In presentational terms, Panasonic’s Viera Cast system is excellent. Pressing a single, dedicated Viera Cast button on the remote calls up a nice 'home' screen, where the picture from the TV programme you’re watching continues playing in reduced form in the centre, while seven further boxes appear around the central box. Six of those boxes provide direct access to highlights of the Viera Cast service, while the seventh takes you to a setup and help menu.
At the time of writing, the six content providers highlighted on the home screen are: DailyMotion, Skype, AceTrax, EuroSport, YouTube and Picasa.
Choose any of these options, and they take full control of the screen - though returning to the home screen is no more complicated than pushing left on the remote control.
In DailyMotion you will find a YouTube-esque video serving platform, with top-rated videos accessible from the top menu option. You can also explore the DailyMotion content via its 'channels', set up favourites, see what the top Members are doing, and search for content related to anything you’re interested in.
The service includes an HD channel, and this delivers its content with good stability. The icons available for stuff like rewinding and making full screen are a bit small, perhaps, but for the most part Panasonic has handled the DailyMotion content very well.
To be honest we don’t find the DailyMotion video content as rewarding as the more random offering of YouTube - even though it’s arguably more 'creative’. But maybe that’s just us.
The Skype service, meanwhile, is only currently a beta version, and we weren’t able to test it out as we haven’t been able to get one of the optional cameras Panasonic makes for its Viera Cast TVs. But Panasonic assures us that the Skype feature is fully working despite its beta status.
AceTrax is a relatively new addition to Viera Cast, but it’s a biggie. For it allows you to set up an account connected to the TV, and then stream either rented or bought feature films onto your Panasonic TV. These films appear to include the majority of titles just out on DVD, though it’s rather disappointing that currently there’s no HD content.
The latest films typically cost around £3.50 to rent, or £10.99 to buy. If you buy a film, it is stored in an online 'cloud' for you to access whenever you wish.
The YouTube access, meanwhile, is pretty much as expected - though again we found the system for exploring YouTube content to be slightly more friendly than usual.