See what we think of this “new for 2018” Panasonic OLED TV.
A big TV is not an everyday, commodity purchase so if you are thinking of buying a new TV, then I hope you’ll find this interesting. We have been living with the Panasonic TX-55FZ802B for a while, and we want to share our thoughts based on our real-life user experience; which you may find more useful than a pure technical assessment.
So… what did we think of this 55″ OLED TV? Read on….
Quick jump links
Getting past the basics
There are a number of different TV technologies available, but we’re not going to explain those here. If you want to learn about other technologies, our other related posts might be of interest: Don’t get LED astray, and QLED and OLED are not the same and Should I buy OLED or QLED.
The technical features in plain terms
If you prefer to skip the next “technical features” section, you can go straight to our review.
In line with Gadget Savvy’s approach to life, we are not going to bamboozle you with the usual buzzwords and marketing fluff. Instead, we will summarise some of the more important features as we see them – in the language of the average consumers.
Here we go then, with a round-up of the main features as we see them:
- Ultra HD Premium Certified: This is the top 4K standard defined by the UHD Alliance (who set UHD standards). Not all 4K and UHD was the same, so we think the “Ultra HD Premium Certified” is an important standard to buy into. Is it still 4K TV, but the standard means more colours (over 1 billion!), richer colours, more detail and better contract.
In other words – a better picture.
- THX CERTIFIED: This is an independent assessment (with over 400 tests) of entertainment quality and picture reproduction.
In other words – a better entertainment experience.
- HDR (high dynamic range): This means better contrast and brightness and more colours. There are many HDR standards, and this TV implements standards used by popular broadcasters and streaming services. And this TV can also adjust brightness in response to the room’s light levels.
In other words – you should get a better viewing experience over different service.
- OLED: If we could afford OLED and we had the space for it (they are usually 55″ and up) – then we would buy OLED. You get outstanding blacks, lovely colours, and crisp whites. In addition, this latest TV tech deliver displays that are very thin; the one on test here is about 4mm thick – sorry 4mm thin!
- 2 x Satellite connections: When looking at TVs last year’s, we noted that many offered a single Satellite cable. This means you could watch or record from one channel group ( a channel group is a small number of channels). In order to have proper “play one and reocrd one”, you needed 2 satellite connections which usually meant having a separate satallite tuner box.
With this TV, we don’t need the separate box. So – easier to use with less clutter and fewer remote controls. For recording, we do need to plug in a separate USB storage drive as you don’t get one included.
However, read our review below for specific details on the recording features.
- Freeview Play: You also get Freeview (from the standard aerial connection) and Freeview Play (with an internet connection) – all for free. So, you can watch the current broadcast or scroll back in time up to 7 days and watch what you missed.
- Smart: This means you TV has computing power that you can use to surf the internet, use Netflicks, Amazon video, YouTube, iPlayer and other “apps” like catch-up services (although Freeview Play integrates some of these services which for us is convenient).
- Cinema Surround Pro speakers: This seems to be a Panasonic-own feature. Although it’s not like having Dolby 5.1 surround sound (where the speakers are positioned around the room), it really does sound good – aided by the speakers (40W in total).
Our review of the Panasonic TX-55FZ802B OLED TV
We didn’t run wear white lab coats and run a battery of technical tests with specialist measuring equipment, nor did we compare side-by-side with other TVs. We just behaved like consumers – unboxing, setting up, figuring it all out, watching various broadcasts and media, recording and importantly just enjoying the experience.
This is what we thought of using this TV…
Unpacking the TV was pretty simple and the instructions were fine. Unpacking, assembly and installing needs two people – and two reasonably fit people. If you are alone, or not as flexible as you used to be then you probably need a friend or two, or indeed pay the retailer for installation.
