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Panasonic Viera TX-P42G15 42in plasma TV
It's a testament to the sheer enormity of Panasonic's 2009 TV range that despite having already tested what feels like dozens of the brand's models over recent months, we've still managed to get our hands today on a series we haven't covered before. That series is the G15 range, featuring two models: the 46in TX-P46G15 and the 42in TX-P42G15 that's sat on my test bench now.
Probably the most helpful way to start out this review is by delineating the key differences between the P42G15 and the step-down Viera P42G10 we looked at a month or so ago.
One obvious distinction jumps out right away, as the P42G15's desktop stand wears a fetching shiny silver finish versus the black of the P42G10. Otherwise the TVs appear to be identical aesthetically, with gloss black bezels saved from monotony by a little arc and a splash of silvery white along the bottom edge. For my money, though, the silver stand of the P42G15 definitely gives it a style edge over its cheaper sibling.
The P42G15 also edges out the P42G10 when it comes to connections, by providing four HDMIs rather than three - one down the side, and three on the rear. Also, the P42G15's SD card slot can play MPEG2 and DivX files as well as the AVCHD and JPEG stills supported by the P42G10.
It turns out, too, that the LAN port tucked away on the P42G15's rear isn't just there for future Freesat functionality, as is the case with the equivalent jack on the P42G10. For the P42G15's LAN jack can additionally access files stored on a connected, DLNA-capable PC, or Panasonic's VieraCast online service.
VieraCast, as discussed in detail in our review of Panasonic's P46Z1B recently, is actually a pretty decent effort. Early showings of the system had led me to expect precious little interesting UK content, but actually the three main providers currently on offer - Eurosport, YouTube and Picasa - do add up to a pretty satisfactory package. The presentation is first class, too, and there's always the potential - indeed, likelihood - of other service providers turning up on VieraCast at some point in the future.
With the main differences between the P42G15 and P42G10 dealt with, I can leave the comparisons behind and just stick with the P42G15 in isolation.
Unless you're skim reading, you probably noticed me mention Freesat back there. For as with all the models in the top half of Panasonic's range, the plasma-based P42G15 sports a built-in Freesat tuner, including the ability to receive the digital satellite platform's HD services. Panasonic is still one of only two brands offering Freesat TVs so far - the other being LG. The TV also carries Freeview and analogue tuners, and supports separate electronic programme guides for both of its digital broadcast providers.