Panasonic has a glut of LED TV sets all bunched around the mid-range price point and all offering slightly different features. The TX-47FT60 sits right at the centre of this mid-range line-up. It improves on the step down ET60 model by adding 3D support, a Freesat tuner and Panasonic's impressive Hexa processing engine, but it lacks the twin tuners found on the DT65 as well as that model's local dimming support that helps it achieve deeper black levels.
It's priced at around the £1,400 mark, which is £350 more than the ET60, but only £150 less than the DT65, so is it the right mid-range model to go for?
User interface and EPG
Rejoice! Panasonic has finally dumped its blocky, dated TV user interface and replaced it with something that's altogether a lot slicker and more modern looking. The new system not only lets you choose between a number of different preset homescreens that the TV can bring up when you turn it on, but it even goes so far as allowing you to design your own homescreen.
The TV's settings menus are still separate from this new smart TV system, but they look reasonably modern, if not as stylish as those you get on Samsung's TVs. The important part, however, is that it's quick to jump between different settings and they're all fairly easy to use thanks to a hints box that gives a short description of what each feature or slider does. They also provide you with plenty of control over the picture, as Panasonic includes a full colour management system in the settings menu.
Also improved is the programming guide, which has had a small video window added in the top left-hand corner. As a result, using the guide no longer blocks out all audio and video from the channel you're watching, which was a problem with last year's models. The guide doesn't look quite as inviting as those on Samsung and LG's TVs, but it's easy to read from a distance and feels fairly snappy to use.
As well as the main guide, this TV also has a channel explorer widget that can be placed on a homescreen in the set's smart TV system. It basically lets you quickly see what's on across a range of channels simultaneously. Because this model lacks twin tuners, however, it doesn't actually show a live feed of the other channel in a picture-in-picture view the way the DT65 and VT65 models do.
Digital media and Internet features
Panasonic's smart TV system used to be very weak in relation to those found on the likes of Samsung and Sony's sets, but its new system is among the best in the business. It revolves around a homescreen that pops up when you turn on your TV. You have a choice of different pre-built homescreens that you can use (including a fullscreen TV mode if you'd prefer the TV just started up normally). These range from family notice board-type designs, complete with a calendar and jotter where people can leave notes, to screens that concentrate on providing shortcuts to smart TV apps.
The really clever bit is that you can also create your own custom homescreen from four different templates that Panasonic provides. This is ideal if you've got a group of smart TV apps that you use all the time and want quick access to, such as iPlayer, BBC News and Netflix.
Panasonic has pre-installed a number of apps on the TV, but you can download more via the set's app store. Most of these are free, but a few of them -- mostly games -- you'll need to pay for. The app store is reasonably well stocked, but the selection is some way off what you get with Samsung's smart TVs. It includes video services like iPlayer, YouTube and Vimeo, but it lacks apps for Lovefilm, Demand 5, ITV player and 4oD, all of which are now available on Samsung's sets.
Panasonic has kitted the TV out with a full Web browser though, and this supports videos on websites, so you can use it for stuff like watching video reviews on this here CNET. You can also catch and throw Web pages from mobile phones or tablets to the TV using Panasonic's Viera Remote 2 app. The Web browser isn’t massively stable and nor is it all that easy to use, especially if you're trying to control it via the normal remote rather than the smart phone app that's available for iOS and Android devices.
Nevertheless, the FT60 does have a good media player on board. It lets you watch a variety of video files, including HD MKV and Xvid formats, either locally from USB drives or streamed over a network from a PC or networked hard drive. It also supports downmixing of Dolby Digital soundtracks to stereo, something that not all TV media players can cope with.
Design and connections
Panasonic used to create great TVs that looked really boring. Thankfully, it seems to upped its game in the design department, as the FT60 looks rather striking. It's got a very narrow bezel around the screen that measures just 14mm wide and is covered in classy looking chrome trim. This helps to give it a very clean and futuristic look. I also like the impressive V-shaped stem on the pedestal stand, which is similar to that used on the high-end VT65 plasma. Here the stand thankfully swivels so you don’t have to physically lift the whole TV to angle the picture towards you as you do with the VT65.
It's a shame, but like all the other models in Panasonic's 2013 lineup the FT60 only has three HDMI ports, even though pretty much every other manufacturer offers four on TVs of this size. It does, however, have both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners on board, and packs in three USB ports as well. You can record from these tuners to a USB hard drive, but unfortunately you can only record the channel you're watching, whereas the DT65 allows you to watch another channel while recording a show.
Scart devices can be connected to the TV via a short breakout AV cable and there are full sized component inputs on the rear on a downward facing panel. You also get an Ethernet port, and built-in Wi-Fi too.