Panasonic HZ1500 OLED Review

Is second from the top, second best?

by Phil Hinton
SRP: £2,499.00

What is the Panasonic HZ1500?

The Panasonic TX-55HZ1500B is the second from the top of the OLED TV range and boasts many of the features of the top HZ2000 model, minus the Custom Pro OLED Panel.

Also new this year, the HZ1500 now gains the upward-firing Atmos speakers previously reserved for the top GZ2000 model from the 2019 range. This means that the HZ1500 offers the full Dolby Atmos experience with a front-firing soundbar, also part of the TVs design, as well as support for an external subwoofer using the unique 3.5mm switchable output and crossover controls. 

The 4K HDR Master OLED model also boasts full support for Dolby Vision IQ and Filmmaker Mode with the intelligent sensor, which are new features for 2020. Filmmaker Mode is unique in offering an accurate image preset to the industry standards so users can see films and TV shows as they were mastered and intended to be seen. The twist on the Panasonic HZ1500 is that it also uses specialised metadata and the light sensor to adapt the image from SDR and HDR10/HLG sources to meet the lighting used in the viewing environment. This is similar to what Dolby Vision IQ does with its dynamic metadata approach along with the light sensor. Both features promise to adhere closely to the creator's intent and image accuracy but will also make sure the image is bright enough for the viewing conditions. 

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500

The HZ1500B also supports HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HLG (inc. HLG Photo) HDR formats along with Filmmaker Mode and the Netflix Calibrated Mode, which makes it flexible for most TV and movie fans. With the addition of Dolby Atmos sound and the speakers set up on the Panasonic, we truly have a potent movie-focused TV. 

The Panasonic HZ1500B also features the latest HCX Pro Intelligent Processor and some of the most advanced calibration features available on the market to make sure image quality is front and centre on this TV. Rounding off the package is the My Home Screen 5.0 Smart TV system that also features Freeview Play with all the UK terrestrial TV catch-up apps which actually puts it ahead of LG in that respect, although there is no Disney+ or Apple TV+ support at this time.

So, is this the best Home Cinema focussed OLED TV or should you hold out for the top of the range HZ2000 with its Custom Pro Panel? Let’s find out. 

Design, Connections and Control

The design of this year's HZ1500 looks almost identical to the flagship HZ2000 with a soundbar under the screen built-into the chassis and the upward-firing speakers in an enclosure that sits at the top of the rear of the panel. The panel is still ultra-thin thanks to it being an OLED, but the chassis has added bulk due to these speaker units, but as we never watch TV from the sides or rear, this really isn’t an issue at all. 

 

... the stand does look a little cheap and also doesn’t quite have the sturdiness of a fixed, weighted stand

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
Upward firing speaker enclosure

The stand design, however, is not quite what we would expect from this level of TV and it does look odd. It is a circular design with a raised pole that attaches to the panel. This allows the TV to swivel on the stand by a few degrees in each direction. While the swivel action might actually be useful to some users, the design of the stand does look a little cheap and also doesn’t quite have the sturdiness of a fixed, weighted stand. 

The soundbar at the bottom of the screen is well designed and blends in nicely with the rest of the chassis. It is not tuned by Technics so there are no logos on the bezel at any point, with just the Panasonic logo front and centre under the panel. Overall, the design is functional and inoffensive. 

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
Rear connections

The connections are at the rear of the panel and are sideways and downwards facing. Sideways we have a CI slot, Headphone/Subwoofer 3.5mm input, two USB slots and HDMI 4. Downwards are two Satellite and one RF antenna, a USB port for HDD connection, three further HDMI 2.0b ports, legacy audio and video, and ethernet and digital audio output. While the HDMI ports are 2.0b there is support for ALLM and eARC HDMI 2.1 features.

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
Supplied remote control

The supplied remote control is the common plastic Panasonic TV model which has a silver-coloured face. The layout of the buttons is intuitive and easy to use with the remote fitting neatly in the hand and feeling sturdy. At the price point and market-level we would have liked to have seen the metal remote used with the HZ2000.

