(Pocket-lint) - While OLED TV technology has improved steadily year on year, it's been a while since anything truly revolutionary happened. Cue the Panasonic GZ2000, complete with its built-in Dolby Atmos speaker system.
This premium 65-inch set shows - for the first time ever, really - what can happen when an experienced brand finally finds a way to apply its own hardware innovations to the same core OLED panels used by pretty much the entire TV industry. And the results are glorious.
- Built-in Dolby Atmos speaker system for 3D object-based sound
- Includes up-firing speakers, speakers tuned by Technics
- 4x HDMI inputs, 3x USB ports
- LAN and Wi-Fi network options
With its slender frame, sleek 360-degree finish and uncompromising build quality, the GZ2000 oozes understated class.
It's fatter round the back than most OLED TVs, but that's directly related to the focus on sound. Some people might also feel that the substantial speaker bar that hangs off its bottom edge looks a bit clunky, but these design attributes are critical to delivering that Dolby Atmos speaker system.
This system finds the front-facing drivers of the soundbar working with up-firing speakers mounted behind the TV's top edge to deliver Dolby Atmos's object-based sound, complete with height channel effects.
The total sound system adds up to a huge (by TV standards) 140W of power - and an external subwoofer can even be added to the system via the TV's switchable headphone socket.
Other connections include four HDMI and three USB ports. None on the HDMI ports is built to the latest 2.1 standard, though, potentially making the set incompatible with the high frame-rates the next generation of Xbox and PlayStation games consoles are predicted to support.
Nor does the GZ2000 support eARC - the ability to pass lossless Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio streams through the TV's HDMIs to a connected external sound system (but we can sort of see why, given the point of this TV is its built-in system).
LG's latest OLED TVs do carry HDMI 2.1 ports and eARC support. Its HDMI ports also support variable refresh rate gaming and automatic game mode switching, while the GZ2000 only supports the latter of these two gaming features.
The GZ2000's picture quality advantages, though, will likely make it fairly easy for many AV fans to overlook its various HDMI limitations.
- HDR Support: HLG, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision
- Processing engine: HCX
Most OLED TVs have the same core panels at their heart, leaving the software, design and sound quality as the only routes for different brands to differentiate their OLED offerings. The GZ2000 actually introduces a proprietary Panasonic hardware change - one which enables the panel to run cooler and more efficiently than regular OLED panels.
This opens the door to both more brightness and less worry about 'screen burn' (permanent image retention caused by extended exposure to static image elements). Two potentially game-changing enhancements for anyone torn between the different attractions of OLED versus LCD.
Measurements of the GZ2000's brightness on a white window covering 10 per cent of its screen reveal it capable of pumping out almost 1000 nits. That's comfortably the highest figure recorded from a consumer OLED TV.
Controlling how all this extra brightness potential is used to deliver the GZ2000's pictures is Panasonic's latest HCX Pro processing system. Designed through a combination of Panasonic's decades of TV experience (including its peerless familiarity with OLED-resembling plasma technology) and input from Hollywood creatives via Panasonic's Hollywood laboratory, HCX Pro aims to control color, contrast and motion well enough to deliver a picture that gets as close as possible to the look of the original content.
The TV is even tuned by famed Hollywood colourist Stefan Sonnenfeld, completing the 'Hollywood to your Home' connection.
Also elevating the GZ2000 above most OLED rivals is its support for both the Dolby Vision and HDR10+ active high dynamic range (HDR) formats. These add extra scene-by-scene data to the basic HDR10 image stream, making it easier for compatible TVs to deliver better HDR results.
Only Philips in Europe also offers OLED TVs that support both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. The rest only support Dolby Vision - even though there is now plenty of content out there in both formats.
The fact that the GZ2000 is an OLED TV is a significant picture feature. After all, each pixel in an OLED screen produces its own light, rather than an external backlight having to be shared across thousands of pixels, as happens with LCD TVs. This means the GZ2000 can deliver outstanding contrast and colour, with no light bleed between bright and dark pixels.
- Smart System: My Home Screen 4.0, Freeview Play
- Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant compatible
The latest version of Panasonic's My Home Screen 4.0 is easy on the eye and easy to use.
The home screen consists initially of just a trio of icons: one connected to the app store; one connected to a hub of connected devices; and one connected to live TV. But you can add extra direct link icons to the home page simply by selecting them from the app store.
You can also scroll down through a small selection of tiers from the home screen, giving you direct links to content on Netflix, YouTube or Freeview Play. You can rearrange the order of these decks, too, if you want to elevate the Netflix deck to become your default home page.
The GZ2000 provides support for both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant voice recognition - though only if you have an external listening device.
The only disappointment with the GZ2000's smart system is that it's missing one or two major apps. For instance, there's no Apple Airplay 2 support, or any current expectation of the Apple TV app coming to Panasonic's platform. Nor is there any sign of Now TV or BT Sport.
