Panasonic EZ950

Review: Panasonic EZ950 OLED

10 Jul 2017 | Torben Rasmussen


2017 is an eventful year for OLED as several manufacturers have entered the field. The EZ series is not Panasonic’s first attempt at OLED but it is the first OLED that is actually within reach, although still a high-end TV. We have taken “little brother” EZ950 (EZ952 in the UK) in for review but despite being cheaper than the flagship EZ1000, EZ950 still features the updated 2017 OLED panel, 4K resolution, and support for the HDR10 and HLG formats. EZ950 also features the new HCX2 video processor, which is an evolution over the much-acclaimed processor developed for last year’s DX900 LCD flagship.

Panasonic EZ950 is available in 55" and 65" sizes. We have a sample of the 65" model.

Also read: Panasonic 2017 TV line-up - full overview with prices


Price and retailers:

DE retailer
UK retailer

Specifications

65"
OLED panel
Ultra HD (3840x2160)
HDR (HDR10, HLG)
DCI-P3 color space
UHD Premium certified
Stand (fixed)
Wall (VESA 400x400)
(HxWxD) 83.9 x 145,3 x 4.8 cm (without base)
23 kg
HDMI (4x 2.0b & 2x 2.0)
USB (1x 3.0 - 2x 2.0)
Ethernet
1x CI
SPDIF
HDMI-ARC (1x)
Headphone jack
40W stereo (10Wx2 + 10Wx2)
DVB T/T2/C/S2
WiFi
MPEG4
HEVC
VP9 Profile2
myHomeScreen 2.0 (FirefoxOS 2.0)
TouchPad remote
Standard remote
Manual
2x remotes
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First impressions


Panasonic EZ950 comes in a box that is significantly larger than any other OLED (or any other TV) out there. It is simply enormous and I am inclined to believe that you could actually fit two LG E7 OLEDs inside. In other words, Panasonic takes very good care of the TV. When unboxing the TV you can choose to put the TV onto the included base or completely remove the brackets if you want to mount it on the wall.

The plastic on the rear is made to look like leather but as soon as you touch it you will notice that it is flimsy and very cheap. Like the predecessor CZ950, and most of LG’s OLED TVs, the electronics box is quite large and houses all of input/output ports as well as the speakers.

After removing the small plastic lid that is designed to hide the ports, we found that, like LG E7, several of the ports are rear-facing, including 2x HDMI (the two non-HDMI 2.0b), 2x USB, SPDIF audio, and LAN. If you want to mount this TV flush to the wall you will disappointed about Panasonic’s choices. For a TV in this price class and the year of 2017, we expect more. Both LG and Panasonic need to address the issue.

The top of the TV is basically just an OLED panel and as usual it is super thin; so thin that it will impress everyone around you and at the same time give you goosebumps every time you try to lift or move it in fear of breaking it. Panasonic has used a silver metal profile instead of LG’s glass look and Sony’s black metal bezel, which gives it a slightly different look. The speakers are placed behind the TV, which ensures a very minimalistic look when viewed from the front.




Panasonic has included two remote controls in the box, one being the same version that came with last year’s DX900 LCD flagship model. More on this subject later.

Surprisingly, the reflections in the panel were slightly red-tinted, unlike LG E7 and Sony A1, meaning that the anti-reflective coating is more similar to last year’s OLED TVs than the other 2017 OLED TVs. Nevertheless, reflections in OLED panels are still some of the least problematic for any TV-type on the market (due to the one layer OLED structure) so it is a minor concern.


Panasonic EZ950 review



User experience & features


We have previously criticized Panasonic for its approach to the user experience and with its partner Mozilla having pulled the plug on Firefox OS, the road ahead looks even bumpier. Panasonic has this year renamed Firefox OS to “My HomeScreen 2.0”.

Operating system & smart TV

Panasonic has decided to take the open Firefox OS, which Mozilla has abandoned, and continue development in-house. It can no longer be called Firefox OS due to brand licensing concerns but throughout the menus the company has forgot to remove references.

