack if you wish, though. And I suspect that as well adding more bass, doing this would take some pressure of the slightly over-stressed mid-range.
The thought of adding an external subwoofer, though, raises the question of whether the 65GZ2000 really needs such a relatively extreme sound system at all. It seems to me, after all, that many of the serious AV fans most likely to spend as much on a TV as the 65GZ2000 will likely already have some sort of external audio system. In which case they’d probably love to have at least the option of buying the 65GZ2000’s amazing panel without all the accompanying audio tech at a slightly lower price.
The Panasonic 65GZ1500.
With a more effective and dynamic main soundbar element at its heart, maybe the 65GZ2000’s sound system might have proved more persuasive. As it is, though, it leaves you wanting a bit more. The sort of ‘bit more’ you could get from a decent external soundbar or full speaker system.
The 65GZ2000’s sound is, as you would expect, better in many respects than that of the GZ1500, which has far less power and no upfiring speakers. But actually the 65GZ1500 seems to understand its limitations very well, ensuring that it always works within them rather than trying to push into audio territory that causes their sound to break down. Plus the 65GZ1500’s speakers surely account for less of its cost than the 65GZ2000’s speaker system does.
With its 65GZ1500 and 65GZ2000 TVs Panasonic has delivered a stunning one-two combination of mainstream and high-end OLED TVs. The cheaper model uses stellar processing to deliver gorgeously cinematic, natural images for its money, while the 65GZ2000 manages for once to bring some true hardware innovation to the typically rather ‘locked down’ world of OLED panel design with stunning results.
The 65GZ2000 also reveals a new level of OLED ambition from Panasonic (it did, after all, have to create a whole new production line in Japan just to make the 65GZ2000s) that can’t help but raise hopes for what the brand might have in store for the years to come.
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