Panasonic's TX-P65VT50 is the TV equivalent of turning it up to 11. It sits right at the top Panasonic's current lineup of goggleboxes and its huge 65-inch screen means you're going to need a lot of space in your lounge to make this set feel at home.
The mammoth screen size means unfortunately that it also comes with a hefty price tag of around £3,799, but the TV is packed with features including support for active 3D and online services, built-in Wi-Fi and Panasonic's latest NeoPlasma screen technology, which promises deeper black levels and brighter pictures.
User interface and EPG
One thing is for certain when it comes to Panasonic's TVs: you don't buy them if you're a fan of flashy menu systems. The menus are definitely the worst thing about the VT50, as its dated onscreen graphics look out of place on what is otherwise a very advanced TV. On the plus side, the simplicity of the menus does mean they're easy to navigate, as the layout is very straightforward. Unlike on some of LG and Samsung's sets, there aren't multiple ways of accessing the same features.
Panasonic has fortunately put some work into improving its EPG. The advert placeholders that muscled their way into the EPG on last year's models have been removed, so there's a tad more space on the screen for displaying upcoming programmes.
The presentation is still a let down though, as once again the text and graphics look very unsophisticated. It's also lacking a live video window and doesn’t keep the sound running when you open the EPG, with the result that you quickly lose track of what's going on in the show you're watching whenever you check out the guide.
The TV comes with two remote controls. The standard zapper is attractive and thoughtfully designed. It's reasonably large and has comfortably sized buttons that are intelligently laid out, so that all the key features are within easy reach of your thumb.
Panasonic has also added a second touchpad remote control. This is much less successful as a means of navigating the menus however, and I found it fiddly to use for all but the most basic tasks.
Digital media and Internet features
As with Panasonic's GT50 and models, this TV has a dual-core processor powering its smart TV features. The main advantage of having the extra core is that it allows the TV to support multi-tasking for Smart TV apps, so you can have multiple apps running in the background and switch between them as you like, rather than having to exit each app to start another one. To switch apps you press the Viera Tools button on the remote. The corner of the screen then curls up to show the apps that are currently running, allowing you to choose the one you want to jump into.
The other benefit of the dual-core processor is that apps seem to load slightly faster and are smoother to use, although the difference in this regard between Panasonic's dual- and single-core processor TVs is hardly significant.
The interface for the smart TV platform could do with a spruce up as it looks a bit blocky and there's rather too much lag in the transitions between the different pages of apps. A 3D-style layout is used, with grids of apps stacked on top of on another. As you add more apps across multiple grids however, the stacks start to feel on the cumbersome side, and navigation between layers becomes tedious.
The TV packs a fairly exciting lineup of apps, including the likes of BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Daily Motion and Vimeo. There's also support for movie services such as Acetrax and Netflix, as well as news and sports apps form the BBC. Naturally, Facebook and Twitter are all present and correct, and there's even a joint app that overlays feeds from social networks onto whatever happens to be playing -- so, for example, you can follow what people are saying while watching The X Factor. Nevertheless, it's missing some big hitters that you'll find on competitor's Smart TV platforms such as Lovefilm, Demand 5 and ITV Player.
The TV also packs a full web browser, although it's a bit torturous to navigate a website using the remote -- even the touchpad one. If it seems like too much effort, you can always use Panasonic's iPhone and Android apps to catch and throw web pages straight from a phone or tablet to the TV's web browser -- and Flash is supported, so it can play video on some websites.
Panasonic's built-in media player has also been improved, so it will now happily play video formats like MKV and DivX either locally from USB drivers or by streaming them from a PC across a network.