"Panasonic TVs still use Firefox OS – just renamed"
We have in the past doubted that Firefox OS could amount to much and clearly our worries were warranted. The system is no longer being updated in any significant way and it therefore looks largely unchanged compared to last year. For a detailed look into Firefox OS, we suggest that you read our Panasonic DX900 review.

The app selection continues to be one of the weakest available on any TV and the Amazon Video app has yet to arrive, despite it being announced for the 2017 line-up earlier this year. YouTube on the other hand now supports HDR. This is possible because the TV can decode VP9-2. There is also access to Netflix and some regional apps.

Firefox – or whatever you want to call it – functions as an overlay, with Panasonic’s menu structure underneath. Whenever you need to change picture settings you go through Panasonic’s familiar menus that are fast and reliable.

If you want more flexible options you can also use the smartphone app to adjust picture settings. The app also offers some other features but besides that deserves little praise.

For discerning users, Panasonic’s suite of picture settings is excellent as you can tweak almost every little detail that you desire – if you have the equipment and experience to do so, that is.

While the Firefox-inspired menu looks fresh, Panasonic’s legacy menus look old and dusty, and in many areas essentially unchanged for over a decade. On the flip side, they are fast. Using for example the TV Guide, I had preferred that the UI used less space for pictograms and guidance text to make more room to show the actual TV channel information. We have criticized this user interface for years and will continue to do so until it is changed.

On the other hand, Panasonic has implemented wide support for most video formats. Both out HLG and 100fps videos were accepted and decoded. The updated media player does not insist on loading previews or reading metadata before you can enjoy video files so it runs fast and smooth.

Remote control & operation

There are two remote controls in the box, which has been standard practice from Panasonic for a few years now. Let us skip the forgettable touch remote to focus on the ”large” remote that is an evolution over the remote that came bundled with DX900 last year. It is identical in form but has gained an app shortcut button.

The remote control has a good feel and nice tactile feedback in the buttons. The back is made from soft plastic, which makes it comfortable and easy to hold, and the front is an aluminum alloy that makes it look a more premium. I like this remote and based on the quality feel, it is only surpassed by Bang & Olufsen.


Panasonic EZ950 review


However, the remote has some annoyances in terms of functionality. It simply has too many buttons and the buttons at the bottom are hard to reach. In a time where channels get down-prioritized and streaming takes over it is perhaps worth to reconsider which buttons go where and why. For example, the 1-9 buttons matter less today than they did in the past. The remote has some backlit buttons (however, the button to activate it sits furthest away) but since there is a good tactile feel to most buttons I felt that it was not needed. If you mostly use two hands to control the remote the size of Panasonic’s remote is likely ideal.

TV channels, recording & sound

Panasonic’s TV menus look ancient. They have not been changed fundamentally since the 00’s and even back then they were looked aged. This includes the TV guide, program input, input overlay, and other menus. The large icons in the TV guide (second picture below) take up almost 20% of the screen, which could have been used to display more channels or program information.

There is dual tuner and dual CI port, so you can watch and record two channels (via PbP) at the same time. Unfortunately, PbP still has some limitations so when activated it you cannot use other picture modes that ”Standard” and ”Dynamic”, which is clearly not optimal as both look horrible. There is a PiP work-around that you can call up by holding down the ”Home” button but it disappears after a short time so it is not a permanent PiP solution.




In other words, the TV menus appear unchanged and fans of the look will not notice any major changes.

One of the things that separate EZ950 from the more expensive EZ1000 is the speakers. EZ950 has speakers built into the cabinet with some apparent limitations, including how direct sound appears and volume constraints. Sound quality in EZ950 is decent but the bass is not great. We recommend that you attach separate speakers for movies.


Calibration


As mentioned before, Panasonic’s high-end TVs set the standard for picture calibration options that are available to the user. The TVs offer more or less the same picture modes as competing brands but there are more granular settings available in the deep menus. Let us first say that the ’Standard’ mode is, as usual, an abominable mess. Color accuracy is poor, and every ”enhancement” that you can think of is employed. Things look much better as soon as you switch to the Cinema profile, but it is not perfectly calibrated either.

