Panasonic TX-65CZ952B (CZ952) Ultra HD 4K OLED TV Review
An uncompromising approach to picture quality
What is the CZ952?The TX-65CZ952B is Panasonic's first commercially available Ultra HD 4K OLED TV and although the 65-inch curved panel has been sourced from a third party provider, the rest of the engineering is almost entirely proprietary. The CZ952B is less of a TV and more of a technological statement, so Panasonic have taken an uncompromising approach to its design. In fact the manufacturer even jettisoned their latest Firefox Smart TV platform in order to commit more of the quad-core processing power to the image and enlisted the help of Panasonic Hollywood Labs to ensure the most accurate colour performance possible. The TV also boasts Panasonic's new 4K Pro Studio Master UHD processor and Studio Master Colour, along with THX certification and ISF calibration controls.
If it's Ultra High Definition capabilities weren't enough, the 65CZ952 also uses a 10-bit panel and will support High Dynamic Range (HDR), thus providing a degree of future-proofing. In addition, since the CZ952 is a statement product, Panasonic's designers have also had a free hand in designing a TV that is as gorgeous to look at when it's off as it is when it's on. So you get a 360 degree design that uses an attractive curved silver stand and an Alcantara (a kind of faux-suede) finish at the rear, giving the CZ952B an added touch of luxury. Needless to say, all this doesn't come cheap and the TX-65CZ952B retails for £7,999, making it one of the most expensive TVs we've reviewed this year. So does the CZ952B fulfil Panasonic's ambition of uncompromising image quality that can deliver exactly what the director intended? Let's find out...
DesignPanasonic's 65CZ952 makes an impression from the first moment you see it, with a beautifully designed chassis that sits on a lovely silver stand that compliments the curved panel perfectly. The stand can't be swivelled, which seems to be par for the course these days, and you'll need a surface that's at least 96cm wide to position it on but otherwise it certainly looks like a premium product. If you'd rather wall mount the CZ952B there are standard 400 x 400 VESA wall mounts at the rear for that purpose and, despite the curve, the Panasonic shouldn't look strange hanging from your wall.
As far as the curve itself is concerned, it's fairly mild and you don't really notice it the majority of the time. In fact the curve only really becomes apparent when watching things like football, where there are straight lines on the pitch or with 2.35:1 aspect ratio films where you have black bars at the top and bottom. We appreciate that since the panel was sourced from a third party, Panasonic didn't have much choice with regards to its shape but hopefully now that flat OLED panels are becoming available, they can offer an alternative for those not enamoured with the claimed benefits of a curved screen.
It would also be great if Panasonic could offer a 55-inch version as well, thus reducing the price and catering for those with less space. Panasonic have at least managed to produce a curved front filter that is even and largely free of reflections, whilst the build quality is excellent. The 65CZ952B is well engineered and uses a suitably solid construction. Although the panel itself is only 60mm deep there is a larger section behind (starting 23cm down) that is 5cm deep and this houses the speakers, electronics and connections. The TV measures 1,448 x 913 x 311mm (WxHxD) including the stand and weighs in at a hefty 32kg.
There is only 9cm of clearance beneath the screen when stand mounted, so bear that in mind if you plan on using a soundbar. The front of the CZ952 is minimalist, with a 1cm wide black border around the panel and a strip along the bottom. The OLED panel is a single bonded piece with a dark metal trim around the outer edge. At the rear there is the option to attach an Alcantara panel that covers the connections and cables, creating a lovely 360 degree design. It would be nice if Panasonic offered a choice of colours and you might want to keep the cat away from the rear of the TV, but it's a nice touch. Of course if you plan on wall mounting then you won't need the Alcantara cover.
The Panasonic CZ952 is every inch the premium product from its attractive design to its solid construction.
Connections & ControlThe addition of the Alcantara rear panel doesn't just make for an attractive TV, it also serves a practical purpose and helps in terms of hiding the cables. At the rear on the left hand side there is a hard wired 2m power cable with clips to neatly run the cable down under the rear panel. There are also convenient hand holds at the rear, to make moving the surprisingly heavy 65CZ952 around easier and on the bottom left hand side there is a set of basic controls and an on/off button.
