Ease of use
The L42ET5 keeps you on your toes in usability terms, being brilliantly simple in some areas but a little less thoughtful in others.
For instance, when it comes to the Vera Connect menus, the main menu is problematic. It looks attractive enough, and is very readable. But its insistence on using very large icons means you don't get many services onscreen at once, leaving you having to delve down through multiple layers of further onscreen menus to get to all of the services available.
You can, to be fair, choose the order the service icons appear on these menu 'layers', but it's still a rather cumbersome approach that will only become more long-winded as more services come online.
The Viera Marketplace, on the other hand, is more or less exemplary in its structure, using more sensibly sized options, and providing well thought-through tools and shortcuts for streamlining your experience. The only annoyance is the tedious need to input all your personal and credit card details using the remote control so you're ready to buy apps. This kind of stuff is never going to be much fun on a TV, but we couldn't help but feel that Panasonic could have included some more text input assistants to make the process less of a ball ache.
In terms of Panasonic's standard operational menus, these look reasonably approachable thanks to the introduction of a few basic icons here and there. However, there's still no denying that the rather low-resolution look to proceedings is a country mile away from the HD delights of Samsung's latest onscreen menu system.
Turning to the L42ET5's remote, there was a time when Panasonic's remote control design was as good as it got in the TV world. But it's starting to show its age now, looking and feeling a bit cluttered, and not providing the best 'weighting' for different application buttons. Essentially it feels as if the extra functions on today's Panasonic TVs have been shoehorned onto pre-existing button layouts rather than Panasonic coming up with a new remote design that really reflects the different way people use their TVs these days.
That said, at least the remote feels nicely weighted and well built, and its buttons are large and responsive.
Panasonic has done a very respectable job of getting a decent audio performance out of the L42ET5 when you consider how slim and affordable it is. There's a reasonably open feeling to the midrange, which lets voices sound realistic and helps action scenes avoid sounding too harsh or thin. Detail levels are high too, and the soundstage is impressively wide.
Bass feels a touch forced and doesn't really venture very low down the frequency response scale, but this is hardly rare in the flat TV world. Overall the L42ET5's sound provides a satisfying accompaniment to its 42-inch pictures.
While the £998 price for which the L42ET5 is selling on Panasonic's website is a bit steep, the £750 price tag it's being sold for elsewhere seems about right all things considered.
Last year's LG 42-inch LW550T passive 3D model is slightly cheaper at around £700 from most mainstream retailers, but with the new L42ET5 you're getting a more stable and friendly online platform as well as Panasonic's superior picture processing. Panasonic's TV looks a bit better too.