Panasonic TX-L42ET60B review

Pros

  • Sharp, punchy pictures
  • My Home Screen
  • Classy styling

Cons

  • Needs more catch-up TV
  • Black depth

Panasonic has tweaked its 3D strategy this year, using passive and active technology to make a clear distinction between LCD and plasma. So now, all of its 3D-capable LCDs use the passive system, while the active system is reserved for its plasma TVs. Simple.

This makes sense given that plasma is the choice for enthusiasts who prize picture quality above all else and want 3D in all its Full HD glory.

As an LED LCD set, the ET60 series falls into the passive camp, catering for buyers who want a relatively cheap and convenient way of watching 3D but aren’t so bothered about picture quality. You get two pairs of passive glasses in the box, which isn’t particularly charitable but extra pairs are much cheaper to buy than active glasses.

But there’s far more to this set than just 3D. The big talking point is Panasonic’s new My Home Screen interface, which takes personalisation to a whole new level.

The TX-L42ET60 is one of four sets in the range, alongside 55in, 50in and 47in models, and in terms of spec it’s one step up from the TX-L32E6B with more powerful processing and extra features.

Design and connections

Let’s not beat about the bush – the TX-L42ET60B is a fine-looking set. Its silver finish brings an instant sense of class and elegance, although there’s not much of it to see because the bezel is so narrow (roughly 1cm).

Along the bottom edge is a snazzy transparent strip, while the supplied table stand sports a silver finish. It’s plain and rectangular – none of that 'floating' business here – but it looks the part, and unlike the TX-L32E6B’s static stand it swivels through 30 degrees.

The pretty styling on the front is backed up by a robustly built back-end, where you’ll find a modest selection of sockets. Some people might be aggrieved by the provision of three HDMIs given that some rivals offer four at this price – but three should just about cover it.

You’ll also find shared component/composite video inputs, SCART input (via adapter cable), optical digital audio output, two USB ports for media playback, a Common Interface slot and an Ethernet port. It’s also pleasing to see an SD card slot, quite a rarity these days. All the connections are either downwards or sideways facing, making things easy when wall-mounting.

Features

The TX-L42ET60B boasts a great-looking feature list, headlined by Viera Connect, Panasonic’s online content portal – accessed through the set’s built-in Wi-Fi connection.

The range of apps includes BBC iPlayer, Netflix, BBC Sport, BBC News, Eurosport Player, YouTube, Acetrax, Facebook and Twitter, plus Skype video calling, which requires the optional camera (the £90 TY-CC20W).

BBC iPlayer is as welcome as ever, but I’d like to see more catch-up TV content – specifically ITV Player, Demand 5 and 4OD, which are found on Samsung’s Smart Hub.

The set can also stream media files from DLNA servers on your home network. The list of supported formats includes AVI, XviD, WMV, MP4, AVCHD, MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC, WAV and JPEG, but we got a ‘File Not Supported’ message from MKV and DivX – those can only be played from USB devices.

The built-in TV tuner is of the Freeview HD variety, bringing you the usual mixture of free SD and HD channels. Sadly, you can’t record these onto USB hard-disk drives.

Picture features include an IPS LED panel with 600Hz Backlight Scanning, which controls the backlight in six separate blocks to reduce motion blur. There’s also an Ambient Sensor, which automatically adjusts contrast according to the light in the room, and a range of presets including the impressive True Cinema setting.

These are joined by a scarily detailed array of picture tweaks, which let you calibrate images to within an inch of their lives if you’re up for it.

Install the Viera Remote2 app on your iOS or Android device and it opens up a bunch of other cool tricks, like Swipe and Share 2.0. This lets you send photos, videos and web pages from the device to the screen with the swipe of a finger (and pull it from the TV to the device). Swipe with two fingers and it’ll save the media instead.

Additionally, the app’s Remote Play feature lets you use the device as a second display, while App Launcher lets you browse Viera Connect content.

Operation

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Handy setup wizards get you up and running, setting up Wi-Fi and installing TV channels.

Panasonic’s new My Home Screen interface is terrific. It’s based around a series of different screens, each one featuring a live TV feed surrounded by boxes, which contain apps, shortcuts and photos – but the clever part is that you can choose what’s displayed.

There are a few default pages – TV Home Screen, Lifestyle Screen and Info Screen – which you can scroll through using a slick menu system. These three menus display different content on the right hand side of the screen – a mini EPG, a calendar and web bookmarks respectively. The menus are attractive, easy to follow and feature colour-coded shortcuts along the top.