On the right hand side of the CZ952B are all the connections and these are broken down into downward facing inputs and sideways facing inputs. The split is quite logical, with the more permanent inputs facing downwards and behind the Alcantara cover, whilst those that you might need regular access to are at the side. The downward facing inputs include three HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2 inputs (the second of which supports ARC), a LAN port, an optical digital output and aerial and satellite connections.
There are guides and clips to allow for tidy cable management and regardless of the Alcantara panel, we wish more manufacturers would take this approach. The sideways facing connections are 16cm from the edge of the panel and here you'll find a fourth HDMI 2.0a/HDCP2.2 input, along with three USB ports (one 3.0 and two 2.0). There are also the usual legacy connections (SCART, composite video, component video and analogue audio), along with a headphone jack and a CI (Common Interface) slot.
The 65CZ952B comes with two remotes, the first of which is a standard Panasonic controller which has a silver finish and includes a backlight for use in the dark. Whilst it's quite large, it includes all the buttons you’ll need, fits comfortably in your hand and is easy to use. The other remote is a touch pad controller which, given the stripped-down nature of the CZ952's smart platform, is likely to get less use. Of course if you’d rather use your smart device as a controller, there are also free remote apps for both iOS and Android.
Features & SpecsAside from the largely cosmetic features that we've already mentioned, the rest of the CZ952B's features and specs are almost exclusively related to picture performance. The native resolution is Ultra HD 4K (3840 x 2160) and obviously the big selling point is the use of an OLED panel, which we'll cover in more detail in the picture quality section. The 65CZ952 uses Panasonic's OLED Superb Motion Drive to drive the panel, along with a specially modified version of their 4K Studio Master Processor and Studio Master Colour with 3D look-up tables (LUTs) to squeeze every last drop of performance out of the OLED panel.
Panasonic believe that their previous experience in plasma has helped them build an OLED TV that not only delivers absolute blacks but can also retain detail in areas of the picture that are just above black. This has proved hard for OLED TVs to do in the past but thanks to their Absolute Black Gradation Drive, Panasonic is confident that the CZ952 is capable of retaining all that 'shadow detail.' Panasonic hope that the combination of these various technologies will help them deliver an image that is superior to any competing OLED TV.
Panasonic's confidence when it comes to the 65CZ952B is such that it has been certified by THX, successfully passing over 400 laboratory tests. Aside from the image accuracy and presets provided by THX certification, the CZ952 also includes full ISF calibration controls for those who want to get their new OLED professionally calibrated. There's support for passive 3D, with two pairs of glasses included, and there's a 2.1-channel speaker configuration with 60W of output. In terms of future proofing the CZ952B also uses HDMI 2.0a/HDCP2.2 inputs, a 10-bit panel, has a wider colour gamut and supports High Dynamic Range (HDR).
As we mentioned in the introduction, Panasonic's uncompromising approach to image quality meant that they wanted to use as much of the Quad-Core Pro 5 engine as possible for picture processing. As a result, the CZ952B doesn't include my Home Screen 2.0 with Firefox OS and you won't be getting Freeview Play either. However, the stripped down smart platform does offer the important features so you can still get 4K content from Amazon Instant, Netflix and YouTube. There's also BBC iPlayer, a media player, DLNA support for accessing content on your network and dual terrestrial and satellite tuners with option of adding an HDD for PVR features. In terms of video and audio file support the 65CZ952 is fairly comprehensive and can handle any of the following AVCHD 3D, AVI, HEVC, MKV, WMV, MP4, M4v, FLV, 3GPP, VRO, VOB, TS, PS, MP3, AAC, WMA Pro, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, JPEG and MPO.
Although there's no new Firefox OS, all the important smart features are still present and correct.
