Panasonic's VT20 was pretty much our favourite TV of last year thanks to its supreme picture performance and excellent 3D capabilities. It was little wonder then, that it managed to bag our coveted Editor's Choice award. But time and tide wait for no TV and so the VT20 has now been replaced by the upgraded VT30, which is priced at around £1,400. It promises a whole load of new features, but is it really that much of an improvement over last year's model?
A TV with a premium price tag should also have a premium look, but this is something that Panasonic hasn't always excelled at. Panasonic's design department has upped its game this year, however, and the VT30 is probably the best looking set the company has ever produced.
The front of the TV has a 'one sheet of glass' design that's beautifully framed by a thin metallic strip running around the outer edge of the display. It gives the TV a very clean and sophisticated look. Panasonic has also redesigned the remote control by slimming it down and adding a red backlight.
As with most of Panasonic's high-end models, the set has both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners onboard, so you get access to the widest range of free channels available. One annoyance, however, is that the Freeview HD tuner uses the GuidePlus+ EPG, which displays web-style adverts on the left hand side of the screen, compromising the amount of space available for showing programming information. We really do wish Panasonic would dump this system and return to using a standard Freeview EPG.
Nevertheless, the VT30 isn't found wanting when it comes to the range of connections on offer as you get a full quota of four HDMI ports. The slim 50mm chassis means that some connections, such as the component and Scart ones, have to be made using small adaptor cables, but this shouldn't be too much of a hassle.
The TV also has two USB ports and an Ethernet socket for Internet and digital media playback capabilities. There's no Wi-Fi built-in, but Panasonic does include a USB Wi-Fi module in the box. Even with it connected you still have a spare USB port for hooking up a memory key or hard drive.
Thankfully Panasonic has upgraded its Internet platform and the new Viera Connect system that replaces Viera Cast on this year's models finally includes a proper implementation of the BBC's iPlayer service. This slots in alongside apps for other services such as AceTrax, DailyMotion and YouTube. There are also social media apps for Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Flickr, so all in all it's a pretty exciting line up.
The media playback support is good, too. The TV connected to our PC and NAS drive without any problems and was as happy playing HD MKV files as it was dealing with DivX and Xvid videos.