Panasonic may be best known for its excellent plasma screens, but it's fast building a reputation for producing some top-notch LCD TVs as well. The 42-inch Panasonic Viera TX-L42D25B, which costs around £950, looks set to continue this trend thanks to its 1080p, LED back-lit panel and impressive line-up of features.
Panasonic's TVs have often suffered from less-than-inspiring designs, but if the TX-L42D25B is anything to go by, the company is starting to address the issue. The TV is finished in a gunmetal grey and, although the bezel is flat, its glossy lacquer has the optical illusion of a raised ridge running around the edge of the screen. Since the TV uses edge-mounted backlighting, it's supremely slim, with the panel measuring a mere 39mm deep. It all adds up to a very stylish-looking set, even if it's still not as hot as some of Samsung's offerings.
The TV has two tuners on board for freesat HD and Freeview HD. As a result, no matter where you live in the UK, you should be able to use it to pick up HD services from the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV. Around the back, there are plenty of connection options for hooking up external AV gear with four HDMI ports, a set of component inputs and two Scart sockets. There are also both analogue and digital audio outputs to feed the audio from the on-board tuners to an external amp. The telly is pretty well-endowed when it comes to digital media. Along with an SD card slot for viewing JPEG photos and AVCHD videos, there are two USB ports and an Ethernet socket. One of the USB ports can be used to record broadcasts directly from the internal tuners, but, as always with Panasonic's sets, there are a limited number of external drives that work. Unfortunately, it didn't play ball with the ones we tried.
The Ethernet socket is put to good use. Not only does the TV support media-streaming from a PC or NAS drive over a home network, it also features Panasonic's VieraCast internet services. These include YouTube, Eurosport, Daily Motion, Twitter and Skype (for use with an optional webcam). You can also access a beta version of the BBC’s iPlayer service via the red button when you're using the freesat HD tuner. Sadly, this isn't available on Freeview yet.
The internet features of this TV are undoubtedly top class, but it's the set's picture quality that's perhaps most impressive. As we've come to expect from LED sets, the colours are so punchy they're practically slamming their fists into your face. What's surprising, though, is just how accurate and natural the colour palette is. The set renders skin and real-world tones in an exceptionally authentic manner.
Edge-lit LED screens are often prone to some unevenness in their backlight, especially haloing at the edges, and the TX-L42D25B suffers ever so slightly from this symptom. It's only really noticeable in scenes that plunge the screen into complete blackness, which, let's face it, doesn't happen very often. Nevertheless, the TV's black levels are impressively deep and, thankfully, this doesn't come at the expense of shadow detail.
High-definition material looks particularly sharp. Although the telly isn't as kind to some of the more heavily compressed Freeview channels (its large screen doesn't help), it still does a good job of upscaling the better-quality channels, such as BBC One and Two. Motion is generally handled well with 200Hz processing, but you have to be careful to scale back the Intelligent Frame Creation control when watching movies, otherwise it can lead to a flattened look that makes films seem like home videos.
Sound is never a strong point for these slim LED sets, but the TX-L42D25B doesn't perform too badly in this area. It's a tad lacking in bass, but dialogue sounds solid and focused.
All told, the Viera TX-L42D25B is a classy set from Panasonic. It's got a stylish design, ample features and produces impressively crisp and cinematic pictures. If ever there was proof that Panasonic is no longer just a plasma specialist, but can also produce quality LCD sets, this is it.
Edited by Emma Bayly