Picture Settings Out-of-the-BoxSince the CZ952B has been certified by THX, setting it up couldn't be easier. We tested all the different viewing modes and the THX Cinema preset offered the most accurate performance out-of-the-box. So all you need to do is select the THX Cinema viewing mode and then just adjust the Luminance Level, Contrast and Brightness to suit your particular viewing environment. The THX Cinema mode also helpfully turns off most of the special features, giving you an unadulterated and highly accurate picture. The only other recommendation we'd make would be to turn the Sharpness control down to zero from its default setting of 50, where there is very obvious ringing. As always we would strongly warn against using the IFC or 24p Smooth features when watching film based content, although you're free to experiment when it comes to sports-based action.
As the graphs above demonstrate, in the THX Cinema viewing mode the CZ952 was delivering a level of accuracy that already almost bordered on reference. In terms of the greyscale all three primary colours were tracking close to each other and the gamma was measuring around our target curve of 2.2 (for normal viewing in a room with good ambient lighting). As a result, the overall errors (DeltaEs) were below the target threshold of three, meaning they weren't really visible. This level of accuracy also extended to the colour gamut which also had errors that were below the threshold of three. Whilst there was some minor under-saturation in red, blue and magenta, overall this was an excellent colour performance. If you plan on dropping nearly eight grand on a TV we would certainly recommend getting it calibrated but the reality is that given this out-of-the-box performance you're unlikely to notice drastic improvements, assuming other production models are also as accurate as this set.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952B Picture Settings
Picture Settings CalibratedSince we had such an accurate starting point calibrating the 65CZ952B was a breeze, especially with Panasonic's superb calibration controls. We barely needed to touch the two-point white balance control and then all we needed to do was fine tune each IRE point using the ten-point control. We also had the advanced gamma control at our disposal, allowing us to iron out the curve and the end result was as close to perfection as you're likely to see from a domestic display. We tracked the Gamma at both our normal room 2.2 standard and at 2.4 for dimmer viewing room conditions. In both cases the panel tracked each curve correctly with no issues.
As you would expect, once we had calibrated the greyscale, white was hitting its target of D65 precisely and, many of the minor errors in the colour gamut had disappeared. Then all we needed to do was fine tune the three primary colours (red, green and blue) and three secondary colours (cyan, magenta and yellow) with the colour management system (CMS). The result was a reference performance with all the colours hitting their hue, saturation and luminance targets for the current industry standard of Rec.709.
All of Panasonic's hard work in conjunction with Panasonic Hollywood Labs and colourist Mike Sowa had clearly paid off, with their use of professional 3D look-up tables resulting in superb colour accuracy across all saturation points. Aside from some minor undersaturation in blue, all the primary and secondary colours were hitting their targets for 25, 50, 75 and 100% saturation. As a result the CZ952 delivered the most accurate image you're likely to see outside of a Hollywood mastering suite.
In fact there was only one area where the CZ952B disappointed in terms of colour performance and that was its native colour gamut. Whilst the current standard for colour space is Rec.709 and the 65CZ952 absolutely nailed that particular gamut, there is the likelihood of the wider DCI colour space being adopted for both Ultra HD 4K streaming and UHD Blu-ray. As the graph above right shows, the Panasonic is still some way off that wider colour space, which is undoubtedly a limitation of the current OLED technology. Whilst it isn't really an issue now - and it's debatable how much actual difference it would make - given the cost of the CZ952 it is worth pointing out.
In the THX Cinema mode the CZ952 delivered a superb level of accuracy and a reference performance after calibration.
Picture QualityWe may as well address the elephant in the room right at the start - Panasonic are using LG OLED panels. Of course they are, where else were they going to get them from? The company has never made a secret of this fact and anyone who treated the news as some great revelation was clearly just desperately scrambling around for a story. As Panasonic themselves are happy to point out, the panel is the panel but it's the 'special sauce' behind the scenes that makes all the difference. In fairness to LG their OLED TVs have been hugely impressive, especially when you consider how much they cost, but they have had issues.