Measurements

Out of the Box

As we always do with our reviews, we measured the out of the box picture presets to find those that get as close as possible to the industry standards. The idea is that a TV must get close to these standards in at least one of its picture modes so end users can see content as it was mastered and intended to be seen.

We use Calman colour calibration software, a Murideo Seven Generator and Klein K-10A meter for measurement and calibration.

We used the new Filmmaker Mode with the light sensor switched off for image consistency and checked that all other picture processing was switched off as it should be. This mode should give the most accurate out of the box settings to the industry standards.

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
Greyscale and Gamma Filmmaker Mode OOTB

Looking at the greyscale results we can see that green is tracking around 3% high with red tracking low by around the same amount. However, DeltaE errors are three or under and as such there are no obvious issues seen on screen with TV and film content. Gamma also tracks well to the BT.1886 standard. 

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
Rec.709 Colour Gamut Filmmaker Mode OOTB

Moving to the Rec.709 HD colour gamut and once again we have superb accuracy with DeltaE errors at an avg of 0.9 which is well below the visible threshold of three. As such, colours look incredibly accurate with no visible errors or issues. Overall, for an out of the box preset, Filmmaker is very accurate.

Calibrated 

The Panasonic HZ1500 has a full suite of calibration controls and can also be calibrated using Calman AutoCal. We performed calibrations using both possible ways and ended up with near-identical results graph wise with no visible errors given the accuracy out of the box. 

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
Calibrated Greyscale and Gamma

As you can see we were able to achieve reference levels of accuracy with the greyscale and gamma with no visible errors at all and a DeltaE of 0.7 maximum. The results here were following a manual calibration, but you can achieve the same results using Calman AutoCal.

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
Calibrated Rec.709 Colour Gamut

The Rec.709 HD colour gamut results are also reference level and while there are small instances of one or two points not 100% on their square in the graph, the DeltaE errors were 0.8 which is well below the visible threshold of three and as such, they did nothing to affect the image quality. The Panasonic is incredibly accurate for grayscale and colour with SDR content.

HDR Results

As we always do with TV displays we measured the peak brightness at various window sizes to see how the sets handle HDR peak brightness, and how aggressive the ABL circuit can be with a full field white pattern.

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
Peak Brightness vs. Window Size

The Panasonic HZ1500 can display HLG, HLG Photo, HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR formats, including Dolby Vision IQ. We measured a peak brightness of 659 nits at 1%, 2%, 5% and industry-standard 10% windows in the most accurate D65 white point settings, with a full field result of 140 nits. The ABL was not quite as aggressive on the HZ1500 as it was on the LG CX we tested at the same time but ends up with very similar results here for peak brightness. 

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
PQ EOTF to ST.2084

The HZ1500 was also accurate with PQ EOTF tracking to ST.2084 with a consistent track and then hard clip. This was the same for both 1000 and 4000 nit content with a consistent tone map for the context where the brightest specular highlights were clipped, but detail retained throughout and with good ABL performance. 

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
DCI-P3 colour gamut within BT.2020

The HZ1500 was capable of a very good Wide Colour Gamut result to DCI-P3 within BT.2020 with excellent tracking within the saturation tracking chart. Only green at 100% stimulus was under the exact gamut size, with all other points being there or thereabouts. 

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
BT.2020 Gamut Coverage

We measured BT.2020 coverage at 71% XY and 77% UV. P3 measured 96% XY and 99% UV.

Panasonic TX-55HZ1500
P3 Coverage

Performance

We tested the 55-inch version of the HZ1500 but performance should be similar on the 65-inch HZ1500 as they use the same type of features and panels. 

Panasonic’s mantra for the last few years has been Hollywood to the Home and as such their TVs focus on the picture quality being as accurate as possible to the industry standards for film and TV content. While gaming is good on the Panasonic with ALLM available, it is not the core competency it is going for here. What they want to present to you is the best possible image quality for movie watching and the best image quality.