We found the only tricky bit was installing the stand or more specifically mounting the TV onto the stand. We found the easiest approach was by putting the stand on the floor and presenting the panel to the stand. The TV weights over 27kg when assembled which is over 4 stone – just imagine the weight of lifting 27 bags of sugar off the floor, and a big TV is quite an awkward shape so you’ll need two people.
There are labels telling you not to handle the screen at the top, but you really have the hold it somewhere (Panasonic shows you where to lift, in pictures). Either way, you will end up touching the screen – at least to hold it steady, thus leaving finger marks on the screen. You can call us “a bit odd” if you want, but we didn’t happen to have have two pairs of soft cotton gloves to hand! I think it would do Panasonic a whole heap of good to include something to avoid finger marks. Yes, even some gloves in the box, or a cleaning cloth.
Apart from the stand with its 4 screws, the TV also came with some handy clip-in cable clips which help to route the cables on the rear surface to prevent undignified dangle. All of the cables can be routed to the centre and then passed though the stand itself. All very neat and tidy, but it does beg the question as to why do all of the the cables come from the extreme edges of the TV; power, HDMI, Satellite, aerial etc do not need to be at the edge, do they?
As with any big TV, you have to access the rear to plug in the various cables. We connected both satellite connections, aerial, and our PS3 via HDMI. We were going to use a wired LAN connection for the network because our previous TV couldn’t get a stable WiFi connection. However, the Panasonic connected to WiFi with no issues and it has been rock solid ever since, streaming 4K from Netflix without problem.
There is a neat cable cover over the connectors and on the cable channel on the stand. But for a 55″ TV you either need long arms or some way to access the rear! It is surprising that TV manufacturers don’t add clear white labels next to the various connections that can be seen from unusual angles – like peering over the top.
Tuning in FreeView was simple and the satellite even easier. I don’t think it’s necessary to pay an installation fee just for tuning it. If you cannot work it out, one of the kids will do it for you… Actually, the TV has an inbuilt comprehensive ‘ehelp’ system, which contains much of the information in the user manual and is very useful and helpful. Just press the eHelp key.
In the menu system you can also change the on-screen label names for the various inputs which is handy (like adding a “GAME” label for the relevant HDMI port).
If you want to use the inbuilt recording capability, or have the ability to rewind live TV, then you’ll need an external USB drive. We used a 1TB portable (2.5″) USB3 drive (this is the drive we used, which is available from Amazon) that didn’t require an external power supply (the USB1 port is labelled for HDD and can supply 5v power up to 0.9A – make sure your chosen drive can be powered OK by that or you’ll need a drive with an external power supply. It worked just fine but you need to follow the menu instruction in order to initialise the drive. The only extra thing I had to do was to buy a longer USB3 cable so that I could route the drive’s cable with the other cables in order to position the drive on our TV table behind the stand to maintain a neat appearance. Note a USB3 cable can be up to 3m maximum, but we found a 1m cable perfect.
There are plenty of connections: 4 HDMI, 3 USB, component video, as well as the aerial and two satellite ports, CI slot, SD card slot, optional audio out and headphone out. There is also an Ethernet port as well as WiFi (and Bluetooth for keyboard and mouse).
Here is the thing though…some port are typically connected once and rarely touched (e.g. HDMI1) but there are some ports where you need perhaps more frequent access such as the SD Card, headphone, and spare USBs. Although the SD card and headphone are positioned “on the edge” of the back panel – they are still behind the connector cover and still some way in from the edge, and for us we need a torch and mirror to see where to plug them in. Even more strange is the position of the USB ports; USB1 – which is intended to take and to power a (permanently connected) recording HDD – is on the side/edge, with USB2 and USB3 are on the rear. Perhaps its just me but I think a more logical arrangement is for USB1 to be on the rear and USB2 and USB3 to be on the edge because you are more likely to want to plug-in a temporary USB drive?
And as I say, all ports are covered over anyway by the connector cover, so I can see it being left off if you often access some ports. In any event, I am not entirely sure that you could replace the cover when you have a second USB plugged in anyway…..
