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Panasonic Firefox OS My Home Screen 2.0 review – hands-on

The new main menu for Panasonic's My Home Screen 2.0

We finally get to try out Panasonic's completely overhauled smart TV offering

Panasonic’s Smart TV offering has always been something of a bugbear with Expert Reviews’s writers. The My Home Screen offering on its mid- to high-end TVs has suffered from fairly ugly design, clunky controls and missing apps.

With the Firefox OS-based My Home Screen 2.0, though, Panasonic looks set to mix it with the best Smart TV makers in the business – namely Samsung and LG. We first took a look at the operating system at CES in January, but that was little more than a video demonstration and we weren’t able to feel how responsive it feels and how easy it is to use in practice.

Today, at Panasonic’s 2015 Convention in Frankfurt, we were finally able to give it a go, and we’ve outlined our impressions below. We used one of Panasonic’s touchpad remote controls to use the TV on this occasion, but its standard, button-heavy remotes work too.App pinning in Panasonic's My Home Screen 2.0 is easyThe first thing you notice about the OS is the simplicity and the vibrancy of the icons. Simple colours with basic icons and captions underneath let you know what you’re going to select. By default, there are just three items here: one for live TV, one for apps and one for external devices connected via a network, HDMI or USB. You can add pretty much any item you want to this menu simply by hitting the Menu button on any item, be it an app, web page, TV channel or external source. Any item you can use on the TV can be turned into a shortcut, so your TV is infinitely customisable.

It’s a really clever, yet really simple way of turning that box in your living from into more than just a TV, and into a media hub. It’s simple to use; adding an item to the main menu can be done in two button presses.

What’s even better is the speed at which you’re able to do things. While the hardware we were using was top-spec, with a quad-core processor inside, things felt nippy. Brightly coloured transition animations disguise any loading time between menus, but these never felt annoying or overly long. One area we had issue with was the Firefox web browser. While it’s great to be able to view web content from your TV, typing in web addresses and loading ad-heavy web pages took an absolute age, although this is no different from every other Smart TV on the market.The new web browser in Panasonic's Firefox OS smart TVAdding external sources to the quick launch menu is a brilliant feature. It means you can add everything from set-top boxes connected over HDMI to media streamers via DLNA. We couldn’t find a way to rename the sources, though, although that may be a feature we missed or that has not yet made it into the system. We’d also love to be able to add our own custom images to the quick launch menu items; currently only web pages get their own custom image, which is a screenshot of the page when you last visited it.The weather overlay on Panasonic's new My Home Screen 2.0Also handy are the quick launch commands, which can be accessed by holding the home button and then pressing up, down, left or right. Doing this allows you to access things like a weather overlay or a second screen, allowing you to multitask, albeit in a very simple fashion.

A Smart TV is nothing without apps, but we were impressed to see a large variety of apps already available in the app store. We can’t comment on their quality, but the quantity is very good and likely thanks to the Firefox OS’s easy-to-use HTML5 underpinnings, and the fact that the operating system has been available on phones for quite some time. Any app you install can of course be added to the quick launch menu. 

We encountered a few bugs here and there, such as menus staying stuck open but unusable, but we’ll put these down to the software being still in development.The app store in the new Firefox OS-based My Home Screen 2.0My Home Screen 2.0 has made a very positive first impression. Fast, easy-to-use and customisable, it ticks all the boxes for what we’d want from a Smart TV. We were only able to fiddle around with it for 20 minutes, so we’d be interested to see what its like to live with on a daily basis. The OS will launch with Panasonic’s latest 4K TVs later this year.

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