It's perhaps a bit ironic that arguably our favourite 2012 Panasonic LCD TV to date isn't in fact all Panasonic's own work. For the 42-inch Panasonic Viera TX-L42ET5 - Panasonic's first foray into the passive 3D world - is actually built around a panel sourced from the inventor of current passive 3D TV technology, LG.
Of course, though, with more and more brands finding it ever harder to manufacture their own panels, it's far from uncommon for TVs to have panels at their heart that might not come from the brands badged on their front. And in any case, so long as a TV turns out to be good, does it really matter where one element of it comes from?
Panasonic TX-L55ET5 Design
Hopefully the Panasonic TX-L55ET5B we're looking at here will prove the truth of this thought process. As its name suggests it's a 55-inch version of the Panasonic Viera TX-L42ET5, with its extra size having the potential to take the qualities enjoyed on its smaller sibling to another level. Or, we guess, expose weaknesses in the ET5's make up that we hadn't previously clocked.
The Panasonic TX-L55ET5 is a hefty chunk of TV. At more than an inch deep, its bezel has no desire to follow the fad of making picture frames as narrow as possible, while its rear is hardly the thinnest either. The biggest shock, though, comes when you lift the TV for wall hanging or slotting onto its provided desktop stand. Weighing in on the extremely heavy side of LCD TV standards, the 55-inch model gives Panasonic's legendary heavy plasmas a run for their money.
The deep grey colour scheme for the bezel and the few millimetres of transparent outer trim that wraps around all four of the TV's sides ensure that the TX-L55ET5 wears its bulk reasonably well - though we didn't find the design quite as likable at the 55-inch size as we did on the 42-inch model.
Panasonic TX-L55ET5 Connectivity
Connectivity is strong. Four HDMIs is on a par with most premium TVs these days, while its three USBs, SD card slot and integrated Wi-Fi provide more than enough means of handling a modern family's multimedia needs. Panasonic isn't totally comprehensive in its multimedia file type support as some rivals, but it's flexible enough for just about everyone to find something they can work with.
Panasonic TX-L55ET5 Online Features
The Wi-Fi (or LAN if you'd rather hardwire the TX-L55ET5 into your network) can also be used to take Panasonic's TV online, with the brand's Panasonic Viera Connect service. This is evolving quite nicely now. Certainly it’s one of the most stable and fluid online TV platforms around at present, and its marketplace interface is as good an example of an on-TV shopping experience as we've seen.
Key services available at the time of writing include the inevitable (unless you're Sharp!) BBC iPlayer, BBC News, Skype, EuroSport, YouTube, BBC Sport, AceTrax Movies, iConcerts, Netflix, Euronews and Daily Motion. Which leaves LoveFilm as the most noticeable and perplexing absentee.
So far as non video streaming apps are concerned, the highlights are an open Web browser, Twitter and Facebook apps, and a selection of games available via the marketplace. Two of these - Asphalt 5 and Let's Golf 2 - are streets ahead of the simple games available on rival Smart TV platforms in terms of their sophistication and quality.
When it comes to picture tweaks, the Panasonic TX-L55ET5 is adequately, rather than extravagantly, equipped. It lets you adjust the gain and 'cutoff' of the red, green and blue colour elements, and provides a handful of different settings for the TV's gamma - including the all-important 2.2 level generally best suited to video viewing.