Panasonic 55EZ952 4K OLED TV Review
Professional performance for the masses
What is the Panasonic EZ952?The EZ952, or EZ950 as it’s known outside the UK, is the latest Ultra HD 4K OLED TV from Panasonic, following on from their flagship EZ1002. The latter took a semi-professional and uncompromising approach to image accuracy but at a price – the TX-65EZ1002B would set you back £6,999. The new EZ952B appears to offer almost all the benefits of the more expensive model but at greater price competitiveness – with the TX-55EZ952B retailing for around £2,999 and the TX-65EZ952B costing £4,799 as at the time of writing (June 2017).
All the EZ952 appears to lose for its drop in price is the built-in soundbar, which you’re unlikely to need, and the absolute black filter. However the cheaper OLED TV still utilises Panasonic's Studio Colour HCX2 processor with 3D look-up tables (LUTs) and includes support for High Dynamic Range (HDR10) and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG). So is the EZ952 a chance to enjoy the performance of OLED combined with a semi-professional level of image accuracy at a price point that approaches mass-market appeal? Let's see...
DesignThe design of the EZ952 is all business with a simple and minimalist appearance that suggests this TV is primarily about picture quality. So at the front there's a 7mm black border around the screen and a 3mm black metal trim that extends around the outer edge. Along the bottom there's a 10mm black strip where you'll find a small light to indicate the TV is on and the Panasonic logo in embossed silver. The TV sits on an old-school rectangular dark grey metallic stand with a brush metal finish and a silver trim, which measures 580 x 270mm and provides 75mm of clearance beneath the screen. The stand is connected to the TV using support columns that attach to the 400 x 300 VESA mounts at the rear but you can remove them and use a VESA wall bracket instead.The rear of the panel is also black and you'll find all the connections on the left hand side as you face the screen, whilst some simple controls are over on the right. The panel is just 4mm deep at the top but widens out to 45mm at the bottom, with air vents situated above where the electronics, connections, amplification and speakers are housed. The overall measurements are 1230 x 766 x 275mm (WxHxD) including the stand and 1230 x 715 x 45mm without. Overall we really like the understated look of the Panasonic because although the LG B7 and C7 both have a bit more bling to them, the EZ952B feels like a professional monitor where the picture is what matters and the TV doesn't draw attention to itself.
Panasonic have kept things simple in the looks department but we like their approach
Connections & ControlThe connections on the EZ952 are at the rear, behind a removable panel for tidier cable management, and appear to be identical to the EZ1002 with four HDMI inputs, two facing rearwards and two facing sideways - with the latter 150mm from the edge. There is one HDMI input that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) and all of them support HDR, WCG, HLG and HDCP 2.2, although only HDMI 1 and 2 support 4K/60p, with the other two limited to 4K/30p. There are three USB ports, two facing rearwards (2 x USB 2.0) and one facing sideways (1 x USB 3.0), along with a sideways-facing CI (Common Interface) slot, an SD card slot, twin digital and satellite tuners, a break-out connector for the legacy inputs and a headphone jack. Facing rearwards you'll also find an optical digital output and an Ethernet port, although the EZ950 naturally has built-in WiFi.Although the EZ952 is cheaper than the EZ1002, we're glad to see that it still comes with the same remotes, with the first being an attractive silver controller that has a brushed metal finish and a suitably high-end appearance. The remote is long and slim, it fits comfortably in your hand and has a solid and well made feel. It is easy to operate with one thumb and has an intuitive layout, with large buttons that are sensibly placed depending on how frequently they will be used. All the buttons you need are on the remote and it was our preferred choice setup and calibration which require a lot of menu interaction.
The second remote is a touch pad controller that is intended for day-to-day use and easy navigation of the Smart TV platform. The touch pad uses the same silver brushed metal finish as the larger remote and has a black section with a textured surface, it is small and curved, sits comfortably in your hand and is very simple to use. Unlike the larger controller which uses infrared, the smaller one is paired with the TV using Bluetooth and includes a microphone for voice control. Finally if you’d rather use your smart device as a controller, there are free remote apps for iOS and Android with Swipe & Share and Smart Calibration features.
