Panasonic announces new OLED TVs, Amazon hook up

PAT PILCHER takes a quick dive into a revolutionary new range of Panasonic panels that put the “smart” in TV.

With Panasonic’s MZ2000 OLED TV (reviewed here) scoring a perfect 10/10, I was left wondering what on earth the brand could possibly ever come up with to top something so close to telly perfection. Well, it’s CES time, and guess what? They have.

Panasonic announced two new flagship OLED tellies, the Z95A (65-inch and 55-inch) and the mahoosive Z93A (which comes in at a whopping 77 inches).

The headline feature bound to grab the attention of many (me included) is the integration of Amazon’s Fire TV. This means you get all the goodness of the Alexa/Ring ecosystem on your big screen and can use your voice as the remote. Someone at the front door? Your Ring doorbell/camera will pop an alert on your TV screen. Need to dim the lights to catch that movie? No problem, use the Alexa Hue skill, ask your Panny telly to dim the lights, and voila! You’re good to go!

Alexa smart-home goodies aside, the new Panny tellies will also have access to Amazon’s sizeable content ecosystem. If you’re a subscriber, that translates into a huge pile of movies, TV shows and documentaries via Amazon Prime Video and if you’ve opted for it, sounds from Amazon Music. The Fire TV UI also delivers a personalised home screen that puts streamed content, your favourite apps, live TV, and viewing/listening recommendations in one place. Everything is tailored to your earlier Fire TV use, too.

It’d be nice if it were just some spit and polish plus Amazon software. But Panasonic is also introducing a new video processing chipset and upgrading the astonishing 360 soundscape pro speaker capabilities that impressed me so much with the MZ2000. Z-series TVs will also support Dolby Vision IQ, which will enhance on-screen content in real-time depending on the content and lighting conditions in your TV room.

The beating heart of this new chipset is Panasonic’s HCX Pro AI Processor MK II, which has been paired with a Master OLED Ultimate panel. This also includes Panasonic’s renowned technical and engineering chops with the colour-tuning skills of Stefan Sonnenfeld, who is the go-to bloke for some of the world’s top filmmakers and who was recently described by NPR as the “da Vinci of the movies”. Like the MZ2000, the Z95A uses a Micro Lens Array combined with a multi-layer heat management configuration. This combo allows the panel to crank out super bright footage that makes OLED’s incredible contrast levels and vivid on-screen colours really pop.

Adding all that OLED goodness to the new chipset’s 4K Remaster Engine with enhanced noise reduction results in super-impressive upscaling and UHD content optimisation. Then there’s Game Mode Extreme, which uses HDMI 2.1, AMD Freesync Premium, Nvidia G-Sync, and VRR of up to 144Hz to deliver higher resolutions, faster frame rates, and faster bandwidth. The new TVs also have ALLM support, allowing them to switch to a low-latency mode. In short, if you are a console gamer, the new Z-series TVs are looking to be the go-to choice for 2024. If that hasn’t already got your inner gamer drooling, Panasonic also baked in specialised Game Sound Modes for RPG and First-Person Shooter games. The RPG mode creates an immersive 3D soundscape with clear voice dialogue, while the FPS mode accentuates sound cues, like footsteps, to give you the advantage with shooter titles.

While Amazon’s firestick (reviewed here) has been available in NZ for some time, Panasonic’s Z series TVs will be the first devices with Fire TV OS baked in to hit NZ shores. Suppose you’ve ever suffered from the dreaded, “What do I watch now?” syndrome with nothing on the many streaming services catching your eye. In that case, the Z95A and Z93A will aggregate content from broadcast and¬†streaming services to deliver recommendations based on your earlier viewing habits.

Keeping an eye on your smart home also got a shit-tonne easier thanks to a built-in smart home dashboard that provides a seamless, at-a-glance view of what’s good in the hood. Add a dash of Apple Home and AirPlay support. Mac/iPhone/iPad users can invite Siri to stream movies, music, games and photos.

Built-in far-field mics also make voice control via Alexa seamless. In practice, this translates into you talking directly to the Panasonic telly. You don’t have to pick up the supplied remote and press a mic button (which, let’s face it, defeats the entire point of voice control). Launching apps and music, searching for shows and tunes, or controlling your smart home looks set to become crazily easy.

Being a FireTV device, the Z series tellies offer a standby mode to become dynamic smart displays, like a super XXXXL Echo show. With it, your TV can display personal photos, calendars, event reminders and other useful info, all via customisable Alexa widgets.

Are we at Witchdoctor Towers excited? HELL YES!! Watch this space for a full review

 

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