New DLNA infrastructure and an excellent-looking new – and free – Panasonic control app for iOS and Android devices enable a host of benefits for people who own smart devices. You can, for instance, control almost every aspect of your TV – including browsing TV listings, setting up your Home Screen options, and even calibrating your picture settings – on your smart device, without interrupting what’s been watched on the main TV.
You can also share video, music or photo content between your portable device/networked storage devices and the TV simply by swiping a finger forward or backward (depending on whether you’re throwing content onto the TV, or grabbing video from it) across your smart device.
This year, moreover, if you use two fingers to swipe your smart portable device content to the TV, that content will be stored onto a USB storage device or SD card if you’ve got one installed in the TV.
The fact you can use your tablet or phone to watch video from the TV brings us to the final critical element in what really is shaping up to be a seriously impressive Smart TV offering from Panasonic this year: twin tuner support. Many of Panasonic’s TVs this year carry two tuners so that one person can watch one broadcast programme on the main TV while another watches a different programme streamed from the TV to their Smart device. In fact, Panasonic TVs that feature both Freesat and Freeview HD support will ship with FOUR tuners; two Freesat and two Freeview HD. These sets will even let you watch a Freesat programme on the TV while watching a Freeview channel on the tuner, or vice versa. (In the unlikely event that you actually want to do such a thing!)
It’s also the twin tuner functionality, of course, which lets you see running video from programmes highlighted on the EPG while using the TV Home Screen menu.
The twin tuner support further enables you to record one programme to a USB device or SD card while you watch another, or record two different programmes simultaneously. And it marks the re-emergence of the sort of picture in picture dual viewing options that were once fairly common back in the old CRT TV days.
In short, the addition of twin tuners to so many of Panasonic’s latest TVs is a stroke of genius that lets you enjoy your TV content in a much more convenient and flexible way.
Not every element of Panasonic’s new Smart operating system looks totally successful. In particular, the new Electronic Touchpen system you can use to interact directly with the screens of some of Panasonic’s plasma TVs feels like a misfire; this idea was pointless when LG tried it on a TV a couple of years back, and it looks like it’s still pretty pointless now.
Overall, though, the combination of my Home Screen, enhanced support for tablet/phone secondary devices and the introduction of twin tuners results in a Smart experience that represents a quantum leap over previous Panasonic smart TV interfaces. So much so that from what we’ve seen to date, Panasonic’s 2013 Smart TVs could give the previous Smart champs of LG and Samsung something to get really hot under the collar about.