There are plenty of connections and the same high-end remotes as the EZ1002
Features & SpecsThe EZ952 is designed to be a more affordable Ultra HD 4K OLED alternative when compared to the EZ1002 but there is actually surprisingly little difference between the two TVs, especially when you consider their relative prices. As mentioned the EZ952B comes in two screen sizes of 55- and 65-inches, whilst the EZ1002 is only available in a 65-inch version, and the more expensive model includes a built-in soundbar tuned by Technics and an Absolute Black Filter that absorbs ambient light and reflections and eliminates the magenta tone that can affect OLED screens in bright room conditions. We doubt most people will miss the soundbar and we'll see how much difference the loss of the filter makes in the performance section. Apart from that the EZ950 includes the same professional grade image processing which Panasonic claim has resulted in increased brightness and nearly 100% of DCI-P3.
MORE: What is Dolby Vision?The EZ952 can handle High Dynamic Range, specifically HDR 10 and Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), but there's no support for Dolby Vision. There is however Panasonic's Studio Colour HCX2 processor which the manufacturer claims can deliver some of the most accurate colours found on a consumer television thanks to 3D look-up tables (LUTs) similar to those used by their professional filmmaking and broadcast monitor divisions. The EZ952 doesn't include the option to upload custom colour 3D LUTs by SD/USB memory but the HCX2 processor is designed to improve the near-black performance, providing improved amounts of detail in even the darkest scenes. The EZ952B also includes ISF calibration controls and compatibility with CalMAN calibration software, along with THX and Ultra HD Premium certification. However, as with almost all TVs these days, the EZ950 does not support 3D.
Although Firefox have stopped development of the operating system that Panasonic are using in their smart TVs, it is open source so the manufacturer plans to just develop it themselves. This is good news as we really like Panasonic's simple and intuitive approach to Smart TV. The EZ952 features the latest version of My Home Screen 2.0 smart TV system, which introduces features such as favourites folders for multiple users, a My App button on the remote that can be customised for faster access to your own favourite content, and a revamped Media Player app that supports 4K HDR10 and Hybrid Log Gamma content. For UK users there is a new version of Freeview Play, which introduces new search/recommendation tools and a Quick Look Guide that shows past, live and future TV programs for the current channel. Also included are live thumbnails of what’s showing on other channels. The EZ952 will also support 4K HDR streaming from Netflix, Amazon and YouTube.
Although the Panasonic can handle HDR10 and HLG there is no support for Dolby Vision
Picture Settings – Out-of-the-BoxAs with all of Panasonic's TVs, the EZ952 ships in the Normal viewing mode but unless you want over-saturated colours, blue whites and excessive sharpening we would suggest choosing THX, True Cinema or Professional 1 and 2. We actually found that the best choice was either Professional 1 or 2, where the majority of the settings were already correct and any unnecessary processing was turned off. We then set the Luminance Level for our target of 120nits, set Contrast so that it wasn't clipping, selected a suitable Gamma (in this case 2.4) and turned Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) off before measuring the out-of-the-box performance.
All our measurements were done with a Klein K-10A colour meter, a Murideo Fresco Six-G pattern generator and CalMAN Ultimate calibration software. If you want to set your new TV up correctly then you can follow the simple steps in our PicturePerfect Guide.Incredibly the EZ952 was almost as impressive as the EZ1002 out of the box with a near perfect set of measurements. We have been impressed with the out-of-the-box accuracy of all the main manufacturers this year and the EZ950 is a great example with equal amounts of red, green and blue and DeltaEs (Errors) that are not only below the visible threshold of three but also all below two. Yes there's a tiny excess of green in the greyscale but nothing you'd actually be able to see and the gamma is tracking 2.4 almost precisely, resulting in a reference performance right out of the box.It wasn't just the greyscale that was impressive and as you can see from the graph above the colour accuracy against the industry standard of Rec. 709 was just as accurate. Thanks to the near-perfect greyscale and gamma performance the colour temperature of white was hitting its target precisely and all the colours were tracking their targets just as accurately. The luminance measurements (not shown on this graph) were also spot on and overall this is a really impressive out-of-the-box performance from the EZ952B.
