- Highly accurate pictures
- Effective smart platform
- Decent app support
- Solid build quality
- No Dolby Vision support
- Only two full-fat HDMI inputs
- Menus feel dated
- Review Price: /$388
- HDR: HDR10, HDR10+ and HLG
- Ultra HD resolution
- Freeview Play
- 4 x HDMI
WHAT IS THE PANASONIC TX-55FZ802 OLED?
Panasonic might have been a little late to the OLED party this year, but its 2018 lineup was worth the wait. The flagship Panasonic FZ950/FZ952 impressed with its superb picture quality and aggressive pricing, picking up five stars when we reviewed it. The 65-inch Panasonic FZ800/FZ802 was equally as good, dropping the built-in soundbar but retaining the awesome image accuracy. So can the smaller 55FZ802 continue this trend of excellence?
Note that this television is known as the Panasonic FZ800 series in Europe, but in the UK it’s called the Panasonic FZ802. Tested here is the 55-inch version, the TX-55FZ802B, priced at $388 at the time of review. The 65-inch Panasonic TX-65FZ802B costs /$458.
The Panasonic TX-55FZ802 continues the same design theme seen on last year’s EZ952, with a decidedly retro look. That isn’t meant as a criticism, I actually like the simple and minimalist approach that Panasonic has taken with its mid-range OLED TVs. It’s all about the picture quality with these TVs, so why draw attention away from the screen?
There’s a simple 10mm wide black border around the image, and a dark metal trim around the outer edge. Build quality is excellent, with a largely metal construction that feels robust.
The panel is only millimetres wide at the top, but widens further down where the electronics, connections and speakers are housed. The FZ800/FZ802 sits on a traditional black stand that measures 500mm x 300mm, and is also made of metal. To keep the cables tidy, there’s a removable cover over the rear of the stand and a detachable panel over the connections.
These include four HDMI inputs, one of which supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). Unfortunately, only HDMI 1 and 2 are full bandwidth, with 3 and 4 able to support 4K at 50/60p but with the chroma capped at 4:2:0. Although this is unlikely to affect most users, it’s still disappointing when you consider that the competing LG C8 has four full-fat HDMI inputs.
At least there are plenty of other connections, including three USB ports (one of which you can use with an external drive for timeshiftimg TV programmes), an optical digital output, an SD card reader, a headphone socket, an Ethernet port, and built-in Wi-Fi. Panasonic has even included an analogue audio input and a component video input, in case you fancy going old-school.
The TV ships with a silver plastic remote that feels rather lightweight in the hand, but includes all the buttons you’d need to effectively control the FZ800/FZ802. There are dedicated buttons for Netflix and Freeview Play, plus the handy My App button, which you can assign yourself.
The Panasonic TX-55FZ802 is a 4K OLED TV, which means it uses a 10-bit Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) panel. It uses the second generation of Panasonic’s HCX processor, which was developed in conjunction with Hollywood professionals to deliver the most accurate picture possible on a consumer display.
To that end, the Panasonic includes upgraded 3D lookup tables (LUT) that are designed to deliver incredibly accurate colours for both standard dynamic range (SDR) and high dynamic range (HDR) content. These tables tell the TV how to map the colours correctly, and were created in cooperation with some of the top colourists in Hollywood.
Not only have the tables been upgraded and expanded to ensure greater colour fidelity, but they’re also dynamic as opposed to the static tables used last year. The HCX processor continuously analyses the luminance (brightness) of the image and new LUTs are generated every 100 milliseconds.
Panasonic claims that this results in superior colour accuracy in areas where OLED TVs have traditionally struggled, such as the mid-tones and highlights.
The FZ800/FZ802 supports HDR, specifically the HDR10 standard. It also supports Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), which is the proposed standard for broadcast HDR, and is currently being beta-tested by the BBC on its iPlayer app.
Thanks to the inclusion of the latest version of the HCX chipset, the Panasonic also supports HDR10+. This open standard extension of HDR10 adds dynamic metadata that changes the encoding from scene-to-scene, thus improving the HDR experience.
