Panasonic's GT series usually represents the sweet spot in its plasma lineup, offering picture quality that's not far off the company's high-end VT model, but with less of a wallet-bashing price tag. At 42 inches, the TX-P42GT60 is the smaller of the two screen sizes offered in the 2013 GT range, but this also means it's relatively affordable, as you can buy it online for around �1,050.
User interface and EPG
Panasonic's TVs have been traditionally weak when it comes to user interface and EPG, but finally the company has actually done something about this. It's obviously taken a look at the approach that brands like LG and Samsung have been taking to homescreen design and decided to go down a similar path.
Panasonic has gone one better, however, by allowing you to create your own customised homescreen. I'll cover this in more detail in the digital media section of this review, but it's worth mentioning here because the homescreen approach makes the whole process of interacting with this TV feel much slicker and intuitive than on previous Panasonic models.
The picture and sound settings are still found in a separate menu, but these are easy to use and give you pretty comprehensive controls over how you can tweak the audio and video settings. Panasonic's picture presets are also very strong, so you don't have to do a great deal of tweaking to get good picture quality out of this set, unlike many of Samsung's models.
The programme guide has been given a makeover too. It retains the chunky, easy-to-read text and the horizontal timeline layout, but Panasonic has now finally added a video window in the left-hand corner. This means you can keep tabs on the show you're tuned to while checking out what's coming up on other channels later on.
Digital media and Internet features
Like the rest of the company's 2013 TV lineup, the P42GT60 benefits from Panasonic's updated smart TV system. This now revolves around a homescreen that pops up when you switch on your TV (although you can also set the TV to start up in full-screen TV mode instead). You're given a choice of different pre-built homescreens to use, including one with a channel explorer down the right-hand side of the display. This shows what's currently on across all available channels, and there's another that's designed to be a sort of family notice board.
The clever bit, however, is that Panasonic also allows you to create your own customised homescreen from four available templates. This works really well, as it means you can place the Smart TV apps that you use most often -- iPlayer, Netflix and Acetrax, for example -- together on one screen, so you don't have to shuffle through different menus to get at them.
These homescreens are also very quick and easy to build. If you hit the home button on the remote it zooms out of the homescreen you're using into a 3D view that allows you to move back and forth to choose a different screen to switch too.
Panasonic's lineup of apps is pretty decent, with plenty of on-demand movie services supported, as well as lots of news and information services. It still slightly lags behind Samsung's system, as it doesn't have ITV Player, 4oD or Lovefilm apps -- all of which are available on Samsung's platform.
The set also comes with a wireless Bluetooth pen that you can use to draw on the screen. It feels like a big fat crayon to hold and it works with a number of games available in the Vieracast app store. If you tap and hold on a TV picture the set will take a screen grab and allow you to annotate it using the simple Paint-style app -- ideal if you want to do some Sky Sports-style tactical scribbling while watching the footy. The pen might be useful if the set was being used in a meeting room in an office, but at home I can see the novelty factor wearing off pretty quickly.
As with last year's model you can record from the built-in Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners to USB drives plugged into one of the set's ports. Unlike upcoming VT65 model however, this one doesn't have twin tuners, so you can't watch one show while recording another. The lack of twin tuners means that it also lacks that model's picture-in-picture feature in the onscreen channels explorer.
Nevertheless, it does have a built-in Web browser which supports Flash, so you can use it to play back videos on some websites. There's a companion smart phone remote app available for iOS and Android devices too. You can control the set via Wi-Fi and catch and throw stuff like pictures and Web pages from your phone or tablet to the TV, although this feature is still on the slow and clunky side.
The on-board digital media player is pretty good though. It lets you play a range of file formats including Xvid and MKV files either from USB drives or across a network from a PC or network attached hard drive. Playback quality is very good and it's quick to navigate through folders too.
Design and connections
Plasma TVs can't really compete with their LED counterparts in terms of style. It's impossible to produce a plasma screen with a bezel as narrow as those on some of LG's high-end LED models, or a chassis as slim as those on even today's mid-range LED sets.
Nevertheless, the GT60 is far from an ugly duckling. By plasma standard it's relatively slim at 42mm and the bezel around the screen isn't overly chunky at 26mm thick. What's more, the overall finish is very stylish thanks to the chrome metal trim running around the outer edge of the display and the slick brushed aluminium pedestal stand.