From www.techradar.com

Early Verdict

As Panasonic’s flagship OLED TV for 2024, the Z95A is touting some serious upgrades from last year’s model, including a brighter MLA panel, a more intuitive smart TV platform thanks to Fire TV software, and next-level gaming features, such as a 144Hz refresh rate for PC players. It might be the perfect OLED TV – but that’ll depend on the price, which isn’t confirmed yet.

Pros

  • +

    Dazzling brightness

  • +

    Fire TV features

  • +

    144Hz refresh rate

Cons

  • Only two HDMI 2.1 ports still

  • Limited sizing

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When it comes to advancing the tech of OLED TVs, brightness is usually the big battleground, and Panasonic is putting forward its best fighter yet. The flagship Panasonic Z95A OLED TV for 2024 is a knockout in picture quality from my earlier experience with it, combining Panasonic’s ‘Master OLED Ultimate’ panel with boosted micro lens array (MLA) tech and an upgraded processor to achieve next-level brightness. 

The new Panasonic Z95A model was announced on January 8, and while I’ve seen it in action, I haven’t yet been able to measure just how much brighter it is – but given that last year’s flagship Panasonic MZ2000 beat out the competition (it achieved 1,480 nits in Filmmaker mode and 1,366 nits in Standard picture mode, making it brighter than the LG G3 and Samsung S95C), there’s a good chance we might see a repeat of this result over the LG G4 and Samsung S95D in 2024.

Outside of the upgraded panel, Panasonic has also made some other big changes, including a partnership with Amazon to use the Fire TV software instead of Panasonic’s own platform. This brings together Panasonic’s elite TV tech with Amazon’s slick interface, which means that you can access all of Fire TV’s bevy of smart features, such as Alexa-enabled smart home control, its Ambient Experience, and its great streaming service support. There are also new gaming features, including a 144Hz refresh rate for PC gamers, but the Z95A still only comes with two HDMI 2.1 ports. 

Will the Panasonic Z95A be this year’s best OLED TV? It’s far too early to tell without being able to do our own test of the picture quality, but I did get a look at it during CES 2024, and was bowled over by its crisp picture detail and intuitive smart home features.

Panasonic’s Z95A: Likely price and availability

The Panasonic Z95A at CES 2024

From left to right, the 77-inch Z93A beside the 65-inch and 55-inch Z95A in the Panasonic booth at CES 2024.  (Image credit: Future)
  • Announced in January 2024
  • Likely to be released later this year
  • No confirmed price yet

The Panasonic Z95A OLED TV comes in two screen sizes, both 55- and 65-inches. Unlike last year’s MZ2000, though, the TV maker has released the larger 77-inch size under a different model name. It’s calling it the Z93A and from what we can tell, this mainly comes down to the fact that it uses a ‘Master OLED Pro Cinema panel’, which is essentially the same as you’ll find in the Panasonic MZ1500 (i.e. no MLA), making it less bright than the Z95A (which is visible in person, but the Z93A certainly isn’t dim by OLED standards).

As is usual with Panasonic TVs, these won’t come to the US, but will be available in the UK, Europe and Japan. When will they be available to buy in these markets? Panasonic will likely release the TVs much later this year (the MZ200 arrived in the second half of 2023) so we don’t yet know how much they will cost. But we expect to see similar prices to the MZ2000, which launched at £2,699 for the 55-inch, £3,599 for the 65-inch, and £4,499 for the 77-inch.

It would be nice if Panasonic could bring down the cost of the sets to be more in line with its rivals this year – last year’s MZ2000 was priced higher than the same sized 65-inch LG G3, and 55-inch and 77-inch Samsung S95C – but it’s not likely. Panasonic uses much more advanced speaker tech, which must add to the price, for example.

Panasonic’s Z95A: Features

The Panasonic Z95A at CES 2024

A Panasonic spokesperson demonstrates the new Fire TV features by asking Alexa to open the curtains and turn on the lights.   (Image credit: Future)
  • Fire TV Ambient Experience and Alexa widgets
  • Access to Apple Home and Google Assistant 
  • 144Hz refresh rate for PC gamers

The most attention grabbing new feature with the Z95A is the Amazon Fire TV software. It replaces Panasonic’s smart TV platform, my Home Screen 8.0, which was what we found to be one of the downsides in last year’s MZ2000 because it was clunky and difficult to navigate. The home screen is now a curated feed of the best streaming services, allowing you to see what you’re watching instantly and easily navigate between apps. You can also set up a profile so you can better curate personalized recommendations. 

Access to the Fire TV Ambient Experience also means that the Z95A can be a central hub for your smart home, giving you the ability to control smart home devices with Alexa. During a demo of these features, we were able to see how you could simply command Alexa to draw the curtains or turn off the lights via the TV. Even in a busy convention center, the mics were able to pick up commands like “Alexa turn on the lights” or “Alexa open the curtains” and trigger the actions on an adorably miniature sized home model (as seen in the picture above). With access to Apple Home, AirPlay and Google Chromecast, you’ll also be able to use tools like viewing a security camera’s livestream. It’s very much the future of home tech that puts the TV at the center of the home.  