This brings us to the ’Professional’ mode, of which there are actually two, so you can set up one for daytime viewing and one for nighttime viewing. This picture mode offers the most comprehensive calibration options and most enhancement features are turned off per default, so the picture look much more accurate and enjoyable than the starting point. With very few adjustments of the 2-point scale we achieved dE below 1 across the grey scale. All we had to do was compensate for a very modest red push. If you want to go even further, Panasonic offers the option to separately adjust each step in gamma, which is not something you often see.

EZ950 also offers a complete CMS, so you can tweak the color primaries / gamut for both SRD and HDR, if needed. We only share our calibration settings for SDR and spend most of our effort here but let me just say that with very little effort you can bring dE down to decent levels in HDR, too. This is a very good result. The more expensive EZ1000 may be slightly more accurate but if you are planning to calibrate your TV regardless, the difference in color accuracy between EZ950 and EZ1000 will be purely academic. In the pictures below you can see what we achieved only be adjusting the 2-point white balance.

We measured full coverage of the Rec.709 gamut (used for HD and 4K). DCI-P3 (used for HDR) coverage was comparable to other 2017 OLED TVs at around 97%.

We should mention that our EZ950 sample was not “fresh from the box” so the panel may have been used for some hours. This has not been the case with any other 2017 OLED TVs that we have reviewed. And as usual, we should also say that the RGB settings listed below may not apply to your TV since OLED panels tend to vary from one sample to another.





Measurements


In our "measurements" section we include all measurements and our suggested calibration settings. If you want to learn more about our test methodology click here.

MeasurementsOut-of-boxCalibrated
Black level 0 cd/m2 0 cd/m2
Black level (HDR) 0 cd/m2 0 cd/m2
Brightness 250 cd/m2 200 cd/m2
Peak brightness (HDR) 720 cd/m2 680cd/m2
Contrast Infinite Infinite
Contrast (HDR) Infinite Infinite
Input lag 114 ms 26 ms (Game Mode)
DCI-P3 97% -
Rec.2020 70% -

Power consumptionOut-of-boxCalibration
SDR 150 W 140 W
HDR 220 W 220 W
Standby 0.4 W  

Time measurementsSeconds
Startup time (until responsive) 7s
Startup time (until picture comes on) 6s
Netflix app startup 3s
Youtube app startup 7s
Amazon app startup -
Google Play Movies app startup -

Video file / sourceSpecsStatus
Amazon 4K HDR 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 10 bit colors - Rec.2020 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – HEVC -
Netflix 4K HDR 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 10 bit colors - Rec.2020 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – HEVC Works
YouTube 4K HDR 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 10 bit colors - Rec.2020 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – VP9 Profile2 Works
Dubai 4K 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 23.976fps – 10 bit colors - BT.709 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 51.4 Mbps bitrate – HEVC - .ts file Works
Costa Rica 4K 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – BT.709 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 12.71 Mbps bitrate – VP9 - .mkv file Works
Terrifying Pyroclast 4K 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – BT.709 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – variable bitrate – VP9 - .mkv file Works
Big Buck Bunny HD (.ts version) HD (1920x1080 pixels) – 8 bit colors - YUV color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 2.5 Mbps bitrate – 60fps - HEVC - .ts file Works
Big Buck Bunny HD HD (1920x1080 pixels) – 8 bit colors - YUV color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 60fps - 2.2 Mbps bitrate – HEVC - .mkv file Works
LG Arctique 4K 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 8 bit colors – YUV color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 50.0 Mbps bitrate – 29.970fps - AVC - .mp4 file Works
Eutelsat 4K demo 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 10 bit colors – YUV color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 23.1 Mbps bitrate – 50fps - HEVC - .ts file Works
TravelXP HLG 4K (3840x2160 pixels) – 50fps frame rate – 10 bit colors – BT.2020 color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 20.7 Mbps bitrate – HEVC – HLG – .ts file Works
Ghost Towns 8K 8K (7680x4320 pixels) – variable frame rate – 8 bit colors - YUV color space – 4:2:0 subsampling – 20.7 Mbps bitrate – AVC - .mp4 file Fails

