Usability

Panasonic TX-L42ET50B review

The Panasonic TX-L42ET50B has a bland user interface. It's not much changed from the 2011 crop of TVs, which is no bad thing in itself, but we've now seen better - and from Panasonic itself.

The brand's Blu-ray players, such as the Panasonic DMP-BDT320, feature a gorgeous gesture-driven interface that keeps everything simple, icon-led and beautifully designed - and even features a touchpad remote control.

Why the Viera smart TVs don't include that interface and remote is beyond us, although the remote control on the Panasonic TX-L42ET50B includes red backlighting that home cinema owners will adore.

Freeview HD is given a similar treatment as it was in previous years. That's to say, it's dull; seven channels' schedules are shown over two hours, with brief programme information shown up top.

It's a branded Freeview affair, which now thankfully doesn't include adverts along the side. Much better than last year, then, but still not a patch on the slick EPGs from the likes of Sony and Samsung.

Panasonic TX-L42ET50B review

Setting recordings from the EPG is easy, while instant recording can be set to a default of up to 180 minutes. Bear in mind that a USB HDD or flash drive must first be formatted, and then used only with Panasonic AV gear. Recorded TV programmes are in a format that can't be read by a PC.

Networking via Wi-Fi is a mixed bag, with MOV, MP4, AVC HD and AVI video all supported. But from a USB drive we only managed to play AVC HD, AVI and MKV.

At least it's comprehensive overall, with the lossless FLAC music format supported, in addition to MP3.

Sound

The Panasonic TX-L42ET50B puts in a relatively good audio performance, with its stereo speakers offering a decent amount of bass.

Panasonic TX-L42ET50B review

V-Audio is worth engaging for some extra precision, although V-Audio Surround is misleadingly named - we didn't spot any rear effects - and the Speech mode is too thin and bereft of bass.

Crucially, the speakers are good enough for a daily diet of dialogue-based TV, so will suit a living room not planning on adding home cinema clutter.

Value

The real test for the Panasonic TX-L42ET50B is how it can stand up to a Panasonic plasma, not other Edge LED TVs. It's slimmer and more stylish than a plasma and packed with just as many features, but it costs the same largely because it uses active shutter 3D technology.

However, the lack of 3D glasses in the box makes this an expensive option, and one we're not convinced many buyers will take up. Given that, the Panasonic TX-L42ET50B does seem overpriced.

We're willing to bet that its 42-inch L42ET5B passive 3D variant will do better among buyers looking for a cheaper add-on opportunity for the occasional 3D movie.