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Panasonic MZ980: A Comprehensive Review and Evaluation

Despite its lower brightness compared to some OLED competitors, the Panasonic MZ980 swiftly captivated us with its mid-range appeal by offering superb picture quality at a reasonable price.

Pros

  • Deep black levels and contrast
  • Delivers exceptionally accurate, natural images
  • Pleasant sound quality

Cons

  • Lacks MLA or advanced heat sink technology for enhanced brightness
  • Smart interface could be more sophisticated
  • Maximum size is 55 inches

Quick Review: Panasonic MZ980

The Panasonic MZ980, a mid-range OLED TV from 2023, is a solid performer. Despite lacking some features like the Micro Lens Array and proprietary heat sink found in the higher-end MZ1500 and MZ2000 models, it still boasts a premium OLED panel. It also incorporates Panasonic’s latest HCX Pro AI picture processor.

The MZ980 is priced at £1,399 for the 55-inch model, making it a more affordable option compared to its advanced counterparts. Its performance is commendable, matching up to the best OLED TVs. It offers OLED’s typical benefits such as stunning local contrast, deep black colours, rich yet subtle hues, and wide viewing angles. The top-notch video processor adds a cinematic touch.

Despite not having forward-facing speakers like the higher models, the MZ980 delivers good sound. Its smart system, while not the most advanced, is user-friendly and includes all major streaming services.

While Panasonic’s higher-end OLED TVs offer more, the MZ980 is a great choice unless you have a very bright room.

Panasonic MZ980 Review: Availability and Pricing

The Panasonic MZ980, released in late 2023, is now priced at £1,399 for the 55-inch model, down from its initial £1,799. However, Panasonic’s TVs are not currently available in the US or Australia.

The MZ980 series, unique for a mid-range OLED line, offers only smaller screen sizes. The largest model is the 55-inch, accompanied by 48- and 42-inch versions.

Despite its size, the MZ980 is not just a ‘second TV’. It’s a serious contender, designed for those with smaller living spaces.

Panasonic MZ980

Panasonic MZ980 Review: Key Features

The Panasonic MZ980, a 4K OLED TV, comes with an HCX Pro AI processor and supports all four major HDR formats. However, it lacks the high-end Micro Lens Array panel and advanced proprietary heat sink hardware found in Panasonic’s MZ2000 and MZ1500 models.

The MZ980 uses a mid-grade OLED panel, not an entry-level one. Brightness tests reveal that it’s not as bright as the MZ2000 or MZ1500 models, and slightly less bright than LG’s C3 models. However, brightness isn’t the only factor in a great HDR picture.

The MZ980 retains the top-line HCX Pro AI processor used by its higher-end siblings. This processor, refined by Panasonic’s engineers, excels at achieving subtleties, balances, and details in image content.

The MZ980 offers a wide range of picture presets, including Filmmaker Mode and True Cinema presets. It supports all four major HDR formats: HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision.

For gamers, the MZ980 supports 4K/120Hz gaming and variable refresh rates over two of its four HDMI ports. It also includes AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync VRR formats.

The MZ980’s connections include four HDMIs, three USBs, an Ethernet port, an analogue video input, an optical digital audio output, and a headphone jack that can also be used for an optional external subwoofer.

Smart features are provided by Panasonic’s My Home Screen operating system. The MZ980 doesn’t have a forward-facing, multi-channel sound system like its higher-end siblings, but its 2 x 15W setup, backed by Theater Surround Pro processing, delivers immersive sound with Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

Panasonic MZ980 Review: Image Quality

The Panasonic MZ980, priced at £1,399, delivers refined and immersive images. It excels in handling dark scenes, distinguishing minute light differences in the darkest areas. This results in a depth and detail that feels like it’s straight from a professional monitor.

Being an OLED screen, there’s no backlight clouding or blooming. The absence of residual greyness over dark scenes enhances the sense of immersion.

The MZ980’s handling of light is equally impressive. It delivers flawless light control across all shades, resulting in authentic, natural, and balanced pictures. The images always appear three-dimensional and realistic.