GroupSettingValue
Picture Profile Professional1
  Backlight 60
  Contrast 90
  Brightness 0
  Sharpness 30
  Color 50
  Tint 0
  Color temp Warm2
  Vivid color Off
  Color Remaster Off
  Ambient sensor On/Off
  Noise reduction Off
  MPEG Remaster Off
  Resolution Remaster Off
  Dynamic Range Remaster Off
  Intelligent Frame Control Custom: 4/0
  Clear Motion Off
Advanced Contrast Control Off
  Color Gamut Rec.709 (Rec.2020 for HDR)
  Gamma 2.2
White Balance R-Gain -12
  G-Gain 3
  B-Gain 0
  R-Cutoff 0
  G-Cutoff 0
  B-Cutoff 0
Screen Settings 16:9 Overscan Off
  Pixelorbiter On
Depending on the light environment in your living room it may be beneficial to use Professional 1 and 2 for daytime and nighttime viewing, respectively. You can also choose to activate the light sensor in the TV that automatically adjusts the average brightness level.


Panasonic EZ950 review


Picture quality


With calibration, measurements, and cross checks out of the way, we could sit back, relax, and enjoy some movies and video. Starting with a pristine source in HDR quality, this is of course where the TV shines and where OLED truly shows its strengths. Since OLED is self-emitting, HDR can be reproduced with pixel-precise accuracy; one pixel can be totally off (black) while the adjacent one is fully lit (white). OLED does not suffer from “halos” in HDR, which ensures a problem-free viewing experience.

Speaking of HDR, we were able to pull out more than 800 nits of peak brightness of the panel (2% window, 4000 nits pattern). For reference, I should add that we normally use a 10% window for measurements so for comparison EZ950 hit 680 nits on a 10% pattern, which is also the highest peak level we have measured on a 2017 OLED. However, whether it is 600, 700 or 800 nits is not so important – more is not necessarily better as other factors should be considered, too – but it is nevertheless good to see OLED continue to improve in this area.

As such, it is hardly a surprise that HDR looks excellent on EZ950, with the larger dynamic range and expanded color gamut come into play. Still, we worry about the lack of Dolby Vision that can potentially improve HDR further in especially dark scenes. The peak level with a 2% window, as discussed above, may be slightly different from one 2017 OLED to another, depending on how the manufacturer has implemented tone-mapping algorithms, meaning how the TV reproduces the very brightest tones when asked by the movie/content to go beyond the physical limit (peak brightness) of the panel.

We are using the Panasonic DMP-UB700 player to feed movies in UHD/HDR to the TV, and like many other TVs you have to remember to activate HDR on the HDMI port that the player is connected to (this also applies to other sources with HDR, including game consoles).




On our static 10-bit HDR test pattern we observed banding on an otherwise clean smooth gradient pattern. We observed the same – minor – issue on LG E7, which may be noticeable by some sharp-eyed viewers when enjoying HDR video. In regards to HDR, it is perhaps worth highlighting that it is now possible to stream HDR video from YouTube, which gives you a rich source of demo content. The 2017 line-up is Panasonic’s first to support YouTube HDR.

If we turn it down a notch and feed the TV with lower-quality source material, the TV’s fabulous HCX2 video processor delivers great upscaling. Broadcast TV as well as Blu-ray and DVD look fine on EZ950 and once again we can conclude that Panasonic has one of the best upscaling chips on the market. The processor also managed de-interlacing well so even 1080i50 content from Europe looks decent. However, we did experience an issue with micro stutter on some 1080p sources, and no combination of IFC or other settings could fix it. We noticed the issue with both broadcast and streaming content but not with 4K content and Blu-ray.

EZ950 is, like Sony A1, equipped with a “black frame insertion” system but like Sony’s implementation it introduces a significant amount of flicker and while it can help reduce motion blur, it is simply unbearable to look at. There is still some road to cover before OLED reaches the “scanning backlight” systems implemented in the best LCD panels.

Also read: OLED vs. LCD

Motion reproduction in general can be improved slightly over LG’s OLED when manually adjusting IFC (Intelligent Frame Creation - Panasonic’s motion compensation system). Even in the ‘Low’ setting artefacts are very visible and the “soap opera” effect too dominating so I suggest that you refrain from using that setting and instead only adjust “Blur reduction” in the manual settings menu. With manual setup, I would go as far as to say that EZ950 performs more or less on par with Sony A1 in this area. My only concern is the micro stutter that I commented on before that appears sporadically even without the IFC system engaged.