The EZ952 delivered the same superb out-of-the-box accuracy as the more expensive EZ1002
Picture Settings – CalibratedIf this level of out-of-the-box accuracy is representative of all EZ952s then there really is no point getting the TV calibrated because any improvements would be imperceptible. However the TV has a full set of calibration controls including 2- and 10-point white balance controls and a full colour management system (CMS), so for the purposes of this review we fine tuned the already reference performance using the available controls.
We didn't even bother with the 2-point white balance control and simply went straight to the 10-point where we fine tuned the performance of both the greyscale and the gamma. The resulting measurements were as near-perfect as you're likely to see but in reality there was absolutely no visible difference between the out-of-the-box and calibrated measurements.We were also able to fine tune the colour gamut as well but once again the differences would be imperceivable and overall we were pleased to see that despite the substantial difference in price, the EZ952 offered just as impressive a greyscale and colour performance as the EZ1002.
Picture Settings – High Dynamic RangeThe measurements shown below are for an out-of-the-box performance using the HDR Professional 1 viewing mode and based upon a simple setup with the majority of the controls at their default settings. As you can see the EOTF (Electro Optical Transfer Function) tracked the SMPTE 2084 (PQ) target precisely, with the luminance beginning to roll off at 70 IRE. The greyscale is also tracking very well and overall the errors were all below two, except when the curve rolls off, where there is a slight increase to four. These measurements are almost identical to the EZ1002 that we recently reviewed.The problem with HDR is that in the absence of any industry standards the manufacturers have a great deal of latitude in terms of how they implement their tone mapping. Panasonic have gone for accuracy and we measured the peak brightness on a 10% window at 620nits – that was in the Professional 1 viewing mode with Brightness and Contrast set to maximum – which is a bit lower than the EZ1002 and also lower than the competition. We use a 10% window based on the Ultra HD Alliance guidelines but the EZ952 measured 695nits on a 1% window, which means that the small specular highlights in actual content are probably hitting around 700nits in reality. Using a full-field peak white test pattern we measured 120nits, thanks to the ABL (Automatic Brightness Limiter), which is comparable with Panasonic's more expensive model. Any differences between the EZ1002 and EZ952 are probably just down to panel variances but it does seem as though Panasonic's implementation of HDR isn't quite as bright as the competition.
The EZ952 delivered excellent colour gamut coverage, which we measured at 95% of DCI-P3 using xy and 98% using uv coordinates, which equates to almost 71% of Rec. 2020. This is just slightly less than the EZ1002, again probably due to panel variations but the EZ952 tracked against Rec.2020 in almost exactly the same fashion as its more expensive sibling.
Although the colour gamut used for deliver of Ultra HD content in the home is Rec.2020, the one used at the cinema is actually a different colour gamut called DCI-P3. However since this colour gamut is smaller than Rec.2020 it can be delivered within the larger container, which is what the graph above shows. The EZ952 did an excellent job, again delivering an almost identical performance to the more expensive EZ1002, with the primary and secondary colours tracking their targets closely aside from some hue errors in magenta.
The colour volume is a measure of the colour gamut of a display combined with its brightness capabilities and is thus a better measure of how a TV performs in this new era of HDR. First we measured the Relative Colour Volume, which takes the display's own peak brightness and measures the colour volume relative to that peak brightness based on the CIE L*a*b* colour graph and 140 data points. The EZ952 measured at 112% against Rec. 709, 75% against DCI-P3 and 51% against Rec. 2020 but these measurements aren't taking into account the maximum nits that the content is graded at, which is obviously much higher than the peak brightness of an OLED TV.
