Just recently, the 42in from Panasonic’s entry-ranging AS500B Series received a respectable four stars, and now the range’s baby TV steps up to the plate.
If wall-mounting this TV, bear in mind that the majority of connections – which comprise two HDMI, RGB scart and component/composite inputs, as well as analogue and optical outputs – are on the TV’s back panel, with only a single USB input and headphone output on the easily accessible side panel.
You don’t get the whole shebang of features found on Panasonic’s bigger screens (after all, this model is quite far down the company’s 2014 line-up), but its list is nothing to sniffle at.
Connecting to a home network via a wired or wireless connection is an open door to the big three online apps (BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube), as well as a prolific ‘app market’ where you’ll find a host of add-on apps. What’s more, Panasonic’s TV Remote 2 app enables the use of Swipe & Share, which can beam a smartphone’s pictures, videos and music to the big screen.
The physical remote is easy to get to grips with too. For a mobile app, it’s all there: a touchpad, shortcuts to individual apps, remote-control functions and keyboard. Response time is speedy too, though navigating the numerous pages can be long-winded.
Last but not least, Remote Sharing allows video memos and text messages to be sent from an Apple or Android smartphone to a compatible Viera TV.
We’re big fans of Panasonic’s My Home Screen portal. With a highly customisable home screen, moveable apps and everything logically boxed-out, it’s both foolproof and fun.
For £300, it’s not wholly surprising that resolution falls short of the Full HD figure. Its 1366 x 768 (or, in other words, ‘HD ready’) panel lies between high- and standard-definition, meaning the set has to downscale or upscale almost everything it plays. But if it’s done well, it shouldn’t be an issue.
We test its downscaling ability first with American Hustle on Blu-ray and it has our attention from the outset. Its razor-sharp picture is packed with detail and punchy, vibrant colour. Amy Adams’s hair is a bright, fiery red, while glamorous swingin’ seventies costumes are immediately eye-catching.
Slightly tempering down the exaggerated out-of-the-box colour palette using a THX Optimizer disc and changing colour temperature to ‘cool’ brings a more natural balance. Yet, even after toying with contrast and brightness, darker shades are often blacked out.
As the TV upscales The Grand Budapest Hotel DVD, it makes the most of the film’s colourful aesthetics – the purple of the lobby boy’s coat looks deep and rich.
The picture is both sharp and detailed too, and there’s not so much of a motion blur as sleds pelt down the snowy hills. The Freeview tuner keeps up its end too.
The Pana’s frame may be slim and lightweight, but sound doesn’t give that away. In fact, we have few complaints. The Samsung has a richer delivery, but sound is generally weighty and clear.
The Panasonic does a lot – and does it well. It may not produce the most subtle or natural picture on the market but, for a price that doesn’t cost the earth, it’s certainly worth a punt.