Not everyone can fit a giant 65in TV into their living room. Indeed, most people might struggle with a 50in screen, no matter how slim the bezel is.
Thankfully, there are still good old 40in screens in production. And this smart Panasonic TX-40CS520 is testament to just how good an affordable TV can be.
At just £380, there’s no 4K or 3D on board the TX-40CS520. This is a straightforward Full HD 1080p screen, but it’s packed to the brim with smart features, on demand apps, built-in wi-fi and, most importantly, delivers a great performance.
MORE: 7 of the best 4K TVs for 2015
At this price, it’s really difficult to criticise the picture quality. The colours are vivid yet have a natural tone, detail is abundant and crisp, and there are no disturbing motion issues. It’s a stable, solid picture quality that’s hugely enjoyable to watch.
Freeview HD channels – of which there are still too few – look sharp and crisp whether you’re watching the stark studio interiors of a news programme or the lavishly detailed period drama Partners in Crime.
The edges of furniture, the texture of clothes and the grimy interiors of Soho are realistically portrayed.
The 40CS520’s contrast is strong and dramatic. Bright scenes punch with clarity and intensity, while dark scenes are satisfyingly black. Shadows are subtle.
The Blu-ray of Looper looks inviting, and the natural setting – the blue skies, green and brown fields and skin tones of all the characters – is convincingly portrayed. The colours pop appealingly, without ever looking overdone or unsubtle.
MORE: 5 of the best Panasonic TVs
Watching old episodes of Friends on standard definition, the edges become softer and fuzzier, and you’re more likely to get blocks of colour. But it’s still perfectly watchable, the set’s vibrant colour palette and good detail definition remaining intact.
Motion is largely handled well. There are no discernible blurs, although slow panning across a scene can sometimes look less-than-smooth, but that is an issue that even high-end TVs can struggle with.
The Panasonic copes well with fast action scenes, such as those in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier Blu-ray, with no stutters affecting the drama. This is a very accomplished screen.
We were steeling ourselves for tinny-sounding speakers on this Panasonic TV, but they pack a surprising amount of punch. Gunshots and explosions make an impact, while dialogue is clear and articulate.
It’s pretty enjoyable to listen to on its own, although if you’re seeking a more immersive cinematic experience, we’d recommend investing in a soundbar.
MORE: Best soundbars 2015
Features and connectivity
While Panasonic’s higher-end Ultra HD models have the new Firefox OS powering their smart interface, this budget telly is stuck with the older version of Panasonic’s customisable My Home Screen.
It’s not as simple and stylish as Firefox’s circular icons, but having shortcuts to your favourite and most used apps on screen is useful.
Good news for those who don’t watch live telly: all of the UK’s catch up services, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, All 4 and Demand 5 are included. The most popular on demand services – Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, YouTube – are present too, giving you access to all the content you could possibly want.
Not bad for a TV costing just £380.
MORE: Panasonic 2015 TVs - everything you need to know
The TV also comes with the sleek Freetime EPG, which is attractive and easy to use. The TV can be slow to respond at times, taking a couple of seconds to open an app or scroll through the TV guide. It’s not a deal-breaker, but we would have liked a faster and smoother operation.
Around the back, you’ll find the Freeview HD aerial, two HDMI inputs, an optical output and a USB port for media files. It’s a decent number of connections for a sub-£500 TV.
You also get the choice of connecting to your home network using the built-in wi-fi or wired ethernet port. We found both methods to be stable, with no drop-outs when streaming.
MORE: Best 40in TVs
Have we found the best TV deal of the year? The Panasonic TX-40CS520 may not be flashy, but it’s a well-built TV that will look smart in your living room or second bedroom.
And it’s worth repeating that all these smart features and the excellent picture quality are yours for just £380.
The TX-40CS520 will make you want to keep on watching, and it deserves a spot on your shopping wish list.
MORE: Best TVs 2015
Read all our Panasonic news and reviews