What is the CZ952?
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...
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.
Connections & Control
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.
Features & Specs
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.
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.
Picture Settings Out-of-the-Box
Panasonic TX-65CZ952B Picture Settings
Picture Settings Calibrated
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.
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.
Panasonic TX-65CZ952B Video Review
Input Lag & Energy Consumption
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.
How future-proof is this TV?
|4K Ultra HD Resolution|
|Colour Space (percentage of DCI - 100% best)||88%|
|HDMI 2.0a Inputs|
|HDCP 2.2 Support|
|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 Review
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.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Picture Quality Out-Of-The-Box
Picture Quality Calibrated
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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