After a couple of years of LG OLED TVs ruling the roost in top-end picture quality, Panasonic has an OLED TV now too. In fact, it has what it says is the best OLED TV, taking all the experience its engineers had from years of amazing quality plasma TVs. The EZ1000 is the top in its Master OLED range, and as well as being a badass OLED panel it incorporates a top-of-the-line built-in soundbar using Technics audio. Is it worth nearly $9000 of your hard-earned cash, though?
What Is It?
The $8899 65-inch Panasonic TH-65EZ1000U, a 4K HDR-ready OLED, is the new best TV you can buy, if you buy into Panasonic's hype. Panasonic also makes the EZ950 OLED in 65-inch and 55-inch sizes for $7199 and $4999 respectively, and that TV is functionally similar, apart from its lack of reflection-cutting Absolute Black filter and no integrated Technics soundbar -- but with the same panel and display tech under the hood. The upper half of thez EZ1000's panel is wonderfully thin and attractive, with all the picture processing tech in an inch-thick section at the TV's base, closer to that chunky dual-purpose soundbar-and-stand with its obvious Technics branding (and, importantly, Technics audio tuning -- more on that later.)
There's a massive 77-inch Panasonic EZ1000 -- its likely eye-watering price still TBA -- due later this year, but for the time being the 65-inch EZ1000 rules the roost in OLED TV land. It uses a LG Display-supplied OLED panel like LG's own 2017 OLED TVs, but Panasonic has retained a great deal of the TV engineering expertise that helped it build the world's best plasma TVs which, in their heyday, had the world's best picture quality. Plasma and OLED are functionally extremely similar in their self-lighting pixel technologies, and Panasonic's nous in getting the best possible gradation in shadows from its plasmas has absolutely paid dividends in today's Master OLED screens.
Panasonic also says the EZ1000 is the gold standard in OLED colour accuracy -- an area where early OLED TV screens suffered against their LED TV competitors, and an area where Samsung proudly crows its achievements with its QLED LED TV panels. Claiming nearly 100 per cent DCI-P3 colour space coverage for hardcore HDR and 4K video content, as well as ISF calibrated colour modes, all coming courtesy of Panasonic-developed video processors that have a huge range of colour information not just for RGB but for CMY content as well, including colours at all brightness levels, a feature unique to the EZ1000 and EZ950.
LG (currently) has the monopoly on OLED screens, and for good reason - the technology is notoriously expensive and difficult to engineer. But the results? Genuinely the closest you will get to a high-quality cinema experience in the home. But after spending the night with LG's latest OLED range, I'd say it's even better.
QLED is Samsung's name for its latest quantum dot LED-backlit TVs, and QLED means business. Samsung is promising black levels that you'd only otherwise expect to see on a top-of-the-line OLED TV, and colours that are not only incredibly vibrant and bright, but also accurate. The Q8 is a $4500-plus screen that'll make your Netflix sessions look amazing.
What's It Good At?
This is a compliment I give to all OLED TVs that I look at, so I'm going to continue it -- but amplified -- with the Panasonic EZ1000. Having truly black blacks, courtesy of OLED's individually self-lighting pixels, means that contrast is universally excellent and even low-brightness whites and colours pop against a dark background. If you're watching movies, they look best on an OLED, and an OLED that sets itself apart with a reflection-killing black filter like Panasonic's Master OLEDs' Absolute Black, you're getting an incredible picture. Contrast is hands down the most important weapon in a TV's visual arsenal, and EZ1000 has it in spades. At 4K. Oof.
Panasonic also deserves praise for the EZ1000's design. There are a few top-of-the-line LED and OLED TVs out there with integrated soundbars, as well as standalone screens that rival the EZ950, but Panasonic has done it right with the EZ1000's straightforward -- not too stylish, not too bland looks. The Technics soundbar, which sounds just about as good as any standalone all-in-one soundbar can, looks good as a slightly chunky stand that runs the length of the TV's lower bezel. There's an equally thin black screen bezel around all four edges, a chrome lip, and that's it -- nothing gaudy. The remotes are equally adult.
OLED TVs have, in the past, not had anywhere near the peak brightness levels of the best quantum dot LED -- we're looking at you, Samsung QLED -- but the EZ1000 is one of a precious few new breed of OLED TVs that can hit a peak brightness of 1000 nits, which is just about the minimum you need for HDR content to shine to its fullest (pardon the pun). In its calibrated and more appropriate for critical movie-watching modes the EZ1000 can hit 800 nits, which is more than enough when you're in a brightness controlled room, ideally at night, but its Vivid picture mode gives you a useful extra boost for bright pictures in daylit rooms with reflections aplenty.
Panasonic's always been very good at adding useful value-adds into its top-end televisions, and the EZ1000 is no different. It has twin HD tuners, and you can stream the video feed to a tablet or smartphone as long as the EZ1000 is connected to Wi-Fi, as well as recording one program while watching another. If your 'net connection is good enough on both ends, you can even stream from your TV to a phone or tablet anywhere in the world. Panasonic's built-in USB and network DLNA media player app, too, is one of the best you'll find in 2017 -- it supports crisp 4K as well as HDR10 and HLG content if you're lucky enough to get your hands on some.
What's It Not Good At?
There are very few things wrong with the Panasonic EZ1000. If I had one chief complaint, it would actually be that Panasonic not including the Absolute Black filter on the EZ950 means you're forced to buy a TV with a built-in soundbar for the best possible picture quality, pigeon-holing your sound choices somewhat. If you're buying the EZ1000, you're probably also likely to buy a pretty hardcore sound system to go with it, and that makes the highly integrated Technics soundbar a little redundant.
Notably if you're picking between a Panasonic OLED and one of LG's competitor offerings, the EZ1000 and EZ950 both lack any kind of Dolby Vision HDR support. Dolby Vision is one of the best HDR standards, purely because the slowly increasing amount of DV HDR content on Netflix doesn't require you to be streaming in 4K in the first place to access it -- a huge boon for flaky Aussie internet connections. If this is something that sounds like it'll matter a lot to you, you'll have a difficult decision on your hands. Of course, the EZ1000 does support the regular HDR10 standard as well as the Hybrid Log Gamma HDR that is slowly emerging as a decent competitor for Dolby Vision at the high end -- though LG has that too. Who knows who'll win?
It's also very expensive, and you'll have to really want those distinguishing features to get the most out of the Panasonic EZ1000. When you consider that you can buy a 65-inch LG OLED TV for around $3000 less than the Panasonic's $9000 price point, you'll really have to want that soundbar and amazing colour accuracy and shadow grading. It's like the difference between any Ferrari and the best Ferrari -- if you can afford one, you could well afford any one, and this might be an academic question, but the fact remains that the EZ1000 commands a hefty price and price percentage premium over other OLED TVs you can buy right now.
Should You Buy It?
The $8899 Panasonic TH-65EZ1000U is an excellent TV. An incredible TV. There's no doubt about that. Is it worth $8899 to you? That's a tricky question. I like to think that if I was in the right financial position -- planning a ground-up upgrade of my home entertainment system, or picking out a brand new system for a new house, maybe -- it would be very close to the top of my list of contenders. It's certainly an investment that'll last, and one that'll give you years of enjoyment. You can feel comfortable in knowing that if you buy the EZ1000, you're buying one of the best, if not the best, TV in Australia right now.