Despite its price, the MZ980 gives you a full sense of the subtleties of professional mastering. Its understanding of the screen’s hardware ensures that even the more dramatic picture presets don’t become distractingly excessive.

The TV’s tone mapping effectively prevents clipping from the brightest parts of the picture. Colours appear vibrant, thanks to the immaculate light control, exceptional colour mapping, and the HCX Pro AI picture processor.

The True Cinema and Filmmaker Modes achieve outstanding accuracy and refinement. Even the punchier settings maintain more colour balance and control than similar modes on most rival models.

Native 4K images on the MZ980 look detailed and textured. The HCX Pro AI processor retains a lot of this detail when upscaling HD sources. Motion can look a bit juddery when watching 24p movies, but Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation motion compensation system can reduce this effect.

The main drawback of the MZ980’s pictures is their limited brightness. They don’t look as light and bold as the latest MLA-equipped OLED TVs or LG’s C3 OLED range. However, the MZ980’s subtlety and cinematic qualities make it worthy of respect.

Panasonic MZ980 Review: Audio Performance

The Panasonic MZ980 delivers good volume and solid bass handling, but male voices can sometimes sound muffled. It doesn’t offer the scale of sound staging or forward thrust found in Panasonic’s higher-end models.

However, the MZ980 is a decent audio performer for its price. Its speakers can get loud without distortion and create a wide sound stage with clear effects. There’s even a slight sense of height when playing Dolby Atmos soundtracks.

The speakers are sensitive enough to pick up faint audio elements, making soundtracks engaging. While the bass doesn’t reach deep levels required for intense action scenes, it’s sufficient to prevent loud scenes from sounding harsh or thin. The low frequencies don’t become overwhelming or cause the speakers to crackle or buzz.

Panasonic MZ980

Panasonic MZ980 Review: Design Overview

The Panasonic MZ980, viewed head-on, is a sleek addition to your living room. It features a slim frame around the screen and a centrally mounted desktop foot. The frame and screen lie on the same plane, giving it a modern, narrow look.

While the foot is more plastic than Panasonic’s pricier OLED TVs, it still appears premium and sturdy. The central placement of the desktop mount allows the 55MZ980 to fit on even narrow furniture.

However, the MZ980 may not be the best choice for wall mounting. The rear panel protrudes significantly a few inches in from the screen’s outer edges, which is quite substantial by OLED standards.

Panasonic MZ980 Review: Smart Features and Menus

The Panasonic MZ980 uses the My Home Screen 8.0 smart interface and covers all major streaming services. Panasonic recently announced a shift to Amazon’s Fire TV platform for future premium TVs, making the MZ980 the last model to use the proprietary My Home Screen interface.

Despite its simplicity, the interface is easy to navigate and customize. It supports voice control with built-in Alexa and Google Assistant (with an external device).

While My Home Screen may not be as advanced as some competitors in recommending content, and can sometimes be slow, it’s generally well-liked.

The MZ980’s setup menus are comprehensive but lengthy and filled with jargon. However, they offer extensive adjustment options for those who like to fine-tune their picture quality.

Panasonic MZ980

Panasonic MZ980 Review: Value Assessment

The Panasonic MZ980, now available for £1,399, offers exceptional value. It provides numerous features and high-quality performance for both gamers and video enthusiasts.

However, it faces stiff competition. LG’s OLED55C3, a mid-range OLED model, is currently priced at £1,299. It offers four full gaming HDMIs and slightly higher brightness, but lacks the picture subtlety of the Panasonic model.

Upgrading to Panasonic’s 55MZ1500, which has a built-in heat sink for increased brightness, will cost an additional £200. Whether this is a better deal depends on your budget constraints.

Scoring of the Panasonic MZ980’s aspects out of 100:

AspectScore
Picture Quality90
Sound Quality75
Design80
Smart Features70
Gaming85
Value for Money90
Panasonic MZ980’s aspects Review

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