Panasonic has been pushing 3D on its Viera plasma range this year, but it does still offer a few 2D-only models such as the TX-P42S30.
This display uses last year's plasma technology rather than the latest tech found in its, and siblings.
However, this also means it's much more affordable. It can be bought for around £450 online.
User interface and EPG
This may be a budget set but it uses the exact same menu system as Panasonic's higher-end TVs. This isn't necessarily a good thing as the user interface that Panasonic employs on this year's screens is some way behind what competitors are offering on their latest TVs. It's certainly not as slick or as sophisticated-looking as Samsung, LG and Sony's TVs.
The main menu shows four tabs down the left-hand side of the screen for picture, sound, timer and set-up options. A small graphic is used to depict each one. When you actually enter the menu you'll find that they only really consisted of white text set against a blue background, so the presentation is quite dated.
This TV lacks the calibration tools of Panasonic's higher-end models, so picture tweaking options are a little limited. However, they're still likely to be more than acceptable for the average user. There are slider bars to set the contrast, brightness, colour and sharpness settings. The advanced menu allows you to select between off, mid and max settings for both the Intelligent Frame Creation modes and the upscaler -- or Resolution Enhancer, as Panasonic calls it.
Unfortunately, the electronic programme guide (EPG) for the Freeview HD tuner is every bit as dull-looking as the main menu. Like all of Panasonic's other TVs it uses the Guide Plus+ system, which places holders for web-style adverts on the left-hand of the screen, even though these adverts never actually seem to appear anymore. Instead they are just populated by Viera logos. Nevertheless, the EPG is quite responsive and it has some benefits, including a decent search feature.
Digital media and Internet features
With Panasonic delivering this telly at such a competitive price, you'd expect it to have made cutbacks, especially in areas such as Internet features. The online side has thankfully remained untouched and Panasonic's Viera Connect Internet TV platform is on board. This has recently been updated too.
There's a new version of the BBC's iPlayer, which has a cleaner interface and some new features such as the ability to save favourites. There have been a few other services added, including the BBC News app, the Aupeo customisable Internet radio service, and WealthTV, a lifestyle channel for people who are loaded.
These appear alongside the existing services such as YouTube, Dailymotion and the Acetrax movie rental offering. On the social networking front you'll find apps for Facebook and Twitter, along with Picasa and Skype. So although it's not as comprehensive as the Smart TV platforms on LG and Samsung's sets, there's still a decent amount of quality content.
This model support digital media via its two USB ports. It plays a pretty broad range of formats too, as you'll find that HD MKV video files are supported, along with DivX and Xvid files.
Unfortunately though, it can't stream media files across a network from a PC or NAS drive -- you always have to feed content locally via a USB port. This is a shame and seems like an artificial limitation to us. That said, media streamers are very cheap these days and most Blu-ray players have streaming capabilities built in. If you own one, the lack of on-board streaming may not be an issue.
Design and connections
It has to be said that the S30 is far from the most visually appealing TV we've had in for review lately. It's significantly chunkier than the higher-end models in Panasonic's range. Its chassis measures nearly 10cm deep. The 42mm bezel around the screen is also quite thick. Although the piano-black finish helps it to blend into the background of a room, the overall look is dated, especially compared to the latest TV designs from LG and Samsung.