The first thing the Viera Remote app does is look for and recognise your model of Panasonic TV (an L42WT50 in our case). After that your activity is based around a list of control icons along the bottom of the screen, kicking off with ‘Cursor’.
As its name suggests, this leaves most of the screen clear so you can use finger movements to directly control a pointer on the TV. Also present are representations of the red, green, yellow and blue ‘shortcut’ buttons found on normal Panasonic remotes, plus Exit and Return buttons to aid menu navigation, and a shortcut to the TV’s Viera Tools multimedia menus.
As a means of navigating menus, and especially the web browser which we’ll get to in a minute, this is a vastly superior solution to both normal remotes and the unhelpful touchpad remote Panasonic provides free with all WT50 TVs.
The next icon says Remote, and reproduces a virtual representation of all the key button sections of a normal Panasonic remote control on your smart device’s screen. We say "sections" because it splits groups of buttons across multiple swipe-to pages. The first page just has the mute, TV, AV, channel up/down and volume up/down buttons, for instance, while swiping right once calls up the main cursor navigation and OK buttons. Swiping right again calls up shortcuts to key features like 3D, Media Player, Aspect ratio. And so on.
Things start to get more interesting with the browser button. This calls up a Panasonic browser, which you can either use as normal on your table or phone, or ‘throw’ onto the TV’s screen if you want to share a website you’ve found with the rest of your family.
All you have to do to make the browser appear on your TV is hold your finger down on your portable screen until a little icon with an arrow at the top appears, then swipe your finger up. This tells the TV to replace what it’s showing with a reproduction of the browser screen on your tablet. You can then control the browser via the cursor screen in the app in conjunction with a row of thoughtfully useful icons along the top of the on-TV browser.
It’s worth reminding you here that if you’re using the Android version and you select a text input field, a little Mic icon within the on-tablet/phone keyboard lets you speak the text you want to insert into the field.
The next function icon, dubbed Media, lets you play on your Panasonic TV the photo, video and (on the Android version) music files you’ve got stored on your portable device. Just select the photo, video or song you want to play and it can be sent to the TV via a simple ‘throw’ icon at the top of your portable screen.
If you’ve selected a photo, you can easily scroll through your photo collection via forward and backwards buttons on the app screen, while your photos on the TV are accompanied by some entirely unpleasant piano music.
An Apple crash? Surely not!
During our tests this Media feature proved a little unstable, especially on Apple devices, causing the app to crash out fairly regularly. But doubtless this will get sorted by future updates.
It’s the next feature, the Viera Viewer, that really makes the new Viera app special, though. It lets you watch the broadcast being shown on the TV on your portable device, or even broadcasts you’ve got recorded onto an SD card if you’ve got one slotted into the TV.
You just select the TV or SD card content you want to watch from the Viera Viewer list, and after a short delay while the video stream is transcoded, the picture on your TV miraculously appears on your portable screen too. The pictures on your portable are a few seconds behind those on the TV, but this doesn’t really matter under most circumstances.