As an alternative we also measured the Perceptual Colour Volume, which uses the PQ EOTF out to 10,000nits and the Rec. 2020 colour gamut measured using the ICtCp colour graph which takes into account human visual perception. This measurement uses 393 data points and delivers a number expressed in Millions of Distinguishable Colours (MDC). So a theoretical display that could deliver 10,000nits of peak brightness and 100% of Rec. 2020 would be able to deliver 997 million distinguishable colours or an MDC number of 997. By comparison the EZ952 produced an MDC number of 320 compared to the EZ1002's measurement of 338 which is due to the fact that the latter was slightly brighter and having a slightly larger colour gamut.
It was another example of Panasonic's superb image accuracy with both SDR and HDR content
Black Levels and Contrast RatiosThe EZ952 is an OLED TV so we can keep this section short and just say that the standard dynamic range (SDR) contrast performance was exceptional with deep blacks but plenty of available brightness. The blacks measured at zero and the EZ952 could easily hit our target of 120nits, which equates to infinite on/off and ANSI contrast ratios. Of far greater importance was the performance just above black and, like the EZ1002, Panasonic have done a great job of delivering incredibly deep blacks without crushing shadow detail. The EZ952 was superb at reproducing detail just above black and the image was also free of any of the macro-blocking that had plagued near black images on previous OLED TVs.
Screen UniformityThe problem of vignetting or dark edges had been eliminated from the previous generation of OLED panels or at least from all the ones that we've seen, either for review or calibration. However we checked this using a full field grey pattern and we also used a full field white pattern to check for any dirty screen effect (DSE) or any discolouration. The latter wasn't an issue despite the absence of the Absolute Black Filter and whilst that was slightly better when dealing with ambient light, for the sake of £2,200 we just recommend not putting the TV opposite a window, pulling the curtains or turning down the lights.
One area where the EZ952 actually performed better than the EZ1002 was in terms of banding just above black. All OLED TVs have this issue although it does vary from panel to panel, so it was still visible on the EZ952 using a 5% grey pattern but there were no obvious large bands and with normal content we couldn't see anything, nor could we really see any banding with football except very occasionally.
We had no problems with image retention despite the EZ952 not dimming a static image or switching to a screen saver after a certain period of time. In terms of anti-image retention features, the EZ950 includes a Pixel Orbiter feature that intermittently shifts the pixels to prevent image retention and a Panel Maintenance feature that can be used from time to time. Finally, as with all OLED TVs the viewing angles were very impressive with no drop-off in contrast or colour in our tests, even at extreme angles.
Motion HandlingWhen it comes to motion OLED panels use a similar approach to LCD TVs called 'sample and hold', although an OLED is still superior and with all the motion features turned off, it can deliver a motion resolution of around 400 lines. That number can be increased to nearer 1080 if you engage Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) which uses frame interpolation. However in doing so, you will also introduce a certain degree of smoothing, although that won’t necessarily be an issue with sports content.
If you do decide to use IFC we would recommend the Low setting because this will improve the motion performance without introducing too many unwanted artefacts, although it will cause the dreaded ‘soap opera effect’ (SOE) with film-based content so bear that in mind. Alternatively there is also the Custom IFC option which allows you to adjust Blur Reduction and Film Smooth individually using sliding scales from 0 to 10, so you could experiment with this as well and get improved motion whilst keeping unwanted smoothing to a minimum.
However if you want better motion and no SOE then the Clear Motion setting is sure to prove popular with enthusiasts. This setting uses black frame insertion (BFI) to improve motion handling by inserting a black frame between each actual frame. The results were impressive with clearly improved motion, although at the same time retaining the film-like quality of film-based content. This feature is also an option in Game Mode, which IFC isn’t, but as good as it is the feature might not be for everyone.
First of all, because the Clear Motion feature is literally inserting black frames the overall image is darker. This isn't a problem with SDR content where you can simply increase the Luminance Level but it might be more problematic with HDR where the overall brightness of the image is already being pushed by the tone mapping. The second problem is that BFI can result in flicker, although this will vary from person to person. We had no issues with 24p and 60Hz content but with 50Hz content we did experience occasional flicker, especially on football.