I’m sure that Panasonic want to maintain the front looks (and they made a fantastic job of that) but I wish the SD Card and two free USB ports in particular were easier to get to. “Odd connector placement” seems common with many TVs I have looked at. Overall it’s a minor point really.
The physical appearance
You could “see” our old LCD TV, but what I really mean is that the bezel and the stand were very much “there”.
Not so with this new OLED TV.
The base of the OLED Panasonic stand is very thin, and the vertical part connecting to the TV is narrow and slopes backwards, and as for the bezel – well what bezel there is just seems to vanish when you turn the TV on. Overall it’s a terrific design because you don’t really see the TV in action. You just see the bit you are supposed to. The panel itself is amazingly thin (and I mean really thin at about 4mm), with the lower half of the rear having an additional assembly to hold the electronics.
This nice appearance is all helped, of course, by the fact that this is an OLED TV. There is no backlight (LED or otherwise) as each dot on the screen is active and produces its own light. Hence the bezel is diminutive and the panel is ever so thin.
In 2017, we were going to buy an OLED TV (from a different maker) but we were a little spooked about things we read relating to picture quality on 50hz signals. No such problem here as far as we can see – the Panasonic works well with all the inputs we tried, and the upscaling is terrific, even handling pretty well those old grainy low-res TV comedies that are endlessly repeated…
We found 4K content to be exceptional on this screen.
This is an OLED TV, so you expect it to have great blacks. But somehow the blackness of the blacks is blacker than the black you expect the blacks to be. Yes, OLED is worth the extra for the blacks; no question in our minds.
Here is something we found particularly interesting: Sometimes you read the marketing fluff and think “yeah, sure!” – but we did find something very striking. Because the TV can resolve over 1 billion colours, the resulting picture produces a depth that we have not experienced before – almost like a 3D depth. The picture is deeper, more immersive, clearer and significantly “more lifelike” that our previous LCD HD TV. We noticed this immediately, and even now the image quality and depth gets repeated mentions. I wish I could show you what I mean, but this effect became particularly obvious when I started to watch some favourite programs and recording – where this visual impact is most obvious. I am enjoying Law & Order all over again…
The TV also has an ambient light sensor so its able adjust its intensity based on how bright the room is.
Overall, the most appropriate words to use for the picture is “stunning” and “outstanding” and way better what we had imagined. What more can I say?
The sound from our old, previous TV was OK but was at times a little under-powered and we had been using an external Dolby 5.1 system for movies (but that recently broke).
With the new OLED TV, we were going to buy a soundbar but the retailer didn’t have the one we wanted in stock. However, that stock tragedy saved me a bit of cash because actually we don’t need it after all.
Panasonic have included technology they call “Cinema Surround Pro”. This is another example of a marketing term with real meaning and relevance. The TV packs 4 x 10W speakers and the cinema mode is pretty good for watching films. OK, it’s not Dolby 5.1, but it is very good so we won’t be buying a soundbar soon, even though we don’t have a sub-woofer at this time. I wonder if I can get a wireless subwoofer…
Given the remote control is actually the only tactile part, we were pleased with the remote. It’s well made and feels fine, with clear highlighted buttons for FreeView Play and NETFLIX, and switching between TV and other inputs is simple. Some of the commonly-used buttons could be better positioned though.
Further, if we were asked we would request one more specific button which, in our opinion, would be very useful. To explain: the remote has a PICTURE button that allows the easily selection of the picture mode for whatever you’re watching.
However, to change the SOUND mode, you need to make multiple button presses. For example, to select Surround mode, it takes 11 key presses (count them). To get the most from the excellent sound system the remote ought to offer a simple way to select sound modes. In essence, the remote could really do with a SOUND button next to the PICTURE button.