A quick glance at the owners' threads will show that LG's OLEDs have suffered from problems such as dark edges at the sides of the screen, crushed blacks and banding just above black, as well as screen uniformity and tint issues. That's not to detract from what is still an impressive image but we understand how these issues can be annoying for owners. As far as the 65CZ952B is concerned there were no signs of any screen uniformity or tint issues, even before calibration. We selected the THX Cinema viewing mode and brought up a white test pattern and the image was free of any tint or uniformity issues.
So far so good. Then we brought up a 5IRE pattern and there were no signs of any dark edges at the sides, which we have seen on LG OLEDs. The absence of dark edges on the CZ952 remained true for 10 IRE and 15IRE and at no time did we ever see any indication of this issue when watching normal content. So it would seem that all the time and money that Panasonic invested in how they drive the panel has paid dividends and they have definitely banished those dark edges. Panasonic's experience in terms of black gradation on plasmas also paid dividends and the CZ952 was highly effective at retaining detail as it came out of black.
So the only remaining issue was banding in dark scenes just above black and this is the one area where Panasonic have been unable to totally eliminate the problem. We did see some signs of this banding either using a 5IRE test pattern or very specific scenes (the scene from Interstellar where Matthew McConaughey is getting out of bed) but it was something we had to go looking for and was never apparent with 99% of actual viewing material. So the 65CZ952B isn't completely perfect but it still knocks spots off the competition in terms of black levels and details in black.
The CZ952B appears to use the same 'sample-and-hold' approach seen on previous OLED TVs that we've reviewed, which means the panel displays and holds a static frame until the next one is refreshed. As a result the Panasonic was delivering around 500 lines of resolution with IFC/24p Smooth turned off. The motion resolution could be improved by turning IFC/24p Smooth on, with even the Min setting delivering the full 1080 lines of motion resolution. However as is usually the case, this makes film-based content look unnaturally smooth and we could see artefacts in some of our test material. There's certainly no harm in experimenting with IFC when watching sports content, which involves fast movement and is shot using video cameras, but we would always recommend avoiding any frame interpolation when watching film-based content.
Since the CZ952 is an OLED TV it should come as no surprise to discover that 0IRE measured at 0.000cd/m2 on our Klein K-10 and it had no trouble hitting our target of 120cd/m2 for a comfortable level of brightness. That gives an on/off contrast ratio of infinity but probably of more use was the ANSI contrast ratio, which we measured at 318,000:1. In terms of maximum brightness the CZ952B could hit 313cd/m2 on a 100IRE window and 101cd/m2 on a full raster. That's well below the brightness of today's LCD TVs but dynamic range is about more than just brightness, it's that transition between absolute black and peak white that gives an image impact. The 65CZ952 will support High Dynamic Range but we'll have to wait until actual HDR content is available before we find out just how effective it is compared to its LCD competitors.
What we can say is that with the current content we have available, the Panasonic was capable of delivering a breathtaking image. Once you combine those amazing blacks (and all that shadow detail) with the panel's inherent dynamic range and then add that to an incredibly accurate greyscale and colour gamut, you begin to realise the full nature of the CZ952B's potential. Thanks to the superb proprietary processing the detail was astonishing, not only with 4K content, which you'd expect, but also on upscaled Full HD broadcasts and Blu-rays. The CZ952 seemed able to squeeze every last detail out of a source and, thanks to its remarkable accuracy, colours always remained natural across all saturation points.
We found ourselves watching both England's miserable Rugby World Cup campaign and England's decidedly more successful European Championship qualification campaign and being hugely impressed by both in terms of image quality. The green pitches also proved to be a great test of screen uniformity and any possible banding which the CZ952 passed with flying colours. A number of BBC wildlife documentaries looked absolutely breathtaking with the only limitations such as banding coming from the source material itself. The Panasonic OLED never put a foot wrong and once we moved onto Blu-rays the results were even better with our old favourite Gravity looking stunning. The detail in the effects was staggering, whilst every single star was perfectly rendered and the dynamic range between the white of the space suits and the blacks of space were often jaw-dropping. More recent purchase like Avengers: Age of Ultron and Mad Max: Fury Road looked just as impressive with deep blacks, rich colours and remarkable levels of detail.
