Panasonic has become one of the last bastions in the world of 4K Blu-ray players, as options continue to deplete. Other than Sony and (at the much higher end) Magnetar, there isn't much choice out there since Samsung, LG, Oppo and Pioneer dropped out of the game in recent years.
I've already made my concerns regarding this very clear by raising awareness about the death of 4K Blu-ray (perhaps slightly dramatic, I know); however, a glimmer of hope was presented to me while I was scrolling X (formerly Twitter) one night a few weeks ago; thanks to @UltraHDBluray for spotting this one.
Panasonic is launching two new 4K LCD TVs, both with 4K Blu-ray players built into the stands; it's simple, pure and brilliant. Invoking memories of the TVs with built-in DVD players that played a key role in my childhood, this all-in-one solution is a modern-day retelling using more up-to-date technology. Available in either 43- or 50-inches, the Panasonic MR770 series has been on my mind for weeks now; however, there is a catch, and it is quite a big one.
These TVs are exclusive to Japan, and as is the case with a lot of the more weird and wonderful creations from companies like Panasonic, it's looking like it'll stay that way. Panasonic is also launching a selection of standalone 4K Blu-ray players, which I'd like to see come to the UK market too — but I'm not holding my breath.
As frustrating as that is, it's also given me some inspiration for what I'd like to see Panasonic do if it were to bring this hybrid TV to the UK and beyond. The obvious choice would be to swap the LCD out for an OLED; I like Panasonic OLED TVs (especially the MZ1500) and I like Panasonic Blu-ray players, so naturally it would make sense to combine the two.
While the chunky unit that holds the Blu-ray drive is the antithesis of the svelte OLED TV form factor we've come to expect, I'm willing to sacrifice some form for the sake of function.
Speaking of which, Panasonic's recent set of OLEDs including the MZ1500 and MZ2000 have included chunky and (if we're being frank) fairly mediocre sound systems. The soundbar below the screen on both models doesn't facilitate the middling performance, and we always recommend an external sound system with your TV anyway; whether that's a Dolby Atmos soundbar or an AVR and home cinema speaker system. So why not swap that so-so sound system out for an integrated Blu-ray player?
Personally, I'd find a built-in high-quality disc player much more useful than a sound system that will become obsolete as soon as I hook up an external option. However, this does highlight a concern regarding the quality of the built-in Blu-ray drive, as (much like the soundbar) if it's not decent quality, then you'd be better off just hooking up an external alternative instead.
While I've come to terms with the fact that a niche product such as these Panasonic sets won't come to the UK market, it's always comforting to see innovation in this category continue, even if the future of 4K Blu-ray remains uncertain.
Check out our full Panasonic MZ980 review
And our picks for the best 4K Blu-ray player
And the best OLED TVs