And although the TV supports Voice Assistance and Voice Guidance, Panasonic support tells me that the Touch Pad Controller (supplied with the 65″ variant of this TV) does not work with the 55″ TV, and one has to use the Smartphone APP.
The Smartphone APP is nice and useful by allowing you to manage the TV in different ways. I’ve tested the voice control on the APP and that works OK but for me the remote button is easier. The APP also has a TV Anywhere function, although we haven’t tried that yet. In time, I might also test the Bluetooth keyboard/mouse capabilities.
There are plenty of APPs, and a neat way to ‘pin’ your favourite APPs to the Home page. For example, we added the USB HDD to the home page so we can easily get to the recordings.
BBC iPlayer, ITV Hib, All 4, Demand 5 and more are there, as well as NETFLIX and other services.
When looking at OLED TVs in 2017, I was put off by the commonly-supplied single satellite connections. With a single satellite connection, you can watch one channel only; you cannot record a second channel.
So, I was delighted to see the Panasonic OLED has 2 satellite connections, with inbuilt recording. I thought I could consign my Humax satellite box to Gumtree. However, that was not the case. Sure, the Panasonic has 2 satellite connections, and it also has a program recording capability. Yet it really cannot replace a “proper” PVR; let me explain.
On the Program Guide menu, it is easy to record a program (just press “record”) – but that’s for a single program only. You cannot record a series from there. To do that, you have to use the Timer function. Now, the timer-record function is OK and it works, but it is not a PVR. It’s not intuitive enough being more like a VCR-like timer record from the 1980s. You have to select the channel number, the date, time and frequency of recording (and you have to keep those things in your head whilst navigating the timer). It works but it’s not a PVR.
My Humax allows me to easily and reliably “record the series” directly from the Guide. Dead easy. I thought I could sell-off the Humax, but instead I felt the need to re-instate it because I was missing some favourites.
Besides, we like to switch the TV off when not in use and the Humax stays on doing its recordy stuff.
Rewinding live TV
The TV offers a handy option to “rewind live TV” by constantly recording the currently viewed channel on the USB drive. That’s all dandy, but every time you press the TV Guide button, it sticks up an annoying popup that informs you the recorded live TV will be deleted. It takes two additional button presses to dismiss the popup every time you want to bring up the Guide.
One initial reminder would be OK, but it happens every time you press the Guide button. You cannot get rid of the popup – and so we had to turn off the live TV recording.
It’s a shame that the otherwise well thought-out system has this really irritating flaw. Our own workaround (for when the doorbell rings etc) is to simply record the current program, and then we can watch the recording. Not as good as pausing the live TV though.
Our overall user experience
As stated above, we didn’t perform scientific tests with specialised instruments. We simply used the TV and are sharing our findings and experience. In our humble opinions this TV has some minor snags. But they are minor, and we suspect that we would find snags with whatever we bought. We admit to being a bit fussy.
Overall – we think this is an outstanding TV. To us, it offers outstanding picture quality, great sound and overall fantastic functionality.
Question: “Given our user experience, would we buy this OLED TV?”
Answer: A resounding “YES”.
Where do I get one?
One of these fantastic OLED TVs is not the cheapest thing you will ever buy. At the time of writing they were around £1,499.00 (with discount). Yes, you can buy other types of 55″ TVs (like LED TVs) for less money, but this is an OLED TV and they do cost a bit more. In our view, it is worth paying the extra if a) you have the budget and b) you are looking for a 55″ or bigger TV.
As with all of these purchases – please consider carefully what you want to buy. We love this OLED TV and would buy one, but you must come to your own buying decision. Here is where you can buy one of these TVs.
PANASONIC TX-55FZ802B 55″ Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR OLED TV
Available from Currys PC World
Panasonic TX55FZ802B 55″ OLED HDR 4K Ultra HD Smart TV
Available from Hughes
Prices and availability correct at the time of publication (November 20 2018)
We found this to be a truly fantastic TV and if you buy one, we think you’ll be equally impressed.