Looking at the TV in a dark environment, I should once again highlight that the 2017 panel can reproduce all steps of the gray tone scale, even 1 IRE is distinguishable from 2 IRE etc. This is an improvement from the 2016 panel. On the other hand, and unfortunately, since the very darkest gray tones require very low frequency load, they also tend to reveal the homogeneity issues that OLED still suffer from. Our sample of EZ950 suffered some issues here – and more than other 2017 OLEDs that we have reviewed. It had visible banding in the darkest gray tones but the banding actually extended all the way to 15 IRE, which is unusual since this is a lighter gray tone. We did not observe this issue on other 2017 OLED TVs that we have tested so far this year but on the other hand we know that OLED panels still have some visible variation from one production batch to another so we could simply have received a bad sample. We need owners’ input on the matter to conclude anything.

We also observed some very mild yellow color tinting in the left side of the panel and red tinting in the upper part. However, these were only visible with test pattern – we did not notice it in real use.




Panasonic has managed to reduce input lag considerably on EZ950 to just 26 ms in the Game mode (that can be activated with all picture modes). However, be aware that input lag is 114 ms without Game mode engaged. The low lag makes it very suitable for console games and with its sublime HDR picture quality, EZ950 is simply a great choice for console gaming.

Also read: The best TVs for gaming




Like other 2017 OLED that we have reviewed, we did not observe any issues with burn-in or retention on our sample of EZ950. As mentioned previously, the TV was not fresh from the box so we must assume that it has been used for at least some hours. OLED panels are most vulnerable in the first hours. Why we mention burn-in in our OLED reviews, even when no burn-in is present, has to do with the risk. Burn-in can potentially occur with all self-illuminating picture technologies but manufacturers have introduced several safeguards, including screensavers that automatically kick in, as well as a screen wiper that automatically runs when the TV is off. You can also start it manually (takes about an hour) to make the TV compensate for uneven power draw in the individual pixels, which in turn will reduce the risk.

One of OLED’s strengths is more or less perfect viewing angles, which combined with true black and high brightness, means that you can watch TV from virtually any angle. The picture will look great regardless.


Conclusion


Despite Panasonic also selling the flagship EZ1000 (EZ1002 in the UK), EZ950 (EZ952 in the UK) is in most ways a high-end TV with its eminent OLED panel, a premium remote control, and the compelling HCX2 video processor. However, what does not ooze of high-end is the placement of the ports on the back and the plastic used on the back.

The steady stream of new OLED TVs from various manufacturers is on one hand exciting because it expands the market and choice but on the other hand also a bit repetitive since all the panels are produced by LG.Display. This makes our conclusions in the area of picture quality (which we focus on the most) quite unsurprising since there are no major differences between the TVs. Of course, EZ950 does offer the best calibration suite of any OLED TV on the market, so calibration nerds should be satisfied. These factors also mean that EZ950 is ranking amongst the very best TVs currently. Color accuracy is excellent and while motion reproduction is mostly convincing we did observe some minor issues with sporadic micro stutter. We also noticed some banding - and slightly more than on competing 2017 OLED TVs.

The TV user interface looks mostly unchanged, despite Panasonic changing the name from Firefox OS to “my homescreen” and we continue to consider the efforts in this area underwhelming compared to the competition. The built-in platform begs to be supplemented with an external media player that provides access to all the apps out there.

If neither LG E7 nor Sony A1 seems appealing to you, Panasonic EZ950 is a third option that you should definitely consider. The more expensive EZ1000 offers better sound and additional picture fine-tuning so if you are planning to connect a soundbar to EZ950 it may be worth to consider EZ1000, too, but EZ950 is nevertheless a strong contender on the OLED TV market.


Price and retailers:

DE retailer
UK retailer



Color accuracy & picture processing
Perfect blacks
Wide viewing angles
HDR picture quality
Nice remote control


Banding on darkest tones
Occasional micro stutter
Several rear-facing ports
Plastic back feels cheap
OS feels a bit old



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