Panasonic's current TV range has to some extent been an exercise in frustration. The brand has excelled with its smart TV innovations, but while some of its TVs have backed these improved smarts up with excellent pictures, others have proved unexpectedly disappointing.
So is the 47-inch 47AS740's picture quality one of the hits or one of the misses? Given that, at just short of £800, it's one of the more expensive models in Panasonic's HD (not 4K) TV range, I'll seriously be hoping for a hit.
Before getting into that, though, let's see how the 47AS740 goes about the business of justifying its high-level status in design and feature terms.
Aesthetically the Panasonic 47AS740's plus point is that its reasonably thin bezel and open-frame stand give it an open, airy feel that doesn't make for an over-bearing presence in your living room. It's also impressive to find a built-in pop-up camera fitted to its upper edge.
On the downside, its rear sticks out a little further than is common these days, while its build quality curiously feels more low-rent than that of some of Panasonic's cheaper TVs. This doesn't bode especially well for the quality of the set's innards, but I've been testing TVs long enough now to know that you can never safely judge a TV by its cover.
The 47AS740 is mostly on point with its connections. The headliners are three HDMIs for HD digital video playback, three USBs for multimedia playback from USB storage devices, an unusual but very welcome SD card slot, and the now expected combination of wired and wireless network connections. I'd have liked a TV of the 47AS740's status and price to carry a fourth HDMI ideally, but the wealth of multimedia options just about compensates.
The 47AS740's screen doesn't sport a native 4K resolution, as already noted. But there are other noteworthy features. For instance, motion should be cleaned up by a potent motion processing system designed to deliver the equivalent of a 1200Hz refresh rate.
This isn't a native 1200Hz refresh rate of course; it's delivered through a mix of backlight scanning, a native 100Hz panel, and frame interpolation processing. The set's motion features will have to be treated with caution given the tendency for such processing systems to cause unwanted side effects - though Panasonic's record in this respect is actually better than most.
If you're still a fan of 3D you'll be interested to know that the 47AS740 uses the passive 3D system, with two pairs of glasses included for free. To be honest I'd have liked to find at least four pairs of glasses given that passive 3D models cost peanuts versus the shuttering models required for the active 3D system. But then I guess by the same token you won't have to spend much to add more pairs. In fact, you might already have some suitable ones from previous visits to the cinema.
Smart TV system
Arguably the most attractive feature of the 47AS740 is its Smart TV system - especially its Freetime, TV Anywhere and home screen elements. The first of these, Freetime, allows you to scroll backwards as well as forwards on the electronic programme guide, giving you a brilliantly friendly and effective way of using catch-up TV with compatible broadcasters (of which there are many).
TV Anywhere lets you access the tuners and even USB recordings on your TV over the internet no matter where in the world you are. You can watch them on your smartphone or tablet computer without running up against the country rights limitations you get if you try to watch UK shows via their broadcasters' websites.
My Home Screen
My Home Screen, finally, while not the prettiest onscreen menu system in town, is impressive for the extent to which it a) lets you customise the 'click through' content icons on the home screen to suit your individual tastes, and b) lets you establish multiple home screens for different members of your household. The built-in camera even enables the TV to automatically pick the right home screen for the person in the room based on facial recognition technology.
If there's anything about the 47AS740's spec sheet that raises concerns it's its use of IPS technology. This type of panel is intended to deliver a wider viewing angle than rival VA LCD technology, but I've also found that IPS panels often struggle to compete with their rivals when it comes to contrast.