Since the demise of its brilliant plasmas, Panasonic has gone a bit down-market.
2014 has so far seen Panasonic concentrate on entry-level and mid-range TVs, with the obvious exception of the 4K-ready AX800 and AX900 Series.
The TX-42AS600 stands-out by being the most affordable way to get Freetime.
Selling for £499 (RRP £699.99) at the time of writing (only in the UK and Europe) the 42-inch TX-42AS600 is distinctly mid-market, yet Panasonic has piled-on the features.
This Full HD LED TV is blessed with My Home Screen, perhaps the best looking and most helpful smart TV platform around. It also has an integrated Freeview HD tuner, which comes with Freetime for super-easy navigation.
Add a bunch of apps, including Netflix and BBC iPlayer, along with a dual core processor and the TX-42AS600 could be something special.
Out of the box it impresses with its super-slim 7mm bezel, though that's a characteristic of even budget small TVs in Panasonic's 2014 range. Where it differs hugely is the overall design, which eschews gloss black for a more refined metallic-look.
Measuring 552x947x53mm and slimmer than many rival TVs, there's no escaping the massive whiff of plastic that's all-encompassing amid the feather-light build. If it doesn't look like a high-end TV on close inspection, however, it's got more than enough going on inside to make it a real contender for living rooms that want convenience and web connectivity.
Perhaps the key addition to the TX-42AS600 is Freetime, a competitor to YouView that lets users roll-back through seven days of TV listings and watch catch-up services like BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD and Demand 5.
My Home Screen is a polished smart TV user interface that will soon be complemented by software called My Stream. This is a new-for-2014 concept that powers a Showcase recommendation system for TV programmes that match your viewing habits.
Netflix and the full suite of BBC apps – BBC iPlayer, BBC News and BBC Sport – star, with the lack of ITV Layer, Demand Five and 4OD rendered irrelevant given their appearance within Freetime.
YouTube, Wuaki.tv, Meteonews TV, Eurosport Player, CNBC Real-Time, Aupeo radio, Skype, Euronews, Facebook, Twitter and AccuWeather.com are within the TX-42AS600's central apps page, with more distractions, games and utilities available in Panasonic's Apps Market.
Elsewhere there's just enough tech in the TX-42AS600 to make it a serious proposition, with 100Hz scanning (though it's merely a backlight algorithm rather than the real thing) for its panel and that dual core processor to keep everything well-oiled.
The rear of the TX-42AS600 hosts a panel for the majority of the ins and outs. Three HDMI inputs (one of them Audio Return Channel-compatible) nestle alongside an RGB Scart, a set of component video inputs, some left/right stereo phonos, an RF aerial feed, a digital optical audio output, and an Ethernet LAN slot (though a Wi-Fi module is also present).
A side-panel nearby adds a Common Interface slot for adding subscription TV channels to the Freeview HD tuner as well as a 3.5mm headphones jack and two USB slots. It's a shame Panasonic appears to have dropped the SD Card slot from its TVs, which was always a unique highlight.
The AS600 Series comes in two other sizes, the 32-inch Panasonic TX-32AS600 and the 50-inch Panasonic TX-50AS600, though there are cheaper options below and much pricier versions above in Panasonic's range. Below are the basic A400 and AS500 sets, while above are the AS640/AS650/AS680 (which add 3D, Hexa Core processing and the new Life+ user interface), the twin-tuner AS750, the AS800 (LED local dimming), AX800 (4K resolution) and AX900 (4K and a slinky design).