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Panasonic Teases Next-Gen 4K HDR OLED TV at IFA 2016

Panasonic didn’t launch any new OLED TV at the IFA 2016 consumer electronics trade show that’s taking place in Berlin this week, which means the company will go OLED-less for at least one year since the introduction of its inaugural CZ950/ CZ952 at IFA 2015. However, the Japanese manufacturer did reaffirm its commitment to the self-illuminating display technology, and to prove its point, a next-gen 4K HDR OLED television prototype was unveiled at the company’s IFA showhall.

Panasonic EZ950

As with most prototypes, very few details are known about the upcoming product, but Panasonic said it’s focusing its R&D on perfecting near-black handling, an Achilles’ heel which has plagued other OLEDs leading to missing detail in dark scenes. The company believes it can draw upon its expertise and experience from developing plasma display panel (PDP), another self-emissive technology capable of deep blacks, to tackle this problem.

OLED near-black processing

Similar to what’s happened in recent years, Panasonic set up a dark-room demonstration at its IFA booth, this time comprising the new 4K OLED prototype and a “conventional” OLED flanking a Sony BVM-X300 broadcast studio OLED monitor for reference. Judging from the curved screen and the vignetting pattern, we think the competitor’s OLED display was most likely an LG EG960. Of course, this isn’t the fairest comparison, since LG’s 2016 OLED models have improved by leaps and bounds since the 960.

Onto our subjective eyes-on impressions then. Whereas the LG EG960V was exhibiting distracting vignetting effect and crushed shadow detail (which perhaps could be dialled out with proper calibration) in the low-APL demo loop, the Panasonic prototype not only retained all the dark detail across the entire image, but also at correct luminance levels with reference to the Sony BVM monitor.

Panasonic OLED prototype demo

What actually impressed us most was how clean the above-black rendition looked on the Panasonic OLED prototype – even the best 2016 OLED televisions from LG still suffer from slightly noisier dithering in dark scenes. Before getting everyone too excited though, we were reminded by a Panasonic spokesperson that the displayed demo footage probably used little to no compression, and it remained to be seen how more heavily compressed material from streamed or broadcast material will be handled.

Improvements over the Viera CZ952/ CZ950 should come in the areas of peak brightness, wide colour gamut (WCG) coverage, and of course flat-screen form factor (videophiles rejoice!). Panasonic said it’ll reveal more details about its forthcoming OLED this winter, but if we were a betting person, we’d put money on the TV getting a big CES 2017 launch.