 

SD TV channels are obviously beyond saving with any TV processor, but good quality SD from DVD does look sharp and detailed.

To help with their goal of accuracy is the Filmmaker Mode which is the most accurate picture preset out of the box to match the industry standards that are used for film and TV mastering. This means that you are seeing the content as it was intended to be seen. Plus, as only a few enthusiasts watch their TVs in the same conditions as a colour grading mastering suite, Filmmaker Mode on the Panasonic has an intelligent sensor which shifts the brightness of the image without affecting the accuracy too much. This retains as much as possible the creator's intent while matching the image luminance for your viewing environment.

TVs have had light sensors in them for a number of years, but they usually just lift the brightness and gamma to wash the image out through brightening. The Intelligent Sensor approach, like Dolby Vision IQ, is different as it attempts to retain the colour and dynamic range of the image, but make it brighter for a normal living room. This works really well and solves an issue that does exist with accurately displaying content mastered in 100 nits in a bright room. It really does retain the colour accuracy and intent of the creator and also makes the content pop a little more in a bright room, where previously images have looked slightly dull compared to the brighter and bluer standard and vivid modes. We encourage all viewers to use Filmmaker Mode to watch all TV and film content and the intelligent sensor on the HZ1500 makes it easier again to get the brightness levels correct for a normal living room environment.

 

Can we have a fix for this issue please, Panasonic? 

And the same could be said for Dolby Vision IQ which is a selection available when playing Dolby Vision content from streaming services or disc. Dolby Vision IQ does the same thing as the Filmmaker with intelligent sensing, but it also uses the exact metadata to make absolutely certain that colours remain accurate to how they should look, while lifting the brightness of the image and keeping the intent and dynamic range.  And again this works well on the HZ1500 but with one massive issue for a purist like me. 

For some reason on the HZ1500 when Dolby Vision IQ is selected certain menu items are greyed out and switched on as default, many which change the image quality. We don’t know who made this decision - either Panasonic or Dolby - but whoever it was, we need to ask them to consider changing this approach and fixing it via a firmware update. The issue is with Noise Reduction, MPEG Remaster and Resolution Remaster switched on to Min and greyed out. These are filters that scrub away fine detail and add edge enhancement which we do not want to be applied to film content. Plus, Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) frame interpolation is switched on at minimum and greyed out; and if you are anything like me, you will notice this is applied straight away as motion no longer looks natural for film and drama content, which is what you will be watching most in Dolby Vision IQ. These issues make Dolby Vision IQ useless to me as a viewing mode and I also suspect most film fans will share the same opinion. I have no idea why Panasonic, a company striving for image accuracy and as the creator intended, would grey out such controls and not provide the user any choice. And it would be equally as strange if it was a Dolby stipulation as they also claim to work on behalf of the creators intent. Can we have a fix for this issue please, Panasonic? 

You can use Dolby Vision Dark and manually adjust the brightness of the panel to suit your room which is the best overall and most accurate image preset for Dolby Vision content. 

 

Panasonic has set out to create the best movie viewing experience with the HZ1500 and it excels.

We found panel uniformity to be excellent on this review sample with almost invisible bands on a 5% window and no darker patches found anywhere. These very fine bands were also not seen within any TV or Film content viewing. The panel was also clean at all brightness levels with no signs of dirty screen effect or vignetting.  The HCX processor also did a fantastic job of upscaling with no edge enhancement ringing or fuzziness seen with scaled content from 576i and HD 1080i/p. SD TV channels are obviously beyond saving with any TV processor, but good quality SD from DVD does look sharp and detailed. HD content is easy enough to scale and we didn’t see any issues at all.