Standard Dynamic Range ContentWhen you consider the deep blacks, improved shadow detail, increased brightness and reference colour accuracy, we had a pretty good idea what to expect from the EZ952 and we weren't disappointed. Although we didn't have an EZ1002 on hand to perform a direct comparison, the was nothing about the images that the EZ952 delivered to suggest they were in any way different from the more expensive model. This is great news for anyone looking for a near-professional level of image accuracy at something approaching a realistic price. A tiny Sony professional OLED monitor might be slightly more accurate but you're unlikely to notice the difference unless you were doing a side-by-side comparison and the Sony costs over ten times as much.
However it wasn't just about the blacks, greyscale, gamma and colour accuracy, the EZ952 also boasts excellent video processing, so if you happen to be watching standard definition content, which we all still have to occasionally, then the Panasonic was able to deinterlace and scale the images very effectively. How good a standard definition picture can look will ultimately depend on the source but with some of our high-quality test discs the results were surprisingly effective.
The performance obviously moved up a gear when we switched to high definition with current shows like Fargo and Versailles looking lovely on the EZ952. The TV did a great job of deinterlacing and scaling the high definition broadcasts to match the native 4K panel and the overall image accuracy resulted in a genuinely impressive performance. The same was true of streaming services like Amazon and Netflix, with both American Gods and Better Call Saul looking particularly impressive. The improved performance with more compressed streamed sources such as Now TV meant that shows like Twin Peaks were free of the macro-blocking or pixelation that affected last year's OLED TVs.
The picture quality moved up yet another gear when we started watching Blu-rays such as Rogue One and Gravity, where all the same factors came into play but the addition of a higher quality source meant the EZ952 could really show its full capabilities. The images were so detailed and accurate that there were times when we could almost believe we were watching a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc until, that is, we actually put one on.
High Dynamic Range ContentAs we found in the test sections, Panasonic's pursuit of a near professional level of image accuracy doesn't just apply to standard dynamic range (SDR) content, the manufacturer also produces the most accurate TVs when it comes to High Dynamic Range (HDR) material. As a result you not only get the increased resolution of Ultra HD Blu-ray but also the wider colour gamut and the higher dynamic range. The superb accuracy and wider coverage of the EZ952's colour gamut resulted in HDR images that had a saturated but natural appearance, whilst the excellent tone mapping and pixel-level precision of an OLED panel delivered fantastic specular highlights. Although some of the competition were slightly brighter and implemented their tone mapping differently, we really liked Panasonic's more accurate approach which retained the original intentions of the content creators.
The UHD Blu-ray of Planet Earth II is a great example of this, with the EZ952 delivering the incredible images on the discs with staggering levels of detail. The highly saturated colours of nature are also revealed with a marvellous level of accuracy, whilst the black levels and shadow detail in the nighttime sequences were equally as impressive. The only area where the EZ952 struggled, and this really applies to all OLED TVs, is with a darker film like Underworld: Blood Wars which takes place almost entirely at night. Here the EZ952’s limited brightness relative to an LCD TV resulted in images that lacked a certain amount of depth or impact. The EZ952 also slightly clipped the sun setting behind the mountain in the 'Arriving in Neverland' scene in Pan but otherwise this was an exemplary HDR performance.
Panasonic TX-55EZ952 Video Review
Sound QualityOne of the main differences between the EZ952 and the EZ1002 is that the latter includes a built-in soundbar tuned by Technics, so naturally the cheaper model can't compete in terms of sound quality. However it's worth pointing out that the majority of the consumers investing in a highly accurate TV like the EZ952 or the EZ1002 are unlikely to actually use the built-in sound solution and more likely to have a separate soundbar or AV receiver. When you consider the £2,200 price difference between the 65EZ952 and the 65EZ1002, you could buy a very impressive 5.1 system for that. Having said all that, in terms of its actual sound performance the EZ952 was surprisingly good, especially given its physical dimensions but clearly a quality outboard solution would be preferable.
