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Review: Panasonic TX-55HZ980 (HZ980-series) OLED TV

Review: Panasonic TX-55HZW984 (HZW984-serie) OLED
Review: The Panasonic TX-55HZ980 OLED TV promises the Panasonic image quality, but does it really perform? what are the differences with last year's model?

Panasonic has added an extra model to make OLED a bit more accessible. The Panasonic TX-55HZ980 OLED TV promises the Panasonic image quality, but how does it really perform. And what exactly are the differences with last year’s model and higher models this year?

Pay attention; this review is of the Belgian model. In the Netherlands this model is called the TX-55HZW984 .

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – specifications

  • Wat: Ultra HD OLED TV
  • Screen size: 55 inch (139 cm), flat
  • Connections: 4x HDMI (4x v2.0, eARC, ALLM), 1x composite video, 1x stereo cinch, 1x optical
  • digital out, 3x USB (1x 3.0), 1x headphones (or subwoofer), 3x antenna, Bluetooth
  • Extra’s: HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG, WiFi (802.11ac) ingebouwd, My Home Screen 5.0, USB/DLNA-mediaspeler, dual DVB-T2/C/S2, dual CI+-slot, HCX Pro processor
  • Dimensions: 1,228 x772 x 350 mm (including foot)
  • Weight: 26.0 kg (including foot)
  • Consumption: 105 / 0.5 watt (Energy label A)
  • List price: 1,799 euros

 

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – Design

The HZ980, like the other Panasonic OLED models, is completely finished in black this year. Super-slim OLED screen, barely visible frame, we find those features on all models.

In profile it seems a bit wider than expected, but that is only apparent. It’s the angular finish of the rear module that creates that impression. Other models are hardly thinner.

The classic rectangular base plate that we see on so many Panasonic devices has made way for a round model. The device stands on a swivel base. That’s starting to become a rarity, but we still think it’s a plus.

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – Connections

The TX-55HZ980 is the entry-level model if you choose a Panasonic OLED TV. Yet it has no less (but no more) HDMI connections. The device offers four HDMI 2.0 connections (one on the side, three on the back). They deliver the full 18Gbps HDMI2.0 bandwidth for the best Ultra HD HDR images. ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode) and eARC provided are the only HDMI 2.1 features.

You will also find three USB connections, a composite video input with stereo cinch, and an optical digital output. You can switch the headphone connection to connect a subwoofer to the TV. Bluetooth is provided for wireless headphones. All connections point to the side and down so that wall mounting is no problem.

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – Ease of use and smart TV

My Home Screen 5.0 is also the smart TV environment on the TX-55HZ980. This environment is smooth, simple and convenient for both installation and use.

The Home screen was simplified on the 5.0 version. You will still see a number of tiles at the bottom of the screen, but there are no more rows of tiles that you have to reach with the arrow keys, everything is now in one row. Instead, some tiles (like Netflix or YouTube) now show a second bar above them as soon as you select the tile. Recommendations will then appear in it. We already know this approach from Samsung and LG, it is probably no coincidence that all manufacturers are moving in the same direction.

By clicking down on an icon you can change the order or remove an icon. You add icons by ‘pinning’ them via the option button when the app or input is selected. Panasonic has saved the useful categories Devices, Apps and Live TV, where you can find everything that is not pinned to the Home screen. An icon has now also been added to go to the settings from the Home screen, but we think it is much easier to just use the button on the remote control. My Home Screen works very smoothly and intuitively.

The menu of settings is very long, and that remains something we think a better organization would make it easier to understand. Anyone who has to look for some kind of institution now sometimes gets lost.

Remote control

The Panasonic remote is a sturdy, fairly large remote control with large and clearly labeled buttons that fits well in the hand. There is little to criticize, it does not excel in innovation, but it provides excellent ease of use.

Two useful tips are the ‘My App’ button and the ‘Picture’ button. My App is located at the bottom left, you can assign that button yourself to an app of your choice in the app store, for example YouTube. The ‘Picture’ button is located at the top left next to the on / off button, and carries the ‘filmmaker mode’ icon. With this button you can quickly change image mode, even if you want something other than filmmaker mode. Via the menus (Menu, Image, Settings Button ‘Picture’) you can configure which image modes appear in the list.