Motion is also very good on the Panasonic with 24fps material looking excellent with IFC switched off and correct pulldown applied. Adding in IFC adds interpolation in progressive steps as you move up the settings with Soap Opera Effect being obvious. Artefacts are also present in the higher modes with double edges to some fast-moving objects in certain scenes. There is also the odd instance of frame skip with some HDR 24fps material, but you really need to go looking for it as it is rarely seen. We certainly don’t see it as an issue. The custom setting in IFC allows adjustment of Blur Reduction and Film Smooth manually so you can dial in the image interpolation as you like with fast moving sports and other video content. We found IFC off is still best for film content at 24fps. Black Frame Insertion (BFI) also has its own menu selection within the IFC main menu with selections for Off, Min, Mid, Max and Auto. This year the length of the black frame is varied in duration so it has a less noticeable flicker in the lower settings, much the same as LG’s implementation this year. For SDR content it is effective in the Min and Mid settings, but be aware you do reduce light output slightly. We didn’t see any obvious motion resolution gains, but motion is perceived to be smoother and without SOE when IFC switched off and BFI on Min or Mid. BFI shouldn’t be used with HDR content.

While the HZ1500 is designed for movie and TV viewing within the ‘Hollywood to your Home’ mantra from Panasonic, it is also a decent TV for gaming with the input lag measured at 22ms in both HD and 4K with HDR on our Murideo Seven Generator. This is with ALLM switched on and while higher than the competing LG models, it is still acceptable for most level of gamers. Gaming performance with current generation consoles is excellent with superb HDR and very good motion on the HZ1500.

Panasonic are pushing the ‘Hollywood to your Home’ message and thankfully the OLED TVs this year are up to the task. The HZ1500 is accurate with SDR and HDR content straight out of the box in Filmmaker Mode. Black levels are tremendous and just above black detail is superb with no signs of black flashing or posterisation effects. This adds terrific depth and detail to images that marry outstanding colour accuracy and life-like skin tones to the excellent grayscale canvas. The HZ1500 doesn't suffer from the obvious cyan push seen with almost all other LG Display based OLEDs which gives it that ultimate cinematic look to images. 

Panasonic has set out to create the best movie viewing experience with the HZ1500 and it excels.

 

The audio performance from the HZ1500 with its soundbar and upward firing speakers is excellent and can genuinely compete with its peers

HDR content is just as good with superlative image accuracy with the wider colour gamut creating believable skin tones, while expressing purer looking colours that have much better saturation over the SDR examples on this TV. Whites are white with no excessive blue, cyan or yellow tint to snow packed scenes such as those from The Revenant where the natural colours bring a realistic feeling to proceedings. You can feel the cold in the scene thanks to the excellent image quality on offer. If there was one downfall to such scenes is with the Automatic Brightness Limiter in modern OLED panels, but the Panasonic does better than the LG CX in this regard with a less aggressive approach which allows it to look brighter and more uniform. 

As with all OLED TVs the pixel level capabilities provide a dynamic range that is well suited to most HDR content and I watched quite a few 4K UHD Blu-rays and streaming services while I had the HZ1500 on review. Jaws has just been released on 4K disc and it looks stunning on the Panasonic in Dolby Vision. Detail is exceptional with a natural grain structure that doesn’t get in the way of the excellent sharpness and fine lines of faces as the camera closes in during the tense build up to the Kintner kid becoming the latest lunch victim. Motion is also first rate with a cinematic sheen to colours and depth within the image thanks to the dynamic range on offer. Blacks are solid with superb shadow details and just above black performance. No other OLED I have seen from any other manufacturer so far this year can compete with the HZ1500 here.

Specular highlights are also bright with visible detail retained in most HDR10 1000 nit content. With HDR10 4000 nit masters there is a harder clip used to the tone mapping so some of the brightest elements are lost, but image uniformity and brightness is retained rather than dimmed to try and retrieve detail most viewers are oblivious to anyway. We approve of this tone mapping approach rather than one which would dim the overall image. You can also use the Dynamic HDR Effect control with HDR10 content and it subtly changes the tone mapping to create a slightly brighter edge to images.