There's one final area where the 65CZ952B excelled and that was with 3D. We appreciate that the format's popularity is waning but that's a real shame because the TV manufacturers are getting really good at 3D now. Unsurprisingly given who makes the panel, the CZ952 uses passive 3D and, thanks to its native 4K resolution that means a full 1080p to each eye without resorting to active shutter glasses. The Panasonic comes with two pairs of very light passive glasses that use a minimal tint to their lenses and getting hold of more glasses is cheap and easy, you can even use RealD glasses from the cinema. The overall brightness of the CZ952B, coupled with the incredible blacks and natural colours also provide a solid base on which to build a 3D image.
When you combine that with the glasses the resulting 3D was bright, detailed and completely free of crosstalk - even with the 3D torture tests on the Spear & Munsil Blu-ray. The 3D images had real pop to them and masses of depth, whilst the total absence of annoying artefacts meant that you could completely immerse yourself. We found ourselves digging out old favourites like Avatar, Hugo and Prometheus as well more recent additions like X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies but no matter what we watched, the 3D on the 65CZ952 never failed to impress.
If the CZ952 disappointed anywhere, it was in terms of sound quality and especially input lag.
Sound QualityWhilst Panasonic haven't gone the route of Sony and added large forward-firing speakers to the CZ952B, they clearly want the audio performance to reflect the TV's premium status. As a result, Panasonic have used a 2.1-channel speaker configuration in their OLED TV with two tweeters, two midrange drivers, two woofers and a quad passive radiator. There is also 60W of amplification inside to drive all the speakers but overall the audio performance could be considered perfunctory rather than anything special. It can certainly handle normal TV programming well and there was a reasonable amount of clarity and detail. The larger screen size allowed for a better sense of stereo separation, whilst dialogue was suitably centred. However the position of the speakers themselves is always going to work against it and the CZ952 never managed to produce a sound that really had any bass or a sense of immersion. The audio performance is fine for what it is but we'd like to think that anyone spending this kind of money on a TV will be seeking an outboard solution.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952B Video Review
Input Lag & Energy ConsumptionAlthough we don't expect anyone to spend nearly £8,000 on a TV just for gaming, if you are a serious gamer then the CZ952B probably isn't the model for you. We measured the input lag at 74ms and, as we've seen with other Panasonic TVs this year, selecting the Game mode didn't make any difference to the lag time. There's no doubt that for hardcore gamers a lag of 74ms will be considered too high but for the rest of us it probably doesn't make any difference.
We certainly found gaming on the 65CZ952 to be very enjoyable, with the large curved screen helping to make the experience more immersive and the image quality giving games the cinematic quality for which they often strive. However if you're big into your gaming there are certainly better and cheaper alternatives, whilst the possibility of image retention and screen burn remains an unknown. We didn't experience any issues during testing and Panasonic have ported over their Pixel Orbiter feature from their old plasmas, which hopefully should prevent any problems.
The recent scandal with VW has raised the issue of test measurements in consumer products and whether they actually meet their claimed numbers in the real world. In terms of TVs the energy consumption numbers quoted relate to the setting that the TV is shipped in - which for Panasonic is the Normal viewing mode. We measured the Normal mode at 214W, which is exactly what the manufacturer claims in their marketing, the calibrated mode at 200W and the 3D mode at 257W. All-in-all that's pretty good for a 65-inch screen size.
Whilst no TV is perfect, you won't currently find one with a better picture than the Panasonic CZ952.
How future-proof is this TV?
4K Ultra HD Resolution HDR Support Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best) 88% 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) 9 What do these mean?
