Panasonic has created a practically perfect factory-calibrated TV for a product designed especially for movie buffs.
Presenting technological innovations that affect the viewing experience every year is very difficult. And if we talk about products of absolute excellence, such as Panasonic’s OLED TV range, then the task becomes even more complex, but not impossible. The Japanese house today has to deal with mature panels that have been able to further improve their vision thanks to quality of its electronics, which has always been a point of reference in the sector.
Yet something more could be done, from the connections to the software, passing through the design, in search of an evolution compared to the previous models which unfortunately is missing in this Panasonic HZ1500, which still remains a TV with incredible picture quality.
We need a new design, good audio
If we took an OLED TV manufactured from 2018 onwards by Panasonic and eliminated the pedestal, noticing the differences would be very difficult. The design of this HZ1500 fully follows that seen in the recent past, apart from a few differences on the back, certainly not a point of the TV in plain sight. This is not a problem in truth, apart from some rare cases it is now difficult to distinguish different TVs by looking at them from the front, but to sell a TV it is also important to differentiate it from previous models.
This year then Panasonic has focused on a pedestal with a circular base, capable of rotating the TV, a convenient function in some contexts but to be developed better on the design front.
The pedestal in fact does not do justice to the image quality and the price range to which the HZ1500 belongs, the result is that much less qualitative televisions they seem higher-end, at least at a glance. A movie and home video enthusiast looking for the best TV to watch a movie with will probably miss it, but in a retail outlet and with a less experienced audience, design can make a difference. The build quality remains excellent in the metal edges, on the back we have seen better plastics but overall there are no particular critical issues. Just in the rear area you can see the only big difference compared to the GZ1500, namely the presence of additional speakers at the top.
The speaker system consists of a front soundbar, also seen last year, which points the sounds towards the viewer, combined with the rear speakers, facing upwards, to make the most of Dolby Atmos.
The performance of this solution is very good in terms of the spatiality of the sounds, there is a little lack of bass, as always in solutions of this type, but it is still an audio system that is clearly superior to that of a classic OLED TV and that will know offer an excellent listening experience for all those who cannot install a 5.1 system.
Connections and software
As we said at the beginning of this article, improving the video quality compared to last year was a practically impossible task, also given the limits imposed by the panel, always the same. However Panasonic could use this opportunity to upgrade the HZ1500 in other respects, first of all the connections. Unfortunately this was not done and we are therefore faced with a TV with very few HDMI 2.1 functions. In fact, on the back we find 4 HDMI which of the new standard only exploit the eARC in Auto Game Mode, no high refresh rates in 4K and above all no VRR.
On these pages we have discussed this topic several times, especially in our gaming TV buying guide, and we reiterate that 4K at 120 Hz is not an essential dogma to enjoy next gen consoles, the VRR, however, would have been useful, since it is a function that can be used in any game. As in the case of design, even the absence of these functions could have a weight in sales, especially in a year like this, marked by the arrival of the new consoles. Panasonic could have offered itself to the gamer audience with a visual quality recognized by all and with a complete offer also for gamers, but this is not the case.
Till today Panasonic is the only popular brand that doesn’t even have a TV with VRR support and high refresh rates in 4K, a not insignificant strategic mistake that could penalize it compared to its competitors. For the rest, the connections are those that are normally found, with 3 USBs, optical output, network socket, headphone jack and double tuner for digital and satellite, without forgetting Wi-Fi ac and Bluetooth 4.2.
Another aspect that Panasonic should have worked on more is the operating system, first in the class as regards the configuration menus of the video settings, but visually now lagging behind its competitors. The interface is simple to manage as far as apps are concerned, but if you try to take advantage of more specific and useful functions, all the intricacies of an OS come out which, at least from a visual point of view, shows all its years. Compared to the competitors then there are weight absences, first of all the Disney application+, but Apple TV and the AirPlay standard are also absent, very comfortable for Apple users and now available in several competing models.
The Panasonic OS is paradoxical because on the one hand it offers a very complete and accessible settings menu for those who are familiar with these aspects, on the other hand it gets lost in the simpler things, making some functions more complex to manage than they should be. , at least looking at the more general public. Using it in tandem with an Apple TV or NVIDIA Shield is therefore highly recommended.
A feast for the eyes
So far we have described a product with several negative points, is this a failure for Panasonic? The truth is that once turned on and set to Filmmaker Mode, one of the novelties of this model, the HZ1500 is ready to offer superfine viewing quality. Starting a film in 4K and HDR, the favorite field of use of this TV, you are impressed by the naturalness and detail of the images. Panasonic’s claim, “Hollywood in your home“, is respected again this year, bringing a viewing experience tailored to the wishes of those who created the content. Filmmaker Mode can use the brightness sensor to adapt the rendering to the viewing environment.
If you always watch a film in the same lighting conditions, this mode becomes useless, but if these vary then it can make a difference, by adjusting the brightness of the panel to the best according to the environment, without the need for manual intervention.
The calibration is in line with the reference values, without touching anything, just activate the Filmmaker Mode and you are ready to go: of all the televisions we have tried, only Panasonic guarantee perfect settings from the first start and without the need for specific skills. Given the quality of vision we have given more space to Ultra HD Blu-Ray, with a Panasonic UB820 player, another very valid product made by the Japanese house.
From Dunkirk to Avengers: Endgame, in 4K and with active HDR the yield is exceptional, during viewing the banding is absent and the motion is managed perfectly. Panasonic is a master at managing the areas between light and shadow, where the level of detail is remarkable, while in the brighter areas, depending on the content, the HZ1500 reaches the classic range of OLEDs in terms of light peaks, only the HZ2000 can do more.
With lower quality sources, the performance remains of a high level, the fact remains that HDR gives an extra gear, not to mention that here the compatibility is total with all standards, from Dolby Vision to HDR10 +. The HCX Pro processor’s upscaling work remains great, even with low resolution signals, but it’s a real shame to use this TV with this content.
On the gaming front, the gaming experience is excellent, the input lag with game mode active is about 22 ms, net of the sacrifices to be made due to the absence of VRR with the HZ1500 you can play and play well for many years .
At the end of this review it is really difficult to rate this TV. On the one hand, Panasonic should have done more to make it attractive to a wider audience, perhaps also looking at gaming users and renewing design and software. On the other hand, however, the HZ1500 is a TV that offers more accurate picture quality and calibration accuracy than is available elsewhere, and this in our opinion is more important than the issues we have listed. Hopefully, Panasonic decides to give its TV range a makeover next year, looking not only at image purists, who are a niche, but also at a wider audience. Meanwhile, the HZ1500 remains an excellent alternative for those looking for superfine viewing quality and willing to spend the € 2299 list price for the 55-inch variant. Price destined to fall below € 2000 in the coming months, so it is better to wait a little longer to find it at a lower cost.