It's fair to say that not all of Panasonic's recent flagship TVs have really looked like flagship TVs. In fact, they've generally looked a bit dated. This is not, however, an accusation you could level at the Panasonic TX-L42WT50.
Panasonic has completely revamped its aesthetics, combining a new 'Glass & Metal' design ethos with a super-slim bezel and trim backside that finally enables this venerable Japanese brand to go toe to toe in design terms with the most glamorous offerings from the two big Korean AV brands.
The Panasonic TX-L42WT50 has all the connections that matter too, despite its diminished rear end. Finding four v1.4 HDMIs for 3D and HD digital playback is no less than we would expect of a flagship TV in 2012. But it's certainly good to find Panasonic also more than acknowledging the importance of multimedia in today's world by providing three USBs, an SD slot and integrated Wi-Fi for multimedia playback.
The Wi-Fi support runs to both streaming from DLNA PCs and going online with Panasonic's Viera Connect online service, while the USB and SD card slots also permit you to record to suitably formatted devices from the built-in Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners.
The Panasonic TX-L42WT50 even carries built-in Bluetooth. This can't be used for streaming files from Bluetooth devices, but it can be used for 'attaching' Bluetooth keyboards or external Bluetooth speakers.
As with a growing number of TVs this year, the Panasonic TX-L42WT50 ships with two remote controls: a typical button-laden one, and a smaller, more spartan affair that features a trackpad at its top for supposedly enhanced navigation of web pages. More on this new remote later, in the Usability section of this review.
You can also control the Panasonic TX-L42WT50 via your Android or iOS device courtesy of a new Viera Control app - an app that additionally and rather brilliantly enables you to throw content from your TV to your portable device and vice-versa.
Other notable accessories contained in the Panasonic TX-L42WT50's box are two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses. The Panasonic TX-L42WT50 is far from the only TV in Panasonic's 2012 LCD TV range to sport active 3D playback, but the WT50 series is the only one that gets any glasses included free.
Needless to say, the inclusion of these glasses increases the likelihood of purchasers of the set actually using its 3D capabilities - and makes its somewhat steep £2,195 (around $3,460) price tag slightly easier to swallow.
As you would expect given how slender it is, the Panasonic TX-L42WT50 uses Edge LED lighting. And this lighting features local dimming driven by the Smart Viera Engine Pro video processing system reserved exclusively for the dual-core WT50 series.
The screen also boasts an inevitable Full HD resolution, and an unprecedentedly high 1600Hz backlight scanning system for, hopefully, Panasonic's most accomplished LCD motion performance to date. The 1600Hz figure is derived, for those of you interested in such technicalities, by combining a native 200Hz panel design with an 8x-per-frame blinking backlight.
With a bit of luck, the Panasonic TX-L42WT50's motion processing power should aid it in reproducing 3D without judder or crosstalk noise. Mind you, come to think of it, Panasonic's top-end LCD TVs last year were impressively crosstalk-free even without such high-falutin' picture processing power.
As with the majority of Panasonic TVs this year, the L42WT50 gets the latest incarnation of the Viera Connect online platform. This has now become a very satisfying online experience for the most part, combining a solid (though certainly still improvable) content level with a well-developed and presented online market for adding apps and even hardware accessories to your TV experience.
The Panasonic TX-L42WT50 also deserves kudos for the multitasking feature made possible by the dual-core processing. This enables you to have up to six different apps running at once, with you being able to flick more or less instantly between them via a couple of presses of the remote control.
This makes the set's multimedia features feel more fully integrated into the Panasonic TX-L42WT50's overall experience, and certainly makes the TV much easier to get the most out of.
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The key online services currently look like this: Netflix, AceTrax, BBC iPlayer, Skype (with an optional extra camera), YouTube, EuroSport, BBC News, Fetch TV, Twitter, Facebook, Euronews, CNBC Real Time, DailyMotion, Aupeo internet radio, iConcerts, Viewster, Vimeo and Picasa. There's also Indian cinema service BIGFlix VOD, Break Comedy, UStream TV, Red Karaoke and MLB.tv baseball.
Plus a Withings app enables Wi-Fi scales to communicate your weight to the TV so it can chart your weight loss and BMI, while an iFit Live app enables you to connect iLive fitness devices - such as an upcoming Viera treadmill - and run them in conjunction with Viera Connect features such as Google Earth.
And finally there are some genuinely impressive games, courtesy of Gameloft. Asphalt 5 and Let's Golf 2 in particular provide a near console-like experience with their graphics and gameplay that you don't currently get on any other brands' online TV platform.
As with all online TV systems, moreover, there's more Viera Connect content on the way, with Disney Books and MySpace services already signed up. Hopefully LoveFilm might get on there at some point too, although we haven't received any firm information to this effect.