If ever there was a TV with the on-paper specs and already-proven heritage to have us drooling, it’s the P42V20. For its specification is mighty similar to Panasonic’s VT20 3D TVs, minus the 3D functionality. And regular readers will know how well the P50VT20 fared when we reviewed it recently.
The reality of reviewing the P42V20 starts with a surprise, though, as it wears a distinctive grey colour scheme in place of the usual Panasonic black, or the bronze colour enjoyed by the VT20 models. This grey almost looks metallic thanks to the glossy quality of the finish.
It’s a shame, though, that this smart finish hasn’t been accompanied by a new design; the P42V20 still wears the same rather staid - though nicely built - design as models lower down Panasonic’s range. Still, while the P42V20 might not have the same glamour factor as star sets from some other manufacturers’ ranges, relatively conservative readers might prefer its toned down approach.
The set’s connectivity is very good. There are four HDMIs, as we’d expect of any high-grade TV now, but these are joined by a more than healthy suite of multimedia resources. The most basic of these is a D-Sub PC port, but there’s also an SD slot, plus two USB ports and an Ethernet jack.
The USB ports are particularly interesting. For as well as accepting a variety of photo, music and video (including DivX HD) files, as we’d hope, they can also be used to record programmes from the TV’s built in Freesat and Freeview HD tuners. These recordings are more or less indistinguishable from the original broadcasts, aside, perhaps, from a slightly more sibilant tone to audio.
However, as we’ve noted when reviewing previous Panasonic USB-recording TVs, there are a few practical limitations. First, you can only play back recordings on the TV you made them through. Also, you need a USB HDD with at least 160GB of memory. And finally, so far the only brand of USB HDD confirmed to work by Panasonic is Buffalo’s JustStore Desktop HD-EU2-UK series.
With Samsung’s USB recording TVs, there’s much more flexibility over what USB devices you can use, so we can’t understand why Panasonic’s system has to be so restrictive.
We’re not done with the USB’s talents yet, though. For you can also use them to access your wireless network and Panasonic’s Viera Cast online service (more on this in a moment), courtesy of a USB Wi-Fi dongle handily included in the package, rather than being an optional extra.
However, if you’d rather take the hard-wired route to get online, that’s where the Ethernet port comes in. You can also use this port to stream in files from a DLNA-enabled PC. Plus, of course, it could come in handy for supporting future interactive services from the Freesat and Freeview HD services - such as the inevitable BBC iPlayer.