Meanwhile, an Add New Screen option lets you build up a page from scratch from a variety of templates.

The Apps screen is a vast improvement on the multi-page Viera Connect menu of old – here, all of the apps are presented in a single screen, which is helpfully superimposed over the live TV picture.

All of the other menus are easy to navigate, particularly the EPG, which squeezes in a live TV box and seven-channel programme grid – although too much of the screen is taken up explaining what all the buttons do. The Freeview info banner lets you browse now and next details, but nothing more.

The Setup and Options menus are straightforward lists with bold white text, while colourful graphics jazz up the Media Player intro screen – although the content itself is displayed in drab grey boxes.

Panasonic’s remotes always feel like they’ve been designed with a child in mind – and I mean that as a compliment. This one is no different, with its large rubbery buttons and shouty labelling making it an absolute cinch to use.

Performance

After spending a while pulling the contrast levels down and tweaking the in-yer-face default settings, the TX-L42ET60B delivers superb pictures. You sense Panasonic is holding a bit back for its premium sets, but for the money it really is impressive.

There’s an effortless punch and clarity to its pictures. Contrasts are dramatic, detail is pin-sharp and colours are rendered with a natural tone.This is perfectly demonstrated with a viewing of The Hobbit – the screen makes those dreamy New Zealand backdrops look pristine and believable.

Luscious greens and deep blue skies fill the picture, flashback scenes look rich and glossy and shots of Goblin Town are peppered with an obscene amount of CG detail.

It also does a decent job with dark scenes, although blacks lack the profound depth of the best LEDs – they have a faint ‘glow’ in certain areas. But detail is still visible amid the shadowy recesses of Bilbo’s home and during the Stone Giants battle it’s never hard to make out what’s going on.

Ambient Sensor and Adaptive Backlight Control are best turned off though – I found the involuntary jumps in contrast and brightness distracting.

Slipping on the passive glasses and switching to The Hobbit’s 3D disc, I was impressed by the effortlessness of its images. It conveys shots of Mirkwood with a remarkable sense of depth and distance, layering the trees, shrubs and shards of light beautifully while keeping crosstalk at bay.

The passive system’s inevitable drop in resolution and the appearance of horizontal lines means the wow factor is never quite there, but this does nothing to subdue the impressive sense of immersion.

The set’s upscaling skills are impressive too, making everything from Freeview to iPlayer web video look clean and sharp.

Sound

Given its remarkably slim 35mm depth, it comes as a pleasant surprise that the TX-L42ET60B’s sound quality is rather good. Panasonic has somehow squeezed a 75mm woofer into the slim chassis alongside 2 x 4W speakers, which offers a more fulsome sound than most LED TVs. It doesn’t stir the emotions like a proper home cinema system, but has a jolly good go.

There’s plenty of bass on offer, with that woofer giving explosions and deep voices body and punch, which is great for movie playback. On the downside, the speakers are a little thin and reedy, plus they strain when you push the volume, but on the whole this is a decent effort.

Verdict

On reflection, the TX-L42ET60B has more in the pros column than the cons, which makes it worth investigating. Its picture quality is impressive from all sources – despite its underwhelming black depth – and its passive 3D talents make for a comfortable, immersive viewing experience. What’s more, the new My Home Screen and Apps menus are a triumph, there are tasty network features on-board and the glamorous silver styling and robust build quality are better than many sets at this price. What we’re less impressed by, however, is the lack of new Viera Connect content this year – without more catch-up TV Panasonic’s web portal will forever be in Samsung’s shadow.

Specifications

Manufacturer and model

Panasonic TX-L42ET60B

Screen size (inches)

42

Resolution

1,920 x 1,080

Screen technology

IPS LCD

Backlight technology

LED

Digital tuner

Freeview HD

3D ready

Yes

3D technology

Passive

3D glasses supplied

2 pairs

2D-to-3D conversion

Yes

Wi-Fi

Yes, built-in

Online content

Viera Connect

DLNA streaming

Yes

Smartphone control

Yes

Contrast ratio

Not given

Brightness

Not given

Refresh rate

600Hz Backlight Scanning

Speaker power

18W (2 x 4W & 10W woofer)

Energy efficiency class

A+

Dimensions (with stand, W x H x D)

956 x 620 x 227 mm

Dimensions (w/o stand, W x H x D)

956 x 564 x 35 mm

HDMI

3

Component

1

Composite

1

SCART

1

Digital audio output

1 (optical)

PC input

No

USB

2

SD card slot

Yes

Ethernet

Yes

CI slot

Yes