It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that 2012 is the year of alternative control systems. So it’s not entirely surprising to find an impressively advanced iOS and Android Viera app for the Panasonic TX-L42WT50 that allows you to share video between your portable device and your TV. Indeed, this app is so flexible and representative of what will likely be the shape of control systems to come that we're going to be looking at in a dedicated review in the next few days.
Panasonic has additionally joined the trend for supplying two separate remote controls, providing a cute little touch-pad affair alongside the more conventional remote.
Only available with the WT50 models in Panasonic’s new TV range, this second remote seems on paper to be a mighty fine idea. After all, as we discovered with the touchpad remote supplied with the Samsung 55ES8000 TVs, exploring onscreen menus and especially surfing the internet is much easier with a touchpad than a normal remote.
However, it quickly becomes apparent that Panasonic’s take on the touchpad needs a bit of work. For a start, the area available for moving your fingers is too small - especially as the relative insensitivity of the pad means you often have to move your finger quite extravagantly to get the onscreen to cursor to move.
Remote control concerns
The circular shape of the touchpad seems counter-intuitive too, as it’s completely different to the rectangular shape of the screen the cursor is operating in.
Yet another problem is the way you have to jab the pad to select a link or onscreen keypad letter. The amount of pressure needed seemed variable during our tests, and we also frequently found simply applying our fingers to the touchpad ready to move it around would cause the pad to think we’d pressed it to select something.
With a little practice the second remote does become more usable and even sometimes helpful - but there’s certainly still a lot of room for improvement.
We should cover Panasonic’s Viera Connect service before we go any further. But as we’ve covered this in detail in other recent Panasonic reviews, such as the one of the Panasonic L42ET5, we’ll restrict ourselves here to just listing the highlight services: Netflix, AceTrax, the BBC iPlayer, Skype (via an optional extra camera), YouTube, EuroSport, BBC News, Fetch TV, Twitter and Facebook.
The Panasonic L42WT50 is well equipped with picture adjustments, as you would expect of a flagship TV. In fact, the set is so flexible that it’s endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation. Among the highlight options are white balance and gamma adjustments, as well as Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation motion processing and the option to turn on or off the set’s ‘Area Dimmer Control’, which introduces a degree of local dimming to the edge LED system.
Enthusiasts will probably welcome, too, a new '1080p Direct' mode that essentially turns off all the TV's noise reduction and scaling circuitry, so you can enjoy a high quality source in its purest form.
Finally we get to the L42WT50’s picture quality. Has Panasonic been able to deliver plenty of quality despite the sudden shift to such a radically slim design?
Let’s start with what’s for our money the star of the show: its 3D pictures. These look bright, colourful, wonderfully detailed, full of depth and... well, not far off perfect. They even manage to largely avoid active 3D’s dreaded crosstalk problems, except for very minor traces of it that appear only under the most taxing of circumstances, such as the occasional shot where Mother Gothel sings "Mother Knows Best" against a near-black backdrop in Tangled.