Functions

The HZ980 has a dual TV tuner for digital TV (DVB-T2 / C / S2) and a double CI + slot. So you can watch TV and record another channel at the same time. You can cast YouTube and Netflix to the TV. For the time being there is no Disney + app on the Panasonic platform, but there would be one (there is no information about when that would happen).

The built-in media player does not play DTS soundtracks. However, it is also very complete in both video (with subtitles) and audio level.

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – Beeldverwerking

We also found the HCX Pro image processor in this TV in the HZW2004, Panasonic’s top model. So you do not have to worry in that area, the performance of this processor is excellent. It delivers very good upscaling with a relatively soft image as a result. You can therefore increase the ‘Sharpness’ if desired, and activate ‘resolution remaster’. The HCX pro removes noise well, both random and compression noise (block formation). Here too, Panasonic opts for the softest possible approach. Certainly to prevent blocking in low-quality content, you should set ‘MPEG Noise Reduction’ to the ‘Middle’ position. As an additional advantage, the TV also eliminates banding effects relatively well, even in difficult dark scenes.

New this year is support for Dolby Vision IQ and Filmmaker mode with Intelligent Sensing. The last two features mean that Panasonic takes the ambient light into account for all your content, including Dolby Vision or HDR10 for example. 

Where the TX-55HZ980 differs from the HZW1004? The latter uses the new Smooth Motion Drive Pro that we also found on the HZW2004, while the HZ980 has to make do with Smooth Motion Drive. No Improved Black Frame Insertion so, in fact, the BFI option has completely disappeared from the menu. In itself we are not sorry about that, the flicker on the screen was still a must, but there is more. When we compare with the 2019 GZ950, the 2020 HZ980 turns out to deliver a lot of motion sharpness. Moving objects have a distinct blurry edge that we don’t notice on last year’s model or on the HZW2004. And when we activate IFC, we also see a very light flicker in some HDR images. Panasonic has therefore done more than just remove the Smooth Motion Drive Pro, as the model performs slightly less well than last year. We cannot say exactly what is going on for the time being, we have asked Panasonic for feedback. It is clearly something to take into account if you watch a lot of action movies or fast sports, for example.

The performance of Intelligent Frame Creation remains unchanged. It creates nice smooth pan images, but for that you have to activate the higher settings (Middle or higher).

Main settings

Here you will find an explanation of the most important picture settings and tips for setting up your TV.

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Picture mode: True Cinema

Illuminance: 30-70
Contrast: 90
Brightness: 0
Color: 50
Tint: 0
Sharpness: 30-50
Warmth Color: Warm2
Vivid Colors: Off
Color Remaster: Off

Ambient Sensor: On
Noise Reduction: Min
MPEG Remaster: Min-Mid
Resolution Remaster: Mid
Dynamic Range Remaster: Off
Intelligent Frame Creation: Minimum or higher
Contrast Control: Off / Auto
Gamma: 2.4 / 2.2
Picture Settings Aspect Ratio: 16: 9 Image Scan: Off

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – Image quality

The OLED panel of the HZ980 is very similar to that of the 2019 GZ950. We therefore expect standard OLED results. In any case, our test sample had very good uniformity, uniformity, both in dark and bright images. There were hardly any vertical stripes, but keep in mind that this can vary from model to model.

Just like on the HZW2004, the THX certification has been dropped, but there is now ‘Filmmaker Mode’. That is essentially the same fashion as ‘True Cinema’. The mode is set very dark, so increase the ‘illuminance’ to about 65 to 70 for a better, more universally usable result. You can leave the light sensor on, thanks to ‘Intelligent Sensing’ the TV will then adjust the image based on the ambient light.

