Review Price £1,022.07
Panasonic Viera TX-P42VT20B
After recently feeling a touch underwhelmed by Panasonic’s new entry-level 3D screen, the P42GT20, we find ourselves on more predictably happy ground today with Panasonic’s flagship 42in 3D TV, the P42VT20.
For a start, the set actually has a vague stab at being stylish, thanks to its unusual brownish colour scheme. Despite this, though, the overall look remains almost painfully conservative, in keeping with almost all of Panasonic’s current TVs bar, perhaps, the multi-coloured D28 range.
The P42VT20’s connections are much more cutting edge. For as well as four v1.4 (and thus 3D capable) HDMIs, you get jacks for both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners, as well as plenty of multimedia support, including an Ethernet jack, a pair of USB ports, and an SD card slot.
The Ethernet port, as we would expect of a flagship TV this year, enables you to access Freeview HD interactive features, files stored on a DLNA PC, and Panasonic’s online Viera Cast service, with its roster of ring-fenced content. The USBs, meanwhile, can play a selection of photo, music and video file formats. Or else you can insert a supplied dongle into one of them to make the TV Wi-Fi capable, or attach one of Buffalo’s JustStore Desktop HD-EU2-UK HDDs for instant recording from the built-in digital tuners.
As we’ve said many times, it’s a shame Panasonic’s recording system only appears to support a single USB storage brand. But at least the system does work well if you happen to have a suitable Buffalo drive lying around, with seemingly lossless-quality recordings of HD and standard def sources.
Viera Cast was arguably the leading online TV service for a brief moment when it first launched, and it still has arguably the most attractive and straightforward interface (a surprise given the dated look of most of the TV’s other menus). But while its content levels are solid, with highlights of the AceTrax movie purchase/rental service, Twitter, Eurosport, YouTube, and Skype, it’s now looking a little limited versus what some rival brands are offering.
Panasonic has apparently finally realised that the sort of person likely to buy a flagship level of TV might well be interested in endorsements from THX and the Imaging Science Foundation. The P42VT20 has both, with THX providing a really movie-friendly picture preset, and the ISF providing two professional picture setting slots that one of its engineers could use to calibrate the TV for you. It’s worth noting here that in order to access all the calibration tools the TV carries, you first need to activate an 'Advanced' (isfccc) option in the TV’s Setup menu.
If you do this, the options available include the facility to adjust the gain and cut-off levels of the red, green and blue colour components, and a series of gamma adjustments. This still doesn’t make the P42VT20 as comprehensive in the calibration department as we’d ideally like, but it’s a big improvement on anything Panasonic has done before.