By setting their goals and being a master at one particular set of attributes, in this case being the best OLED TV for accurate movie and TV viewing, Panasonic has produced a line up of sets that really do produce the best image accuracy we have seen from OLED so far. The HZ1500 lives up to the hype and it even ups the game when it comes to audio too.

 

Gaming performance with current generation consoles is excellent with superb HDR and very good motion

The audio performance from the HZ1500 with its soundbar and upward firing speakers is excellent and can genuinely compete with its peers who provide similar solutions, like Philips. There are no rear speakers provided which does mean that the soundstage produced is focussed to the front of the room with no genuine overhead effects. However, that soundstage is incredibly wide and expansive with excellent height channels and accomplished dialogue retrieval that is anchored to the centre of the screen. Adding an external subwoofer via the headphone jack and setting the correct crossover via the menus adds even more weight to the sound and gives the HZ1500 a genuine cinematic experience that will work wonders for those without a standalone sound solution. And Panasonic has found that many buyers of last year’s GZ2000 did not have an outboard solution in place, which is why the upward firing solution drops down to the HZ1500 this year as it has proven to be very popular with buyers. 


Verdict

Pros

  • Filmmaker Mode for image accuracy with SDR & HDR10
  • Filmmaker Mode with Intelligent Sensor for bright rooms
  • Superb calibrated performance
  • Excellent motion
  • Cinematic images for film fans
  • Very good sound system with Atmos
  • Subwoofer crossover and connection
  • Decent Smart TV and Freeview Play
  • Compatible with HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ & Dolby Vision

Cons

  • Dolby Vision IQ has greyed out picture enhancements switched on, including interpolation
  • Round stand design doesn't fit with a premium TV
  • Plastic remote at the price point

Panasonic HZ1500 OLED Review

Overall the HZ1500 is one of the most accomplished home cinema TVs we have seen for a long time with superb image accuracy and sound to match. Only the HZ2000 will likely push it in terms of sound and vision, but that is the flagship of the range. The HZ1500 could prove to be trouble for its bigger brother in the value stakes. Our review of the HZ2000 is coming soon.

There are no HDMI 2.1 inputs on the HZ1500 but it does support eARC and ALLM HDMI 2.1 features via its HDMI 2.0b ports. It has a decent 22ms input lag and it does well with console gaming in HDR, but it is not the most advanced in terms of gaming compatibility like the LG CX. It also has My Home Screen V5.0 for its smart platform which isn’t as slick as the WebOS of LG, (however, it does have Freeview Play, unlike the CX). But, that misses the point of the HZ1500 which is image accuracy for critical movie and TV watching with the best possible just above black performance, mixed with excellent HDR tone mapping along with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision dynamic metadata.

The Panasonic HZ1500 sets itself a goal to be a master TV for accuracy and achieves that without worrying about being a jack of all trades. The Panasonic engineers have certainly worked their magic yet again to provide one of the most cinematic images yet seen from an OLED with excellent motion.

The addition of the upward firing speakers on this year's 1500 model is also a nice touch from Panasonic which certainly adds value for those looking for a cinematic sound without a room full of speakers. It is very front heavy but the prospect of adding an external subwoofer adds even more value. I used it with a BK Monolith and it created a very dynamic sound stage with a wide and high soundscape. 

If you are a hardcore movie fan the HZ1500 offers exceptionally accurate image quality for SDR and HDR sources with an excellent built-in sound system to add the final cinematic touch. Only the HZ2000 is likely to better what is on offer here for movie fans and the HZ1500 comes highly recommended.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

10

Screen Uniformity

10

Colour Accuracy

10

Greyscale Accuracy

10

Video Processing

.
9

SDR Picture Quality

10

HDR Picture Quality

.
9

Picture Quality Out-of-the-Box

.
9

Picture Quality Calibrated

10

Sound Quality

.
9

Smart Features

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
9

Ease of Use

.
9

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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