The TX-55HZ980 is very well calibrated, a traditional strong point of Panasonic. The nice neutral gray scale is the best start for accurate colors. Although in almost all tests he still has to let go of the HZW2004, the difference is in many cases academic. The mean error is below the observable threshold. Those who want a slightly brighter image during the day can switch the gamma value to 2.2 instead of 2.4. This way you give the midtones a boost. The screen shows all black detail excellently. The images are pleasing to the eye.

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – HDR

Panasonic, together with Philips, is one of the few manufacturers that support HDR10, HLG, HD10 + and Dolby Vision. You do not have to submit that either.

Where we do see a clear difference with the HZW2004 is the peak brightness. The TX-55HZ980 has to do with a ‘standard’ OLED panel, and we notice that. Peak brightness tops out at around 690 nits on a 10% window and 131 nits on a completely white screen. These are still typical OLED values, but are clearly at the lower end of the range.

The device has a very good color range of 96% DCI-P3 and 69% Rec.2020, so you don’t sacrifice anything. The color calibration is excellent, here too the HZ980 is barely a nose length behind the HZW2004. It is still enough for a clear top position among all OLED models.

The HZ980 series neatly shows all white detail, and respects the metadata up to 4,000 nits. The tone mapping is excellent and perfectly follows the desired curve, so that images retain their original atmosphere.

Just like on the higher models, in addition to Dolby Vision IQ, you can also have HDR10 and HDR10 + respond to the light sensor. The impact is clear ( examples ) and never bothered. A second option to adjust the HDR display is to activate the ‘Dynamic HDR Effect’ setting. This performs a real-time analysis of the image and optimizes tone mapping. In most cases, however, we hardly saw any change in the picture.

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – Gaming, Reflections and viewing angles

The viewing angle on OLED screens is excellent and reflections are reasonably well controlled.

In the True Cinema image mode, the input lag is 145.4 ms, which is a lot. In game mode it drops to 29.6 ms, a good result, but clearly less compared to competitors.

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – Sound quality

The HZ980 series is equipped with a 2x 15W sound system, slightly more powerful than the average TV that has to do with 2x 10W. The sound quality is excellent, with exceptionally clear dialogues and a nice mid-low part. However, the system still falls short for a real bass reproduction (enthusiasts can connect an external subwoofer). That lack of light is accentuated if you open the volume knob too far. The Panasonic then limits certain frequencies to prevent overdriving, but you can clearly hear this in the music.

The television supports Atmos and gives a solid, but limited spatiality to the sound. In short, a good result for average TV enjoyment, but a bit too limited for music or smashing movie soundtracks.

Review equipment

For the lag measurement we use a Leo Bodnar Display lag meter. For all other measurements we rely on a Spectracal C6 HDR2000 Colorimeter, Xrite i1 Pro spectrophotometer, a VideoForge Pro pattern generator, and the Portrait Displays Calman for Business software. We use an HDFury Vertex to analyze any HDR problems. 

Panasonic TX-55HZ980 – Conclusion

This Panasonic HZ980 series has a lot to offer, but it is also not without compromise. What struck us most is that the TX-55HZ980 presents a less good motion sharpness than its predecessor, the 2019 GZW954 . Fast moving images therefore look clearly less sharp. And like all other Panasonic models, this one has to do without HDMI 2.1 connections. We think the addition of eARC is a plus.

What you still get is the impressive image quality that we know from Panasonic. The device is excellently calibrated and delivers beautiful images with deep blacks and intense, natural colors in both SDR and HDR. The HCX Pro image processor puts all your content very nicely on the screen, and with the addition of Dolby Vision IQ and Intelligent Sensing, the TV now cleverly takes the ambient light into account. The swivel base, a double TV tuner, double CI + lock and My Home Screen 5.0 are the basis of its good equipment.

We only have to look at the price. That seems a bit too high to us, especially compared to the main competitor, the LG CX , although when we look at other entry-level OLED models it is correctly priced.

Negatives

  • No HDMI 2.1 connections
  • Motion sharpness lower than expected
  • price

Pros

  • Beautiful color reproduction in HDR and SDR
  • Excellent black and white detail
  • Dolby Vision on my HDR10 +
  • Top image processing
  • Turning foot
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