- Absolute blacks
- Incredible dynamic range
- Remarkable contrast ratio
- Superb out-of-the-box performance
- Reference greyscale and colour accuracy
- Excellent video processing
- Reference 3D performance
- Very wide viewing angles
- Gorgeous design
- Impressive build quality
- Some minor banding just above black
- Colour space could be wider
- Input lag too high for serious gamers
- Curve might not suit everyone
- Limited smart platform
- Very Expensive
Panasonic TX-65CZ952B (CZ952) Ultra HD 4K OLED TV ReviewAt the start of this conclusion, it's probably worth reiterating exactly what we mean when we award a product a Reference Status badge. We don't necessarily consider that product perfect but we do consider it to be the current product that provides a reference point for performance in that particular price bracket. What that means is that any similarly priced product that we review will be referred to that reference point and compared to it in terms of performance. So now we've got that out of the way, is the Panasonic TX-65CZ952B perfect? Of course not, no mass produced consumer TV is ever going to be perfect. If you think back to the great plasma TVs of the past, they all had various issues that stopped them from being perfect (dirty screen effect, dynamic false contouring, PWM noise and audible buzzing to name but a few). OK, so it isn't perfect but is the CZ952 the best TV money can currently buy? Possibly, although that will certainly depend on your priorities.
If you're a serious gamer then the Panasonic definitely isn't for you and you're better off taking a look at Samsung's UE65JS9500 or Sony's X94C both of which have very low input lags and fantastic picture quality for LED LCD TVs. They also have native colour gamuts that are both over 90% of DCI, so if you think that might be important then once again they may be preferable to the 65CZ952. However both these TVs can suffer from visible banding caused by the LEDs behind the panel and both have very narrow viewing angles. See, nothing's perfect. However, if you're looking for pure picture performance then we have yet to see a TV that can outperform the CZ952B. First of all there's the native 4K OLED panel, with its pin sharp detail, absolute blacks, superb dynamic range and incredibly wide viewing angles. There are other OLED TVs available - for considerably less money - that also deliver fantastic images but they have had numerous issues. Panasonic have invested a great deal of time and money in eliminating these issues and for the most part they succeed.
A quick glance at the owners' threads will show that LG's OLEDs have suffered from various issues including dark edges at the sides of the screen, crushed blacks and banding just above black, as well as screen uniformity and tint issues. That's not to detract from what is still an impressive image, but we understand how these issues can be annoying for owners. As far as the 65CZ952 is concerned there were no signs of any screen uniformity or tint issues and Panasonic have definitely banished the problem of dark edges. Panasonic's experience in terms of black gradation on plasmas also paid dividends with detail just above black, so the only remaining issue was banding in dark scenes just above black. We did see some signs of this - either using test patterns or very specific scenes - but it was something we had to go looking for and was never apparent with 99% of viewing material. Aside from that the CZ952 delivered an absolutely superb picture with incredible greyscale and colour accuracy both out-of-the-box and after calibration.
Panasonic's decision to dedicate most of the processing power to image quality results in fantastic images regardless of the source material, although clearly the better the material the TV has to work with the more impressive the results. Needless to say with 4K content the results were stunning, but Full HD broadcasts and Blu-ray also looked superb, whilst 3D was easily the best we've experienced on a TV. Despite the stripped down smart platform, the important things are there like 4K Netflix, Amazon Instant and YouTube along with favourites like BBC iPlayer. The CZ952 includes both THX and ISF certification and the overall design is gorgeous with a wonderful attention to detail and an impressive level of build quality.
The Panasonic TX-65CZ952B might well have a premium price tag but it's also a premium product in every respect. Clearly the recent price reductions on LG OLEDs will create a great deal of competition, although the CZ952 is better in certain aspects like greyscale/colour accuracy and the lack of dark edges. There's also competition at the higher end of the price scale with Sony's KD-75X9405C delivering an amazing performance and a larger screen size for less money (just don't mention the hopeless smart platform and menu system). However, shifting units isn't the point of the 65CZ952, that will come later with smaller and hopefully flatter screen sizes. No, the CZ952B is about putting Panasonic back at the top of the pile after the demise of plasma and in that sense it has succeeded admirably. Welcome back to the land of reference status, Panasonic.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £7,999.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level10
3D Picture Quality10
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box9
Picture Quality Calibrated10
Ease Of Use9
Value for Money7
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