The TX-L47ET60B is the first TV to arrive in for review from Panasonic's new 2013 lineup. It's a mid-range model that's priced at around £1,150 and includes a new smart TV system based around a customisable homescreen.
Panasonic TVs have rarely been known for their sartorial elegance, but the ET60 is an absolutely cracking-looking set, so can its performance match its good looks?
User interface and EPG
Panasonic has finally updated its menu system and, rather than give it a quick splash of paint, it's actually rethought the whole idea of how a modern TV should work. It has to be said that at first glance, the result doesn't look all that different to the systems LG and Samsung have had on their TVs for the last two years. Look closer, however, and it's clear that Panasonic has come up with a few clever ideas of its own, including the ability to customise the layout of the homescreen. I'll cover this in more detail in the digital media section, so skip to that bit if you want the skinny on how the new smart TV system works.
The picture and sound settings menus are now also integrated into this new system, but they retain a similar layout to Panasonic's previous effort. On the whole these menus are easy to use and offer a good level of control over this model's various modes and features. It's also good to see that you can now tweak the backlight and contrast settings independently of each other -- something you couldn't do on last year's LED models.
Handily, there are short explanations of what the various settings in the picture and sound menus actually do. They're displayed in a box at the bottom of the screen, helping to provide more insight into the effects of any changes you make.
Another plus is that Panasonic's picture presets are, on the whole, very good. They're much better than those offered by Samsung on its sets, for example. The Cinema and True Cinema modes, in particular, deliver very watchable results for films, so you won't have to spend ages tweaking picture modes to get good results for your Blu-ray movies.
The EPG has been massively improved too. Panasonic has finally added a video thumbnail window to the guide, so using it is no longer as intrusive as it once was. You can now continue keeping tabs on Downton Abbey while checking out what's coming up on various channels later on. What's more, there's now also a channel explorer built in to one of the homescreens, so you can quickly run up and down through the channel list to see what's currently on across multiple stations.
Unfortunately, despite its relatively high asking price, this set doesn't support picture-in-picture on this channel explorer. That functionality is reserved for the higher-end models in the 2013 range that have dual tuners, rather than the single tuner that this model sports.
Design and connections
Panasonic started to take the design of its TVs more seriously last year, but it still struggled to produce models that were real head turners. All that seems to have changed this year, as the ET60 really is a very handsome-looking set. It has a super-slim bezel framing the screen, which measures a mere 14mm deep. This bezel is finished in chrome, so it looks the business, and I also like the attractive transparent strip running across the bottom of the telly that houses what look like floating LED indicators for stuff like the power status light. All in all, it's a really classy-looking telly.
It's even more annoying then that Panasonic seems to have followed the lead that Samsung set last year in reducing the number of HMDI ports on offer. Whereas last year's ET50 model had four HDMI ports, this one makes do with three.
These are all mounted on the left-hand edge along with two USB ports, an SD-card reader and optical digital audio output. There's also a downward facing panel on the rear that houses a set of component inputs and the green plug on this doubles up as the composite input -- something I'm starting to see often on newer TVs. If you want to hook up a Scart device to this model you need to use an adaptor cable that connects to the set's RGB mini jack. Wi-Fi is built in, but Panasonic has also naturally kitted it out with an Ethernet socket.
This model only has a Freeview HD tuner on board -- rather than both the Freeview and Freesat tuners on the company's more expensive TVs -- so there's only a single RF input on the rear.
Overall, the connection lineup isn't bad, but the absence of a fourth HDMI socket is puzzling. Surely when devices like tablets and smart phones increasingly have HDMI or MHL onboard (which does HDMI via the micro-USB port) we need more HDMI ports, not less.
Panasonic has completely redesigned its smart TV system. Now when you start up the TV, you're greeted by a choice of different homescreens. On one of these you've got a channel explorer on the right so you can see what's on currently across all channels on Freeview, and to the right of this at the bottom of the screen you've icons for YouTube and the Viera Connect app store. On another there's a clock, calendar, event timers, link to the AccuWeather service and a link to the on-board note-taking app.