Can a TV with inherent image lag and poor contrast compete? Not in the home cinema stakes it can't, but a canny combination of apps, My Home Screen and Freetime make the TX-42AS600 worth considering as an all-rounder for living rooms looking to ditch Sky or Virgin, but who don't want to give-up on good user interfaces and catch-up TV.
The TX-42AS600 is all about usability. Pictures from all sources are clean, with HD channels and Blu-ray in particular reasonably fluid and with just enough contrast and colour to compete. It's Freetime that really excites however. Bringing not only excellent usability, but all key catch-up TV apps for the UK, it complements the excellent My Home Screen user interface, and adds a Netflix app. The TX-42AS600 also plays nicely with digital video, music and photo files.
It's great to see Freetime's use of the BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand Five, which make-up for the TX-42AS600's lack of dedicated apps, though it's under-powered – and the lack of an Amazon Instant app is another concern.
However, more of a concern is this TV's unimpressive audio, image lag and poor contrast, the latter of which washes-out colours in bright conditions.
Is Freetime worth a sacrifice? The panel in the TX-42AS600 is prone to image lag and poor contrast, and offers only so-so upscaling from SD to HD, but that doesn't stop this 42-inch LED TV being an early candidate for best value smart TV. The excellent usability offered by both Freetime and the My Home Screen smart TV platform could do with more processing power, and so could the TV's speakers. But if used in a relatively small room, and mostly with HDTV channels in ambient light conditions, the TX-42AS600 will make a mostly fine addition to a living room.
While the TX-42AS600 is the most affordable way to get Freetime into your life, there are other 42 and 40-inchers available. The similarly priced Samsung UE40H6200 (32-inch version reviewed here) includes Smart Hub, which claims the same full roster of UK catch-up TV apps as Freetime and adds 3D and an extra HDMI slot, too. Finlux produce the 40F8073-T, which includes Netflix, the BBC iPlayer and YouTube, while Sony's 42W653A from 2013 might also be worth hunting down.