HDR10+ was co-developed by Panasonic, along with Samsung and 20th Century Fox, and is currently used by Amazon globally on its streaming video service. It also forms part of the specifications for 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, although despite support from Fox and Warner Bros, there have been no HDR10+ discs released to date.
There’s no support Dolby Vision, however – and although it’s still early days, that does put it at a disadvantage to LG’s C8 and Sony’s AF8, both of which include the proprietary format. Dolby Vision is used by Netflix and iTunes globally, Amazon and Vudu in the US, and is also included in 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray specs, with over 60 discs released so far.
Since every major studio and streaming service supports Dolby Vision, it’s fair to say that the format currently has an advantage over HDR10+, but it’s still early days.
The TX-55FZ802 uses Panasonic’s My Home Screen smart platform, which at first glance appears rather dated compared to much of the competition. This is mainly because, although on its third iteration, My Home Screen remains largely the same as the Firefox OS on which it was originally based.
However, in operation the system impresses, with an intuitive and simple approach that provides quick and easy access to all your favourite content.
The Home button on the remote brings up three options: Live TV, Apps, and Devices. This approach is easy to navigate and allows you to store frequently used apps in a single location. You can even pin your favourite apps to the homepage for quicker access.
One of the joys of using the My Home Screen smart platform is that it’s robust and responsive, primarily because it doesn’t require excessive processing power. It also avoids unnecessary fragmentation, which can be a problem with some platforms. It doesn’t inundate you with recommendations, instead just concentrating on all the main streaming and catch-up services.
The FZ800/FZ802 supports Freeview Play, so you get a complete set of UK catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4, My5, BBC News & Sport and UK Play. There’s also Netflix, Amazon and YouTube, all of which support 4K and HDR, along with services such as Rakuten and Chili Cinema. In fact, the only major streaming service missing is Now TV.
Panasonic set out to deliver the best picture quality possible from a consumer OLED TV, and with the TX-55FZ802 it succeeds.
The panel is free of any banding or vignetting (dark edges), and the picture is clean and uniform, with no clouding or dirty-screen effect. There’s also no discolouration or magenta tint, which has been an issue with OLED screens in the past, and you can watch the screen from very wide viewing angles without any loss of contrast or colour.
The result is a gorgeous picture with amazingly deep blacks, and an incredible contrast performance. Panasonic has invested a lot of time in ensuring that its OLED TVs are able to deliver important shadow detail just above black. Overall I’d say it succeeds, retaining fine gradations as the image comes out of black.
Watching the opening jungle raid in Black Panther, which is a seriously dark scene, the FZ800/FZ802 is able to deliver more detail than I’ve seen on any other OLED TV. There’s a touch of crush on occasion, but Panasonic has added newly enhanced calibration controls, so image professionals can fine-tune the above-black performance.
Of course, dynamic range is about the difference between black and white, and at the other end of the scale I measured the Panasonic at 781 nits. This isn’t as bright as the LG C8, but it’s better than the Sony AF8; the resulting HDR performance is genuinely impressive. Of equal importance to the dynamic range is the colour accuracy, and here this OLED really impresses.
Thanks to the new Studio Colour HCX processor and its use of dynamic 3D LUTs, the FZ800/FZ802 delivered incredibly accurate colours that are fully saturated from the darkest parts of the image, all the way up to the brightest. There are extensive calibration controls, but this TV hits the industry standard targets right out of the box, delivering some of the the most accurate TV pictures I’ve seen.
Broadcast TV was often a revelation, with BBC documentaries appearing breathtakingly realistic. The processing in the HCX chipset is superb, perfectly scaling the Full HD source to match the 4K panel and delivering all the detail without introducing artefacts or appearing artificial.
Colours are amazing, with a saturated and vivid appearance that always remains completely natural and faithful to the content creator’s intent.
Watching Humans, the image was simply extraordinary, with the deep blacks, bright highlights, excellent shadow detail and beautifully rendered colours. The show has never looked so good, and at times the quality of the image delivered by the Panasonic revealed the budgetary limitations of the Channel 4 series.