As for gamers, the Z95A is packed to the brim with gaming features, including 4K 144Hz as a new feature (compared to 4K 120Hz in the MZ2000), while VRR, ALLM, AMD FreeSync Premium, Nvidia G-Sync and Dolby Vision gaming capabilities all return from last year’s MZ2000. However, there are still only two HDMI 2.1 ports, which is a bit of a shame considering the focus on improving the gaming experience as a whole. 

Panasonic packed in an improved processor called the HCX Pro AI Processor Mk II, which not only enhances the picture quality but powers new gaming features, such as a new Game Mode Extreme that instantly updates the TV’s settings to be more gaming optimized. To access these features, there’s also the Game Control Board, which works as a dashboard for all the adjustable gaming settings.

Panasonic Z95A: Picture quality

The Panasonic Z95A at CES 2024

Even though they’re small dots (admittedly in bunches), the white tones in this image pop a little more on the Z95A (left) than the MZ980 (right). In real life, it’s even starker. (Image credit: Future)
  • Master OLED Pro Cinema panel with MLA tech 
  • Dolby Vision IQ, HDR10+ Adaptive and HLG support

It’s the enhanced HCX Pro AI Processor Mk II that’s also behind a lot of the improved picture quality in the Panasonic Z95A. In addition to Dolby Vision gaming at 144Hz, the chip powers Dolby Vision IQ Precision for added picture precision and brightness. It’s also behind a new ‘4K Remaster Engine’, which Panasonic says gives automatic noise reduction a boost when watching the best streaming services. Outside of Dolby Vision, there’s also the usual support for popular formats such as HDR10+ Adaptive, HDR10 and HLG. 

The combination of the new processor, boosted MLA panel and Panasonic’s multi-layer heat management configuration has given the Z95A a boost in brightness and overall picture quality. When viewing the model next to the Z93A during a demo, the lack of MLA in the larger model is slightly noticeable. But what was even more of a stark contrast was when comparing the Z95A to the MZ980, which of course isn’t exactly a fair comparison given that it’s not the flagship model from last year, but uses a ‘regular’ OLED panel without MLA or Panasonic’s other brightness-boosting tech.

Regardless, I could see that the whites were far starker and stood out considerably – in fact by so much that you can even slightly see the difference in the picture above for yourself (if you look at the center of the image, the whites appear more fuller and brighter on the left than they do on the right), though this is way more pronounced in person. The spectrum of colors was also another major difference between the two. The Z95A set looked to have a level richness that made it pop a lot more when compared to the MZ980.

Panasonic Z95A: Sound quality

The Panasonic Z95A at CES 2024

The 55-inch and 65-inch Z95A shown off at the Panasonic conference during CES 2024.   (Image credit: Future)
  • Dolby Atmos sound with 360 Soundscape Pro
  • Customizable directional speakers

The audio quality of the Z95A was another high point during the demo. Panasonic’s 360 Soundscape Pro tech provides Dolby Atmos spatial audio with seven speaker channels, which means you won’t need one of the best soundbars to get immersive audio. 

During the demo, I also got to test out the ‘Pinpoint Positioning’ feature in the audio settings, which lets you manually adjust the direction of the speakers depending on your living room setup. While most households will no doubt sit directly in front of their TVs, I can see this feature being useful in more of a mismatch setting – it steers the ‘sweet spot’ of the sound to wherever you’re sitting, including off to the side.   

From a technical standpoint, the only slight difference between the 55- and 65-inch Z95A is that the larger model has a slightly higher wattage of 160W (compared to 150W). In terms of the speaker channels, there are two side-firing, two upward-firing, three forward firing, and a subwoofer.

Panasonic Z95A: Early verdict

The Panasonic Z95A at CES 2024

The Z95A delivers richer colors than the MZ980 when shown side by side.  (Image credit: Future)

While the Panasonic Z95A OLED TV may not look too different on the surface from last year’s MZ2000 – it has the same swivel design and black bezels – there’s a lot going on under the hood that shows how it has improved.

From what I’ve seen so far, my first impressions are that it has a lot of promise to be a knockout OLED TV in 2024 and I’ll be excited to hear more about what Panasonic decides on the pricing front, and to get it in our testing labs. As ever, it’s such a pity that our US readers will miss out on it.

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Amelia Schwanke

Senior Editor UK, Home Entertainment

Amelia became the Senior Editor for Home Entertainment at TechRadar in the UK in April 2023. With a background of more than eight years in tech and finance publishing, she’s now leading our coverage to bring you a fresh perspective on everything to do with TV and audio. When she’s not tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos in the ever-evolving world of home entertainment, you’ll find her watching movies, taking pictures and travelling.

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The post I saw Panasonic’s Z95A OLED TV and its super-bright MLA display blew me away first appeared on www.techradar.com

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