The smaller screen size limited the amount of stereo separation and the width of the front soundstage was therefore restricted but the sound quality was certainly good enough for basic TV watching and even the BBC coverage of Glastonbury sounded quite impressive. Importantly dialogue was clear and focused and the midrange was well represented but the bass was largely non-existent, although that's no different from any other ultra-slim TV these days. As always, given the quality of the images on display, we would strongly recommend investing in an outboard audio solution like a soundbar or AV receiver but if you need to fall back on the built-in speakers they will get the job done.
The low input lag of 26ms is sure to please gamers, no matter how demanding
Input Lag & Energy UsageAs usual we measured the input lag on the EZ952 using our Leo Bodnar tester and in Game mode we measured the input lag at 26ms, which is exactly the same as the EZ1002. This is great news for gamers and the even better news is that this applies whether you're gaming in 1080p, 4K, SDR or HDR. When you turn on Game Mode IFC isn't an option but you can select the Clear Motion feature, although this will increase the input lag to 34ms. We generally found that when gaming in 4K and HDR on our PS4 Pro we turned Clear Motion off and simply enjoyed the beautiful and responsive images that the EZ952 produced with games like Horizon Zero Dawn.
In terms of the EZ952’s energy consumption it proved to be comparable to other OLED TVs that we have reviewed recently and using a full window 50% white pattern we measured the Normal picture mode at 116W and our calibrated Professional 2 mode at 72W, whilst the HDR mode naturally used more energy with a measurement of 149W.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of Rec.2020 - 100% best) 71% 10-bit Panel HDMI 2.0a Inputs HDCP 2.2 Support HEVC Decoding 4K Streaming Services Smart TV Platform Picture Accuracy Out-of-the-Box (score out of 10) 10 What do these mean?
- Superb blacks and contrast ratio
- Impressive dynamic range
- Improved detail just above black
- Reference image accuracy
- Excellent video processing
- Wide viewing angles
- Low input lag
- Very minor banding
- No Dolby Vision support
Panasonic 55EZ952 4K OLED TV Review
Should I buy one?If you were tempted by the performance of Panasonic EZ1002 but found the price too steep then the EZ952 will be music to your ears because it has an almost identical level of picture quality and the same superb out-of-the-box accuracy. It has a more understated design combined with a traditional stand but comes with the same remote controls included with the more expensive model. The EZ950 also uses the same excellent smart platform and connections, as well as delivering the same low input lag and energy efficiency. In fact the only things that the EZ952 doesn't have are the custom LUTs, the built-in soundbar and the Absolute Black Filter. While the former is aimed at professional users, the soundbar will largely be redundant for consumers and there are things you can do to mitigate the loss of the filter. So in the end none of those features justify the £2,200 premium of the EZ1002, making the EZ952 a great choice for those looking for superior OLED performance at a more affordable price.
What are my alternatives?If the EZ952 is the better choice compared to the pricey EZ1002, how does it compare to the competition? We'll the EZ952 is cheaper than both the LG E7 and the Sony A1 but they both offer Dolby Vision, which might put the Panasonic at a disadvantage where consumers are concerned. The performance of all three is certainly comparable, which means the differences largely come down to cosmetics and features and personal preference.
However the most obvious alternative to the TX-55EZ952B is the LG OLED55B7V which currently retails for exactly the same price. The two are almost identical in terms of performance, although the B7 is slightly brighter with HDR content whilst the EZ952 has a smidge more colour accuracy. They both have low input lags but the Panasonic includes black frame insertion and feels slightly better made, whilst the LG has the edge in the looks department and also boasts WebOS which is the superior smart platform. In fact the B7 is packed with features and crucially includes Dolby Vision, which gives it the edge in terms of overall bang for buck.
MORE: Read All OLED TV Reviews
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,999.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level9
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box10
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.