Panasonic tx-p42st30b

Once you get past the TX-P42ST30B's unappealing cosmetics you find there's a fair amount going on that meets most of today's TV buyer's needs, including Smart TV in the guise of the revamped Viera Connect service, wireless (via an optional USB adaptor) or hard-wired networking (not DLNA), 3D capability and a comprehensive set of connections.

The sockets include an interface for a pay-TV module, an SD card slot for ultra-quick viewing of camera snaps and videos, two HDD/flash memory-compatible USB sockets and four HDMI sockets, one of which is side-facing for quick access and wall-mounting, while the rest face backwards. This is good news for stand-mounting as it avoids unsightly cables projecting out of the side, but wall-mounters may find the single side-facing HDMI annoying.

Analogue connections include composite video and a headphone socket, while a digital optical connection can send sound from the broadcast tuner to a separate amp.

Another connection of a sort is Viera Connect, a straightforward Smart TV proposition with several popular portals built-in including Picasa, YouTube, Acetrax, Twitter, Skype and the iPlayer, which finally joins the Viera party.

The new cloud-based app marketplace gives the service room to grow and - assuming your broadband connection is up to the task - has the potential to deliver all your visual entertainment and social networking needs direct to this screen without involving a separate computer.

There's nothing terribly revolutionary about the panel's picture processing except a fast switching phosphor that Panasonic claims reduces crosstalk, which could have a significant effect on 3D enjoyment and improve 2D images.

The range of picture tweaks is more or less sensibly restricted to a number of basics with 3D options and the much-debated '600Hz' sub-field drive IFC (Intelligent Field Creation) of the most interest. C.A.T.S (Contrast Automatic Tracking System) and P-NR (picture noise reduction) respectively optimise the picture according to the ambient light and set the noise reduction to one of several presets.