The Japanese have a term for artisans who pursue perfection in their craft: shokunin.
It is a label that I associate with TV maker Panasonic, which seems to be obsessed with producing television sets with the best picture quality - sometimes to the detriment of other qualities.
Take Panasonic's latest HZ1000 4K Oled TV for example. It offers ravishing visuals through a combination of Panasonic's image processing and LG Display's Oled screen.
Blacks have never looked more inky, while shadowed areas maintain a good level of detail. Colour reproduction is natural and realistic and not overly saturated.
The HZ1000 has a Filmmaker mode that claims to display a movie or television show according to the director's intended vision. This usually means the TV will disable any extraneous processing, especially in terms of colour and motion smoothing.
The HZ1000's motion processing, dubbed Intelligent Frame Creation, is superb. Even at its maximum setting, the resulting video looks more natural than competing solutions from other TV makers while maintaining sharp and fluid visuals. At lower levels, the motion processing is subtle and probably imperceptible (in terms of the soap opera effect) to most viewers.
The HZ1000 is also one of the few TVs on the market to support all high dynamic range formats, including the competing HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats. While HDR10+ (available for some Amazon Prime videos) is not as widely used as Dolby Vision, it is still good to have.
But the TV is not entirely flawless. The HZ1000's Dolby Vision IQ feature, which uses an ambient light sensor to adjust the TV's brightness and colour, tends to favour a lower brightness setting than what I prefer when used in a dark room. While this probably makes the viewing experience more comfortable for the eyes, the videos also look less punchy.
The HZ1000 also has decent speakers that offer clear dialogue, but lack the depth and fullness of a proper soundbar. While the built-in speakers do not support Dolby Atmos, the feature is available with compatible soundbars and speakers.
The HZ1000's design is more functional than stylish. Its swivel stand makes it look like an oversized monitor rather than a TV, but it works well enough and has sufficient height allowance for a soundbar.
•Support for all popular HDR formats
•Top-notch picture quality
•No support for Chromecast or AirPlay
•Limited number of apps
•Lacks gaming features
PRICE: $2,499 (55 inches, version tested), $3,699 (65 inches)
PICTURE FEATURES: Maximum resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, HDR10+, HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision
AUDIO FEATURES: 30W output, Dolby Atmos
OPERATING SYSTEM: My Home Screen 5.0
CONNECTIVITY: 4 x HDMI, 3 x USB, optical output, headphone output, composite video input, Ethernet, Wi-Fi
VALUE FOR MONEY: 4.5/5
I cannot stand the TV remote, which has mushy buttons that are horrendous to use. But I am most peeved at the lack of modern conveniences that I take for granted on a new smart TV.
For starters, the HZ1000 does not support Chromecast or AirPlay, so you cannot directly cast content from your computing devices to the TV. You will have to cast content to a media player, such as an Apple TV box or a Chromecast dongle, that is connected to the TV.
The HZ1000 uses Panasonic's proprietary My Home Screen 5.0 smart TV platform. While this platform's user interface is relatively streamlined and unobtrusive, it has far fewer apps compared with the Android TV platform.
Although it has Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime Video, there is no Spotify or meWatch. I doubt Panasonic will release apps for streaming services HBO Max or Disney+ in time for their launch in Singapore.
Panasonic is also falling behind other brands in making the TV the hub for a smart home. The HZ1000 does not come with a built-in virtual assistant such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. However, you can control the HZ1000 using your voice via a separate smart speaker - after a rather tedious set-up process.
Gamers also have better options than the HZ1000 because its four HDMI ports support only the eARC and auto low-latency modes, but not the variable refresh rate feature found in the upcoming Sony PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X game consoles.
Overall, the HZ1000 has top-notch picture quality. Perhaps the best thing is its entry-level pricing for an Oled TV - $2,499 for a 55-inch model - which undercuts the pricing of LG and Sony Oled TVs.
If picture quality is the overriding priority, the Panasonic HZ1000 4K Oled TV is an excellent pick, especially at its price.