The quality of the video produced by the Panasonic Viera remote control app is surprisingly good, sound is fine too (within the limitations of the speakers on your smart device) and the feed seems impressively stable on both Apple and Android platforms. Also handy is the way you can turn off the TV’s screen just by pressing an icon at the top right of your portable device’s screen.
The potential for this feature is clear, allowing you to take pictures from the TV all around your house and even outside so long as you can still connect to your network. (For in case you hadn’t realised, all the stuff we’ve been talking about is delivered by a carefully handled DLNA implementation.)
Viera Viewer Limitations
Your network range isn’t the only limitation of the Viera Viewer, though. For instance, even though the GT50, WT50 and VT50 TVs have both Freeview and Freesat tuners, you can’t watch one channel on your portable device while watching another on the TV. You can only reproduce what the screen is showing.
You also can’t reproduce on your portable device anything you’re watching on the TV’s AV inputs, and anything with copyright protection will also fail to play. This limitation is entirely understandable, though.
Up next on the feature icon list is something just called "Pad". This allows you to operate basic features of the TV via specific gestures. For instance, one finger tap means enter; swiping up, down, left and right moves around the menus in the appropriate direction; up-down two finger swiping changes the channel up or down; two finger left/right rotating adjusts the volume; while pinching your fingers together activates mute.
It’s an interesting idea and one that may gain more currency with us as time goes by. But for now we’re not sure people will bother investing the time needed to learn what all your gestures can do.
The Keyboard icon up next is self-explanatory, though it’s worth adding that here, again, the Android version provides a Mic button for spoken word input.
The last intriguing feature of the Viera App allows your portable device to be used as a Gamepad control. As you would expect, it turns the screen into a virtual joystick, with left and right trigger buttons at the top, a rather elegant movement ‘circle’ to bottom left, a Start button to bottom centre, and 1, 2, 3, and 4 buttons arranged in a diamond to bottom right.
Trying the system with a couple of games available through the Viera Connect market, Asphalt and Let’s Golf 2, the system worked better than expected in some ways - though it feels much more comfortable on the slightly smaller screen of our Sony tablet than it does on an iPad, and actually works best on the much smaller screens of a Smartphone. If you’ve got a first-gen iPad you’ll probably find the Game Controller part of the Viera App almost unusable given how much tablet weight you’ve got to wrestle with while simultaneously trying to spread your fingers right across the huge screen.
All in all, we’ve been impressed with the comprehensiveness of the Viera Remote App’s offering. But we have to wrap up by mentioning one trick it’s definitely currently missing: some way of remotely browsing the Freeview and Freesat listings. After all, as we’ve seen from Sky’s Sky app, browsing and selecting from dozens of channels and days of programme listings is a million times easier on a swipe-able touchscreen device than it is on a standard TV screen.
While shouting across the room, ferreting around with touchpad remote controls or even - maybe - waving your arms at your TV might all be fine as control alternatives for people who haven’t got a tablet or smartphone, having spent time with Panasonic’s latest Viera App we’re left in no doubt that it’s here that the true future of TV controls lies.