When it comes to seeing the best TVs, the world's largest technology show, CES 2024, was a battleground of reveals and teases that I revelled in seeing. And while the likes of Samsung's S95D stunned with an anti-reflective coating, and the LG OLED M4's wireless capability impressed, it was Panasonic's Z95A that already looks like a best OLED TV winner to my eyes (and ears).
I was fortunate enough to observe the Panasonic Z95A in isolation at CES – that being ample in earning it a T3 Best of CES 2024 Award – but also on deeper dive visits to Company 3 (a renowned post-production company) and Amazon Studios (a major production facility) in Los Angeles to get a greater understanding of its tuning, sound and operating system.
Like the MZ2000 that came before it, the Panasonic Z95A combines top-notch technologies, from an upgraded MLA (Micro Lens Array) OLED panel, to integrated sound (360 Soundscape Pro) and embedded Fire TV. Those are the three killer features that I believe make it stand apart from its key competitors. So here's why the Z95A should be seriously considered as your next TV...
Integrated Fire TV
Panasonic and Amazon have joined forces to bring integrated Amazon Fire TV to the Z95A. With this operating system at its heart, there's no need for an additional Fire TV Stick using up one of your HDMI slots. It's a more all-encompassing system than Panasoninc's previous My Home Screen, ensuring there'll be no streaming service you miss out on.
With Fire TV embedded so thoroughly – the company had dabbled with this before in some 2023 sets, but not to this extent – there's super-quick access to all your favourites collated in one place. From Netflix to live channels, preview tiles are on hand for a quick glance, or you can use Alexa voice control to summon whatever you're seeking.
Fire OS can also cater beyond your TV needs: with integrated smart apps available, you can add, say, a Ring doorbell or Hue smart lighting control. Think of it like a giant smart hub, making answering your doorbell by voice seamless from your sofa. The Alexa app offers full control over app permissions, too, should you not want picture-in-picture pop-ups while watching a movie that requires your undivided attention.
Built-in superior sound
I've long admired Panasonic's sound setup in its top-tier televisions: the MZ2000 had a smashing integrated system and the Z95A is no different. I mean that quite literally: the Z95A's 360 Soundscape Pro is identical to that of its predecessor, delivering surround sound direct from the set without needing to add one of the best soundbars separately.
That means a 7.1-channel setup capable of three-dimensional audio that you just won't find from, say, the Samsung S95D or LG OLED G4 direct out their boxes. And with the Panasonic Z95A's audio tuned by Technics, the clarity and quality is second to none. It might not be a brand new feature, but it's still a killer feature that enables the Z95A to stand out from the pack.
Picture-perfect Hollywood tuning
When it comes to the Z95A's panel, it's no secret that it's sourced from LG, so it is an echo of what you can expect from the LG OLED G4. That means this Master OLED Ultimate panel is MLA (Micro Lens Array), capable of 144Hz for gaming, and, as a second-gen release, produces even greater brightness than its predecessor.
The Z95A's peak brightness is helped by a multi-layer heat management configuration system developed by Panasonic engineers, while the company's new HCX Pro AI Processor Mk II is designed for enhanced upscaling and adds an anti-banding system called Gradation Smoothing for even better-looking results from the best streaming services.
But the thing I find most admirable about Panasonic's overall visual aesthetic is that the company has stepped away from its in-house engineers to work with Hollywood studios, providing expertise for colour accuracy that'll lend the Z95A to being a movie-lover's dream in particular. Stefan Sonnenfeld, the CEO of Company 3, heads up this partnership – and the results bring a more delicate palette that doesn't need to use shouty saturation to impress.
This Panasonic has the brightest OLED panel that's available in 2024, but brightness really isn't everything: watching Sonnenfeld's colourists at work, most current releases are mastered at a maximum of 800 nits, with many much lower down the scale – a long way shy of the Z95A's theoretical 3000 nit maximum.
But that's the thing: it's the art of restraint, and utilising the subtle steps available in such a wide dynamic range, that make for the best images. And as Panasonic is one of few brands to support all high dynamic range (HDR) formats, it'll always be ready to reveal pictures at their very best...