The TX-L55WT65 is the crowning glory of Panasonic's current range of slim-line LED TVs, with more bells and whistles than a Brazilian carnival. You'll find not just dual Freeview and Freesat HD tuners, but also a camera, a clever new smart TV system and local dimming support.
This TV is far from cheap though, with the 55-inch version I tested costing around £2,350 (it's also available in 42-, 47-, 50- and 60-inch models). So is it worth the premium over more affordable models in Panasonic's range, such as the DT65 and FT60?
User interface and EPG
Panasonic has created a whole new user interface for this year's TVs. It's essentially a homescreen that gathers stuff like the Smart TV apps, widgets and other goodies together in one place. Unlike other systems, Panasonic's allows you to create customised versions of the homescreen by adapting four of the provided templates. It's a clever idea that really works well from a user perspective as it saves you having to jump between different screens to access the apps you most commonly use.
The settings menus are still separate from this new system and don't look quite as classy, but they're speedy to use when you're jumping between the various picture and audio options. They give you plenty of control over the set's pictures too, as there's a full colour management system onboard. You now also get independent controls for contrast and backlight level, which wasn't supported on last year's WT50.
Another plus is the updated programming guide. It now has a video window to the top left-hand corner so you can check what's coming up later on in the day or evening without losing all audio and video from the show you're watching. The guide still looks rather dull and basic next to those on Sony and Samsung's sets, but it's very legible from a distance and makes it quick to jump between different programs on the timeline.
Design and connections
Last year's WT50 model was a handsome devil, and those genes have definitely been passed down to the WT65. It has a very different stand to the other TVs in Panasonic's 2013 lineup. The one used here is like a curved Perspex wedge with metal edging -- and looks better than that makes it sound. It helps to give the TV a light, floating-on-air look that's very appealing.
Reinforcing this airy feel is the fact the bezel around the screen is extremely narrow. Panasonic has also added a Perspex edge that drops down from the bottom of the screen. This is lit by an LED that makes the light runs across the bottom to create a cool sci-fi effect. The only downside is that the stand does tend to show up dust, so it might not be the best option if cleaning is, you know, not really your thing.
Like most high-end TVs these days the WT65 comes with two remotes: a standard zapper and a touchpad controller. The standard zapper is ace. It's chunky, without being uncomfortable to hold, and has a backlight so you can light up the buttons when you're watching a movie with the lights dimmed. The secondary remote has a circular touchpad and a trigger button on the bottom. It's a slight improvement on last year's similar touchpad controller, but still not as easy to use as Samsung's touchpad remote or LG motion controller.
Sadly Panasonic has cut the number of HDMI ports to three on this model, when most 55-inch TVs now come with four. It does have three USB ports though, and there are dual tuners for both Freeview HD and Freesat HD. If you plug a hard drive into one of these USB ports you can use the set as a full-blown PVR because the dual tuners allow you to watch one channel while recording another.
There's also a mini jack input that lets you to connect Scart devices up to the TV via a small breakout cable, and naturally there's a set of component inputs too. There's an Ethernet connector on the rear for piping in the Internets and Wi-Fi built-in too.
Smart TV system
This year Panasonic has introduced an all-new Smart TV system which is head and shoulder above what was available on the company's older models. It uses a new homescreen that pops up when you start the TV or press the Home button on the remote. There are four different prebuilt homescreens you can choose from, but the clever bit is that you can also create your own using the templates provided. This is very quick and easy to do too.
It's a great idea and works extremely well in practice. The only problem, though, is that the range of apps available on the platform isn't as good as some rivals, particularly Samsung. Whereas Samsung has apps for iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5, Netflix and Lovefilm, Panasonic only offers iPlayer and Netflix from that line-up.
There are plenty of other apps, of course, including Blinkbox, BBC Sport, Facebook, Twitter and Picassa, but people want mostly video-based apps on their TV, so Panasonic really needs to put more effort in on this front.
This TV also lets you set up different homescreens for different family members and have the TV flick between them automatically via face recognition using the onboard camera. This sounds great, but unfortunately this feature isn't very reliable and pretty much doesn't work at all if your room is dimly lit.
I do like Panasonic's apps for iOS and Android devices, which you can download for free -- they let you 'throw' pictures, videos and websites to the TV by selecting them within the app and dragging them towards a TV icon at the top of the screen. What's more, the app now supports second-screen viewing. As the set has dual tuners onboard you can stream one channel to your iPad, for example, while someone watches another channel on the TV screen.
The presence of dual tuners also means that if you plug a hard drive into one of the TV's USB ports you can now use it as a full PVR because it allows you to record one channel while watching anther.