Panasonic’s TX-48AS640 cuts a similar figure on your AV furniture to LG’s 47LB730V, with a bezel that combines silver top and bottom edges with thin black sides to striking effect. Connectivity is similar too, with three HDMIs, two USBs and both Ethernet and Wi-Fi network options.

The features made possible by these network options are prodigious. Highlights are the Freetime catchup TV system (where you can scroll back through the TV listings as well as forwards to find and access on-demand shows you’ve missed) and TV Anywhere, whereby you can access your TV’s tuner broadcasts and USB recordings over the internet no matter where in the world you are.

Implementing Freetime has helped Panasonic become currently only the second brand (after Samsung) to offer the catch-up TV services of all the five main terrestrial broadcast channels.

The TX-48AS640’s image talents include: 3D playback (using the Full HD Active system); a claimed 1,200Hz-emulating motion processing engine; a fairly comprehensive suite of picture calibration tools; and Panasonic’s powerful Hexa picture processing engine.  Also, the TX-48AS640 uses a VA-style panel rather than an IPS one, raising hopes of a strong contrast...

Black magic

And so it proves. The TX-48AS640 copes very well indeed with dark content, like Kill Bill’s ‘buried alive’ sequence, delivering deeper black colours while largely avoiding backlight clouds and blocks. This immediately makes for a more cinematically immersive viewing experience and greater consistency between bright and dark scenes.

Good black levels typically lead to natural colours – and the TX-48AS640 delivers Kill Bill’s animated sequences with gaudy, gory aplomb while also efficiently handling naturalistic tones, like the skin tones on show in the desert sequences in Captain Phillips. Colour blends are delivered well, generally avoiding any striping and blockiness.

The TX-48AS640's HD pictures are marked by acute sharpness and high detail levels, and this extreme clarity isn’t accompanied by exaggerated graininess or over-cooked, haloed object edges. Furthermore, the TX-48AS640’s eye-catching clarity doesn’t drop off particularly badly when there’s fast motion to cope with, such as during Edge Of Tomorrow’s swirling alien attacks. The brand's Intelligent Frame Creation motion processing system can be comfortably employed without the creation of hideous side effects.

The only issues I have with this screen's 2D pictures are that you have to keep the backlight set lower than you might feel ideal to steer clear of backlight clouding in the screen’s corners; that the set’s effective viewing angle is quite limited; and that standard-definition fare lacks a little colour lustre and crispness.

Stereoscopic pictures are okay. There’s plenty of detail in top-drawer 3D transfers like Oz: The Great and Powerful and Hugo, and it’s good to see that 3D visuals don’t lose much brightness or colour vibrancy (something that has traditionally been an issue with Panasonic's 3D TVs). However, the TX-48AS640 is more susceptible to crosstalk ghosting and flickering than some rivals, and darker 3D sequences can exhibit minor backlight clouding.

Sonically this 48-incher is no better than average. The 24W stereo speaker array tucked into its elegant design lacks the bass range and power to convince with explosive action movies like Edge of Tomorrow.

Yet the TX-48AS640 does enough with its picture quality and Smart features to still stand as one of the year’s most attractive mid-range TV options.