Panasonic TX-55FZ952 4K OLED TV review

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posted on Monday, 22nd October 2018 by Steve May

4K  OLED  HDR 

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The Panasonic TX-55FZ952B could well be the most cinematic OLED 4K UHD TV yet made.

Also known as the FZ950 outside the UK, this reference grade screen is also available in a 65-inch screen size (TX-65FZ952B), and has a number of unique attractions. Most obviously it comes with a second generation Dynamic Blade speaker, tuned by Technics Hi-Fi engineers . Less obviously, it uses the latest iteration of the brand’s HCX video processor and introduces an innovative new dynamic LUT (Look Up Table) which adds a level of additional precision to its colour handling.

And as befits Panasonic’s long established relationship with Hollywood, the set has had select presets fine-tuned by Hollywood colourists. 

Certificated UHD Premium and THX 4K, the FZ952 is comfortably Panasonic’s most sophisticated OLED flagship yet.

Panasonic TX-55FZ952B 4K HDR OLED TV: Design and specification
Build quality is excellent, and has some unusual refinements. The Dynamic Blade speaker attaches directly to a central pedestal, fed by a chunky cable which connects beneath the screen logo. The soundbar can orientate on standard AV furniture or with the set wall mounted.

Connections comprise four HDMI inputs, all 4K HDCP enabled, and one one with ARC. Integrators should note though that only two of these are full bandwidth. Don’t try and run Sky Q 2160p with 10-bit colour into HDMIs 3 or 4.

There’s also component and phono stereo audio inputs, a digital optical audio output, three USB ports (use the fast v2.0 whenr timeshifting onto an external USB drive), and an SD card reader. There’s also a CI slot, for those that need it.

The TV comes with two remotes, one a substantial IR remote control, the oher a Bluetooth touch remote.

IR Remote

Rear Connections (2)

Panasonic TX-55FZ952B 4K HDR OLED TV: Features
Smart functionality is much the same as we’ve seen before. Derived from the open standard Firefox TV OS, My Home Screen, now up to v3.0, proves slick and usable. A trio of buttons (Live TV, Apps and Devices) offer dedicated access to sources and services, and can be customised with additional shortcuts depending on user preference.

We like My Home Screen, but could this year be its last outing? With Panasonic stepping up Google compatible audio offerings, it would seem to make sense to migrate its next range over to the new Android Oreo TV platform for better integration. But we’re just idly speculating here...

Streaming services include Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten TV, YouTube and Chili Cinema. Catch-up comes as part of the Freeview Play bouquet. There’s BBC iPlayer, ITVHub, All4, My5, BBC News & Sport and UK Play. The BBC iPlayer app supports MPEG Dash and is compatible with the BBC’s ongoing 4K trials.

Panasonic TX-55FZ952B 4K HDR OLED TV: Picture performance
When it comes to image quality, Panasonic knocks the picture ball out of the park. The set looks impressive straight from the box.

Significantly, it does an excellent job with regular Blu-ray and HD content. Presets cover Normal, Dynamic, Cinema, THX Cinema, THX Bright Room, True Cinema, Custom, (ISF) Professional 1 and professional 2 and Sport.

The Normal viewing mode is the go to option for use in rooms with typical levels of ambient light. The candy-rush of Dynamic also works well, albeit with over-saturated hues. In the Normal and Cinema SDR modes, panel luminance is pegged at 60 per cent. THX drops panel luminance to just 30 per cent, and isn’t recomended.

To unleash the panel’s full potential you’ll want to partner with UHD Blu-ray, a Sky Q or Virgin Media V6 box running 4K,Amazon Prime Video or Netflix.

Pedestal Stand

My Home Screen

The set delivers a full fist of 4K detail, dependant on content options, Panasonic’s Absolute Black Filter giving images almost three dimensional depth. Black level performance is consistently rich and inky.

With 4K HDR, all picture modes lift contrast and panel luminance to 100 per cent. The Cinema mode, largely unwatchable in a HD, comes into its own here. True Cinema, tuned to recreate the picture characteristics of a Hollywood mastering monitor, looks very convincing in a near dark room.

We were continually impressed by the FZ952’s colour performance. 4K Blu-rays are astoundingly rich. The brand’s HCX Studio Colour video processor and Dynamic LUT technology constantly analyses picture information in order to improve the accuracy of bright colours.

Motion handling is consistently good. For sports, we recommend you keep IFC (Intelligent Frame Creation) on Min, as this doesn’t introduce too much in the way of distracting motion artefacts. For movies, try the Custom IFC setting, with Blur on 8 and Smooth on 1.

HDR performance is good. Support covers HDR10, HLG and HDR10+. There’s no Dolby Vision compliance.

At the the moment, there’s no way of telling if HDR10+, the open dynamic metadata standard, is going to fly. Amazon streams some HDR as HDR10+, but as they’re not flagged you can’t tell what you’re watching.

The set’s HDR performance is very good. We measured peaks of 900 cd/m2 with a 5 per cent window, indicative of the type of reel-world HDR highlights you’ll find in movies. Of course, HDR isn’t just about peak highlights, it’s also about near black detail. The FZ952 does a superb job revealing texture within shadows.

Not only is the FZ952 excellent with movies, it’s a fine gaming display as well. In dedicated Game mode, input lag is a remarkably low 21ms. IFC motion interpolation is completely disabled in Game mode.

Apps Screen Home

Peak Luminance

Panasonic TX-55FZ952B 4K HDR OLED TV: Sound performance
Sonically, the set is a cut above. This latest iteration of the brand’s Dynamic Blade soundbar sounds better than the first version, which debuted on the EZ1002. Beneath the grille are four woofers, four mid-range drivers, two tweeters, and a quad passive radiator to enhance bass. Panasonic says that performance is up by much as 40 per cent. Total power output is rated at 80W.

The only other OLED’s that can match the FZ952’s sonic prowess are the Sony AF8 and AF9. with their Acoustic Surface panel radiating technology, and to a lesser extent the Philips 903 OLED with integrated Bowers & Wilkins soundbar.

It’s worth noting though that the set doesn’t support Dolby Atmos pass through, which has implications for those that want to incorporate it as part of a bigger Dolby Atmos media room.

Panasonic TX-55FZ952B 4K HDR OLED TV: Verdict
The high-end of the TV market isn’t exactly short on superior screens, but this flagship Panasonic borders on picture perfect. Beautifully designed, with a cracking sound system and class leading image performance, it’s a top flight flatscreen.

Video enthusiasts should love it. The sense of depth its images have is remarkable. When it comes detail and black level performance, the screen is literally a Hollywood inspired blockbuster. The only OLED panel that comes close in terms of picture impact is the Sony AF9; choosing between them is likely to hang on the relative merits of Dolby Vision and HDR10+.

Whatever your preference, the TX-55FZ952B is a sensational OLED offering.

Available now through AWE Europe:
Retail price: £2,598

Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology journalist, who also writes for T3, TechRadar, Home Cinema Choice and ERT (amongst others).

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