Although this probably isn’t the best way to kick off a TV review, we should prepare you for the fact that by the end of it you’re probably going to feel a bit miffed. Maybe even actually angry.
Why? Because Panasonic’s debut OLED screen, the 65CZ952, is both the best-performing TV that’s ever sat atop our test benches, yet also so expensive (at a pound shy of £8,000) that hardly any of us will be able to even consider owning one.
Given that cost, it’s good that the 65CZ952 looks reassuringly expensive.
As well as sporting an on-trend subtly concave screen shape it enjoys a spectacularly thin profile over a decent area of its back panel, while the glossy black look of the minimal screen frame is offset on the rear by the startling application of some striking white Alcantara fabric.
Connections include all the stuff we’d expect of a flagship TV in 2015: Four HDMIs built to the latest HDR- and 4K-capable HDMI 2.0 spec; extensive multimedia playback support from both USB drives and networked DLNA-capable devices; and integrated Wi-Fi for accessing Panasonic’s decent selection of online services.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952: What No Firefox?
The one problem with all these content options is that you can’t access them through the Firefox operating system that’s made such an impact on other 2015 Panasonic TVs.
While the lack of Firefox is undoubtedly a pity, the interface you do get on the 65CZ952 is hardly difficult to navigate, while available apps include big hitters like the 4K versions of the Amazon and Netflix video streaming platforms.
Since the 65CZ952 also lacks the Freeview Play service now available on many of Panasonic’s TVs, though, the only one of the main UK catch-up TV services available at the time of writing is the BBC iPlayer.
Panasonic’s decision to join LG in offering OLED technology in its TV range makes perfect sense if you think that OLED is, in many ways, the spiritual successor to Panasonic’s much-loved plasma screen system.
Both technologies, after all, enable each individual pixel to produce its own light and colour independent of its neighbours, rather than having to share external light sources across multiple pixels.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952: Mouthwatering prospect
Recent experiences with OLED technology on LG TVs like the LG 65EF950V have proved emphatically just how outstanding OLED’s pixel-precise lighting can be. So it’s a pretty mouthwatering prospect to find this light precision partnered here with the power of Panasonic’s 4K Pro video processing engine and the brand’s peerless experience with self-emitting screen technologies.
Among the virtues of 4K Pro are a 3D colour look-up table system that draws on an extraordinary 8000 reference points to deliver the sort of colour finesse usually only found on pro-grade broadcast monitors; advanced luminance handling optimised for OLED’s self-emissive nature to deliver exceptional shadow detailing and gradation subtlety right down to absolute black; and even a picture preset (True Cinema) that’s been tuned exclusively for this OLED TV by acclaimed Hollywood colourist Mike Sowa.
If you don’t want to trust Sowa’s eye (though I’d say you should, especially when watching films), the 65CZ952 is also equipped with a huge array of picture adjustments for fine tuning things to your personal satisfaction.
Plus there are a couple of THX picture presets, proving that the 65CZ952 is the first OLED TV to be certified by the independent THX AV quality assurance organisation.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952: Setting new standards
Even though I came to the 65CZ952 hot on the heels of the frequently staggering excellence of LG’s 65EF950V, the Panasonic’s picture quality still took my breath away.
Chiefly because it delivers all of the strengths of LG’s OLED models while also managing to work around their flaws. During dark scenes, for instance, the astoundingly deep black colours that are OLED’s trademark are delivered with all of the intensity, profoundity and naturalism I’d hoped for.
But they’re also delivered without the occasional slip into sudden greyness that can happen with LG OLEDs when a shot contains a mix of exceptionally bright and exceptionally dark content or you nudge the brightness setting too high.
Also a revelation after years of watching LCD TVs (with their need to compromise light output to achieve a decent black colour) is the amount of shadow detail you can see even in the darkest scenes on the 65CZ952. Even the tiniest of greyscale gradations or colour tone shifts is rendered with gorgeous accuracy and finesse, giving dark scenes a sense of depth and realism that has to be seen to be believed.
Not even Panasonic’s best plasmas can do dark scenes quite so beautifully as the 65CZ952.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952: Phenomenal intensity
Since each pixel in the 65CZ952’s OLED screen produces its own light level, moreover, you get to see bright points appear against dark backgrounds with a blistering intensity and pixel-level of accuracy simply not possible with the LCD technology available to date.
OLED’s self-emissive nature additionally means that you don’t have to worry in the slightest about backlight inconsistencies/clouding, which is another huge benefit over most LCD TVs.
Put all the 65CZ952’s contrast achievements together and you’ve got dark scenes which look more immersive and natural than they’ve ever looked before on a flat TV.
Which will probably already be enough to have some serious AV fans looking up remortgages on the internet.
While its extraordinary contrast and black level achievements may be the most stand-out picture traits of the 65CZ952, though, they’re far from the end of the good news. Also spectacular is the TV’s colour reproduction, as tones across the (very wide) spectrum explode off the screen thanks to the lack of both any low-contrast greyness to mute them, or LCD-like brightness compromises.
The way colours can sit right alongside the set’s immaculate blacks massively enhances their sense of vividness too.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952: 4K Detail
While the 65CZ952’s colours might be blisteringly intense, though, they’re also still beautifully detailed thanks to Panasonic’s exceptional colour processing and the screen’s native 4K UHD resolution. Especially if you use Mike Sowa’s excellent True Cinema preset.
In fact, the screen’s colour processing is so nuanced that it joins with the previously mentioned shadow detailing to make native content 4K look as detailed, crisp and natural as it’s ever looked.
While the 65CZ952 is at its absolute best with native 4K, though, it processing power once again comes up trumps when you watch high definition material, converting it to the TV’s higher resolution with exceptional care and finesse so that it looks more detailed without also looking noisy or roughly coloured.
Even standard definition looks pretty watchable, and that’s almost unheard of with a 4K TV.
Rounding out the 65CZ952’s jaw-dropping pictures are some strong motion handling and, thankfully, no sign of the strange loss of brightness at the screen’s left and right edges that sometimes appears on LG’s OLED TVs.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952: Chinks in the armour
For all the 65CZ952’s genius, there are chinks in the 65CZ952’s almost impenetrable armour. Its 3D images are slightly more prone to ghosting than expected, and as usual with OLED technology this TV can’t reach the same levels of brightness delivered by some of 2015’s LCD TVs.
This could potentially impact its performance with the high dynamic range content that’s starting to appear, but I wasn’t able to test this because Panasonic has yet to push out the firmware update required to make the 65CZ952 parse HDR sources properly.
It’s worth adding, though, that LG’s OLED TVs have shown that an outstanding OLED black level response may have as big a part to play in making HDR look awesome as as having a huge amount of brightness.
Finally, the 65CZ952’s sound quality is only fair to middling (though some might consider this a pretty good result considering how little chassis depth the set has to work with) and it’s possible that the curved screen could cause issues if you have a bright light likely to reflect on your screen or members of your household regularly have to sit more than 30-40 degrees down the TV’s sides.
Though actually, regarding the reflection issue, the 65CZ952’s screen filters are more adept than most at soaking up reflections.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952: Verdict
No TV that’s ever come our way before has been able to deliver pictures so stunningly natural, immersive and all-round gorgeous as those you get from the 65CZ952. It’s truly the stuff of movie fans’ dreams, and shows once again that the future of TV is starting to look increasingly OLED flavoured.
Now all you need to do is wait for your lottery numbers to come up and life will truly be sweet.