There are, though, 4K HDR-compatible apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Rakuten and YouTube. And the inclusion of Freeview Play support, which brings together all of the main UK broadcaster catch-up TV apps, is always welcome.
The exclusive Panasonic hardware inside the GZ2000 takes OLED picture quality to places it's never gone before. And not just in the area of brightness where Panasonic's innovations might have been expected to make their mark.
Colours, for instance, look sensational. Compared with cheaper Panasonic 2019 OLED tellies, which don't get the new hardware exclusively developed for the GZ2000, tones across the board look richer, more natural and more subtly nuanced. The result is a markedly more impactful and three-dimensional looking picture, regardless of whether you're watching a bright or dark scene.
Black levels, too, are even more spectacular than they are on Panasonic's cheaper OLED TVs. The darkest areas of the picture look even blacker on the GZ2000, making HDR movies in particular look even more cinematic.
What's more, the GZ2000's new-found black levels are given extra force by being able to appear side by side with the TV's enhanced brightness. The intensity with which bright highlights such as street- or head-lights puncture predominantly dark scenes is stunning, giving HDR a degree of pop never seen on an OLED TV before. In fact, the way the darkest and brightest points in the picture can co-exist even a pixel apart without 'polluting' each other makes some scenes look more impactful in HDR than they do on any other TV of any type.
The extra brightness feeds, too, into the GZ2000's colours, giving them more HDR/wide colour-friendly volume than those of Panasonic's lower-grade OLED TVs. Or any other OLED TVs seen to date, come to that.
Even the detail levels in bright pictures look slightly more pronounced - especially with native 4K footage - on the GZ2000 than they do on cheaper Panasonic models. Presumably because of the way the extra brightness and contrast gives a little more emphasis to subtle shading differences.
Dark scenes do lose a little shadow detail on the GZ2000 compared with, say, the step-down GZ1500 model. Especially when using one of the set's punchier picture presets. Also, very occasionally, there can be a little more speckling noise over lines of sharp colour shifts than there is on Panasonic's cheaper OLED TVs.
There's also no denying that even with the help of Panasonic's new brightness boosting technology, the GZ2000 can't get nearly as bright as the latest crop of high-end LCD TVs launched this year, such as the Samsung Q90R.
For the vast majority of the time, though, the GZ2000 feels like it's pushed OLED technology two or three generations ahead in one bound.
Given the unusual scope and sophistication of the GZ2000's Dolby Atmos sound system, it's reassuring to find the TV running an audio setup routine during the TV's initial installation. This asks you to confirm such things as whether the TV is stand- or wall-mounted, whether it's set in a corner or against a flat wall, and how far from the wall it is.
Provided you give the TV the right information at this stage, and you've installed the latest firmware (which improves bass handling and fixes a previous crackling bug), the GZ2000 sounds pretty great.
Particularly striking is the sense of audio effects being placed in a wall of sound around the TV when watching a Dolby Atmos movie. These effects appear high above and far to the left and right of the screen. There's even a sense of depth to the soundstage, with just about enough bass to create a convincing dynamic range.
The speakers don't push the sound forward into your living room particularly well, though. Certainly the sense of depth can sound more behind than in front of the screen. Dense sections of Atmos mixes can sound a little confused, too, as if the speakers don't quite know which elements to prioritise.
Also, vocals can sound a bit too bright and detached from the mix during loud moments - though this does also mean that dialogue generally remains clear and intelligible.
Finally, while bass levels are decent by the standards of typical TV systems, impact sounds can sound a bit inconsequential versus other aspects of a Dolby Atmos mix. This is why you might want to add a subwoofer, but at least you won't need a whole separates system.
The Panasonic GZ2000 represents a watershed moment for serious AV fans. The way it gets so much more brightness out of its OLED screen than any other OLED TV before is as important as it is beautiful. Especially as this jump forward also enhances colour and contrast.
The GZ2000's Dolby Atmos sound innovations are effective too. There's room for improvement here, though, with some unconvincing moments. With this in mind it's hard not to look at the GZ2000's hefty price and wonder if there might have been scope for Panasonic to launch a cheaper version with a more regular sound system. Especially given that many of the serious AV fans the GZ2000 is aimed at may well be running a separate external audio setup anyway.
In the end, though, the GZ2000's jaw-dropping picture quality just can't be denied. These are the best all-round pictures the 4K TV world has ever seen - and if that isn't enough of a reason to have serious AV fans reaching deep into their wallets, what is?
This article was first published as a CES preview on 8 January 2019 and has been updated to reflect its full review status
This class-leading LCD TV can get more than twice as bright as the GZ2000, while still delivering ground-breakingly good black levels for an LCD set. This enables it to deliver HDR sources with explosive impact. It also carries a superior smart TV system that includes a built-in Apple TV app. However, the backlighting sometimes has to dim stand-out bright objects very aggressively to keep those black levels intact, and there's no support for Dolby Vision HDR or Dolby Atmos sound.