This 42-incher from Panasonic's AS500 Series of LED TVs is all about value, but with a little something extra.
With a list price of £599, but seen online for less than £450, the TX-42AS500 manages to bring both the slinky My Home Screen user interface – along with a bunch of apps – and a surprisingly slinky-looking design.
It's largely gloss black, though the designers of the 963x566x69mm TX-42AS500 have managed to create a super-slim bezel around the top and sides that measures a mere 5mm (and 20mm at the bottom). Until last year a high-end feature indeed and it's a welcome addition here.
Unlike smaller versions in the AS500 Series that boast HD-ready resolutions, the TX-42AS500 has a Full HD LCD panel that's LED-backlit. Sadly that panel doesn't come with a natively 100Hz refresh rate, but it does have a backlight blinking system in-built that is designed to mimic the smoother, faster 100Hz look.
Elsewhere there's a Freeview HD tuner and My Home Screen, the latter of which is a hangover from last year's high-end Panasonic TVs. That its deliciously simple and intuitive pages have trickled-down to this entry-level 42-incher is quite something.
Panasonic doesn't have the best choice of apps. It does have Netflix, but no Amazon Instant Video. Similarly, catch-up TV apps are limited to BBC iPlayer, BBC News and BBC Sport, with the likes of ITV Player, 4OD and Demand Five not available. It just seems crazy.
Other apps on the TX-42AS500 include YouTube, Wuaki.tv, Metronews TV, all installed by default, though dive into the app store and it's possible to download a whole host of other (minority interest) apps like Facebook, Eurosport, CineTrailer, Deezer, Dailymotion, SHOUTcast, TuneIn radio, PlayJam games and iConcerts.
Ins and outs
The TX-42AS500 has just enough ins and outs to compete. A rear panel holds two HDMI inputs – the very minimum you should expect on any TV nowadays – as well as a set of component video inputs, a full RGB Scart, an RF aerial to fuel the Freeview HD tuner, some stereo audio inputs, a digital optical audio output and an Ethernet LAN slot. There's a Wi-Fi module inside, too.
Around the side is a USB slot, a headphones jack and a common interface slot for adding extra TV channels.
Elsewhere in the AS500 Series is the 39-inch TX-39AS500B and 50-inch TX-50AS500, as well as two HD-ready models, the 24-inch TX-24AS500 and 32-inch TX-32AS500. Step up to the TX-42AS600 (more catch-up TV apps within the delicious Freetime user interface), the AS640/AS650/AS680 (which add 3D, Hexa Core processing and a Life+ user interface), the twin-tuner AS750, the AS800 (LED local dimming), AX800 (4K resolution) and AX900 (4K and a slinky design).