Aside from a lack of 3D support, the TX-L42E30B is a state-of-the-art screen. It continues Panasonic's theory that a modern TV should act as a home's entertainment hub, by providing playback of video, music and photo files from USB and SD card, and DLNA media streaming from a network-connected PC or Panasonic Diga recorder.
Accessible files are displayed by tapping the green Viera Tools button on the remote and sectioned into Photo, Video, Recorded TV and Music (for USB/SD card) and Media Server for any DLNA-attached devices. Usability is good – we had no trouble viewing various music and video files located on a Western Digital NAS drive and a PC.
The TX-L42E30B is net-savvy, too. Viera Connect is the 2011 iteration of Panasonic's online portal – previously known as Viera Cast - and comes with plenty of new features. Described as a 'cloud-based internet service', Viera Connect currently offers music and video on demand in the form of YouTube, Acetrax, Dailymotion, Ustream and SHOUTcast; Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Picasa, Skype and other apps; interactive games such as Blackjack and Catch Up TV from BBC's iPlayer.
That may not sound very different to Viera Cast, but the platform is now open to third-party developers, so expect much more to be added in the near future. For instance, Panasonic has said that the capacity to expand hardware functions through linking health and fitness equipment or game controllers will be introduced later this year, so maybe it's time to dig out your tracksuit bottoms.
The Viera Connect interface is a treat, and more finely tuned than that of the TV itself. A dedicated Viera Cast button on the remote control (Panasonic obviously hasn't got round to updating its handsets yet) brings up the bright, colourful, hi-res homepage, with icons for Skype, iPlayer, Acetrax etc.
The iPlayer app is particularly worth investigating. It includes BBC HD playback, is easy to navigate and picture quality is on a par with material from the TV's own tuner.
Prospective buyers should be aware, though, that Viera Connect doesn't allow unrestricted web browsing (a la Philips' Net TV).
Another handy feature is recording to a USB storage device, which brings with it trickplay features like pausing and rewinding live TV. Recordings can't be played back on other devices, though, which makes one wonder why Panasonic doesn't just build a hard-disk drive into the TV when it's on the production line.
The TX-L42E30B sports a healthy array of connections. The back panel houses three HDMI jacks, a component input, RGB Scart, PC input, stereo analogue audio in/out and an optical audio output. There's also an Ethernet port and pair of USB sockets. Further connections sit on the side of the bezel for easy access, including a third USB, HDMI input and an SD card slot - the latter perfect for owners of Panasonic's digital cameras.
Features related more to the TX-L42E30B's AV performance include Panasonic's V-Real Live picture processing engine, Intelligent Frame Creation Pro motion smoothing, a Freeview HD tuner; an IPS Alpha LCD panel, edge LED lighting and, of course, a full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution.