The Panasonic TX-L42E6B's first attraction is its price: £800 (around US$1,227 / AU$1,182) isn't bad at all for a 42-inch LED TV from a big-name brand. Making the price look even more attractive, moreover, is the Panasonic TX-L42E6B's design.
Because, impressively, Panasonic has managed to extend the gorgeous super-slim 'metal and glass' design concept introduced on its flagship models in 2012 down to the lower to mid-range E6 series for 2013.
The Panasonic TX-L42E6B's relative affordability also hasn't stopped it benefitting from another key 2013 Panasonic attraction: the brand's My Home Screen interface. This does a brilliant job via a series of different jumping off screens of simplifying and personalising the way you access all the different types of content - online, multimedia, TV, apps - the TV makes available.
The TV uses edge LED lighting, though unlike the Panasonic DT65 and Panasonic WT65 TVs higher up Panasonic's range, there's no local dimming. It also provides a 100Hz engine to hopefully keep a lid on LCD's traditional motion clarity shortcomings.
The main feature sacrifice you have to make if you fancy a Panasonic TX-L42E6B is 3D; if you want to take your viewing into the third dimension you'll have to step up to Panasonic's ET60 series.
With TVs from other brands' 2013 ranges still very thin on the ground, currently the closest rivals are the Samsung UE40ES6800 (which is slightly smaller but adds active 3D), and the LG 42LM760T (which also adds 3D, but of the passive variety).
For now, though, let's get on with finding out if the Panasonic TX-L42E6B is really the good value proposition it sounds on paper.
For a TV that sits just below the mid-point of a brand's TV range, the Panasonic TX-L42E6B is surprisingly good looking. This is because Panasonic has stretched the ultra-slender look of its Metal and Glass design concept much further down its TV range than before, so that the Panasonic TX-L42E6B's screen sits prettily within a seriously attractive silver frame that's barely 1cm/0.4 inches across, offset along the bottom by an equally fetching transparent trim containing the Panasonic logo.
As well as being attractive, the Panasonic TX-L42E6B's slim design means it can fit into a much smaller space than typical 42-inch TVs.
Turning to the connections on the Panasonic TX-L42E6B's also slender rear, highlights include three HDMIs, two USBs, a LAN port and built-in Wi-Fi. Obviously a fourth HDMI port would have been great, as would a third USB and, perhaps, the SD card slot sported by higher-level Panasonic TVs. Overall, though, for a lower mid-range TV connectivity is perfectly respectable.
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There are some clues to the TV's features in these connections, too. For instance, the HDMIs are v1.3 in focus, meaning that they're not configured to handle 3D. This will immediately write the Panasonic TX-L42E6B off for you if you're a 3D fan. But then it would seem most people aren't.
The USB ports show that the TV is ready to handle video, photo and music files stored on USB drives, while the LAN/Wi-Fi options indicate the Panasonic TX-L42E6B's willingness to stream the same sorts of files from networked DLNA PCs. Plus, of course, the network options can be used to get the TV online, with Panasonic's Viera Connect platform.
More on this in a moment, but first we must talk about the new My Home Screen interface Panasonic has introduced to help you handle all the content sources just described - along with a built-in Freeview HD tuner.
This interface introduces a series of different themed home screens, each delivering direct icon access to a different selection of content. You can switch at will between these different home screens, and choose which one you want as your default. Even better, you can create your very own home screen, populated only by the exact content/app links you want direct access to.
Since you can establish multiple new, user-generated home screens, moreover, it's possible for different members of your family to set up their own personalized home screens.
Panasonic's My Home Screen system doesn't offer any of the learning features sported by Samsung's latest smart TV interface. But it's a much friendlier, less inscrutable system to use, even offering a straightforward tutorial when you first fire the TV up.
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It works quickly and slickly, too, and overall does a great job of both aiding content navigation and bringing your attention to all the content streams available to you.
Panasonic's Viera Connect online platform is robust and well organized, especially now it has improved the layout of its main apps home screen, shrinking the icons down so that you can see far more options on a single screen than you could with previous Viera Connect generations.
The only catch with Viera Connect is that it still lags behind some rival online systems when it comes to the number of apps and, especially, video platforms it carries. In particular, at the time of writing there's no Blinkbox, ITV Player, 4OD or Lovefilm support, leaving you with BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Acetrax as your main online video providers.
Turning next to the Panasonic TX-L42E6B's screen technology, it uses edge LED lighting, without any local dimming technology of the sort sported by the DT65 and WT65 models further up Panasonic's new LCD TV range. It's also a 100Hz model, offering a degree of motion clarity enhancement but falling short of the pseudo-600Hz system found on the step-up ET60.
One other significant point about the Panasonic TX-L42E6B's design is that it uses a VA-type panel rather than the IPS panels used in Panasonic's 3D-capable televisions. This means that it doesn't enjoy as wide a practical viewing angle as its more expensive siblings - though it also gives the Panasonic TX-L42E6B an advantage in another area, as will become apparent in the Performance section of this review.
The last elements of the Panasonic TX-L42E6B's features come from its on-screen menus. The TV doesn't provide the full roster of colour, white balance and motion control adjustments you get with Panasonic's higher end models, but it does still offer a passable degree of control over how pictures appear. It's a particular relief to find a backlight adjustment - something that was conspicuously absent from last year's Panasonic LCD TVs.