If you're not fussed about 3D then the TVs in Panasonic's E5B range might be more up your street than some of the company's pricier models. They are the cheapest in Panasonic's line-up of LED sets as they use a modest 50Hz panel and don't support 3D.
Here I'm reviewing the largest set in the range, the 47-inch Viera TX-L47E5B, which can be bought from £800 online.
User interface and EPG
One area where Panasonic was slipping behind the competition last year was in the look and feel of its menu system. This trend looks set to continue for another year at least. Despite this being a brand new model, the menu has barely changed since Panasonic's 2011 TVs.
There have been a few tweaks here and there, including a more welcoming set-up menu that greets you when you first turn on the TV. It guides you through the process of tuning in channels, setting up the network connection and downloading and installing any firmware updates that are available.
However, for the most part, the menus remain quite flat and boring, lacking the graphical niceties that are now the norm for even low-end models in Samsung and LG's line-ups. You're still given plenty of control over this TV's various features though, and if you turn on the Advance (Calibration) mode, you're given more colour tweaking options in the picture menu.
The electronic programme guide (EPG) has also been tweaked slightly. Thankfully, the web-style adverts that used to take up space on last year's models have been banished to the annals of history, so there's a little more room for displaying programme data. You can switch between three layouts that adjust the number of channels shown on screen at any one time. It's also possible to choose whether the EPG shows you a programme info box or not. The latter details the current show or movie that you've selected in the EPG.
The EPG is quite quick to use, but it's far from perfect as the presentation is dull. When you open it up you lose all audio and video from the programme you were watching. A lot of other EPGs either overlay on top of the current channel or have a video thumbnail window, both of which are preferable to what Panasonic has opted for.
Design and connections
Like most of Panasonic's TVs, this one feels like it's remarkably well put together. When you're setting it up on its pedestal, it doesn't creak or flex like some of LG's cheaper models. It's not the prettiest set around, but it's no ugly duckling. The design has clearly been heavily influenced by the styling on LG's sets last year. The bezel has a similar look, where the polished black frame is edged by a transparent trim. It's still neat and classy, and about a million times more attractive than Panasonic's older designs.
As with the other 2012 Panasonic models I've seen, the company has shifted all four of the HDMI ports to a panel on the left edge, which is also home to two USB ports and an SD card slot. Thankfully, the HDMI ports are mounted far enough away from the side of the set that your cables won't awkwardly poke out, spoiling the look of the TV.
A second connections panel on the rear houses the rest of the ports. You'll find mini component and Scart inputs that use small break-out cables, a VGA port, optical digital audio output and RF input for the Freeview HD tuner. There's also an Ethernet port here, but unlike the smaller screens in the E5B range, this one includes Wi-Fi as standard. Most people are likely to go wireless instead of a cabled connection with a computer.
Internet and video playback
The E5B is a Smart TV so it comes loaded with Panasonic's Viera Connect Internet TV platform. This provides you with a range of apps for a variety of services, from on-demand video content to news and weather apps, and even 3D games.