HDR was just as impressive, and there was a remarkable amount of detail in a film such as Gladiator. The rich colours of the costumes were perfectly handled, the blacks delivered with depth, and the subtle shadow details in the torch-lit rooms retained all their detail. The specular highlights of sun glinting off metal were also delivered with pleasing precision.
The TX-55FZ802’s ability to deliver almost 100% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut with unparalleled accuracy is evident from the moment you start watching HDR content. I popped on the 4K Blu-ray of Planet Earth II, and was immediately amazed by the wealth of gorgeously vibrant and realistic colours. There was a subtle depth and nuanced detail to colours that Panasonic’s competition just can’t seem to deliver.
Motion handling was also excellent, and I felt no need to use Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) when watching films. In general found that motion was on a par with Sony, although I still think the AF8 has the edge. When watching sport I was happy to set IFC to Min, because the content was shot on video cameras already, and thus the frame interpolation aided motion resolution without appearing unnaturally smooth.
The TX-55FZ802 lacks the Dynamic Blade soundbar, tuned by Technics, which is found on the more expensive FZ952. Nevertheless, it still sounds surprisingly good considering its slimline dimensions.
Panasonic has definitely delivered when it comes to the built-in speakers and amplification, with four drivers and a total of 40W of power.
The TV’s all-metal construction also helps the sound quality, providing a solid foundation that results in a decent mid-range and a well-defined top-end. There’s even some noticeable bass in the soundstage, while you can push the volume on the Panasonic without it starting to sound shrill or brittle.
The stereo nature of the downward-firing drivers in the Panasonic make it capable of producing an open-front soundstage. However, if you want bigger sound, then you should probably consider the FZ952 with its built-in soundbar. Alternatively, there are plenty of separate soundbars available to beef up the FZ800/FZ802’s audio, if you find the onboard amplification wanting.
Panasonic has always put picture first on its TVs, as evidenced by the bewildering number of settings in the menu system. To be honest, most are unnecessary and should be turned off on the TZ-55FZ802 – something you can easily do by simply selecting the True Cinema, THX or ISF modes.
The menus themselves are starting to look dated and could definitely use a makeover. Nevertheless, there are extensive calibration controls that will allow a professional calibrator to get the picture perfect – although it’s already very accurate out of the box.
If you’re buying a Panasonic OLED, then chances are you’re looking for image accuracy that retains the content creator’s original intentions. That means the picture must hit the industry standards for SDR, and your best method of achieving that is to use the THX modes.
I’d use the True Cinema mode for watching HDR, and you can try experimenting with the HDR Brightness setting, because the HDR Auto Brightness can adjust for changing lighting conditions. The HDR Enhancer is also an interesting new feature that you can use to give HDR more impact.
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I’d leave IFC on Min for watching sport, but off for movies because it applies frame interpolation that can make film look like cheap video.
In Game mode the input lag is an excellent 21ms, which is better than Sony and equivalent to LG, but not quite as low as the 15ms measured on the Samsung Q9FN.
WHY BUY THE PANASONIC TX-55FZ802?
This year is particularly competitive when it comes to OLED TVs, with LG and Sony already offering strong lineups, each with their specific strengths.
The Sony AF8 delivers a gorgeous image, superb motion, the Acoustic Surface, and Dolby Vision support, all at an attractive price. The LG C8 costs a bit more but is the most complete package when it comes to OLED TV, with fantastic HDR, a state-of-the-art smart platform, fast response times for gaming, great sound, and Dolby Vision.
However, the Panasonic FZ800/FZ802 certainly runs both very close, with incredible image accuracy, great motion handling, fast response times and a user-friendly smart platform. On top of all that, the TX-55FZ802 is also very competitively priced and deserves to be on anyone’s short list.
A combination of exceptional picture quality and super-aggressive pricing make the Panasonic TX-55FZ802 an OLED offer that’s very hard to refuse.