The TC-PS1 series delivered excellent picture quality, with deep black levels and realistic shadow detail, the former helping lend plenty of impact to colors. Color accuracy itself was an issue, as we've seen on previous Panasonic plasmas, but not enough to spoil an otherwise commendable performance. Speaking of previous plasmas, although we didn't have the TC-P42S1 we reviewed earlier on-hand to compare, as far as we can tell the picture quality of the two units was largely identical.
calibrate the S1 beyond its initial Cinema preset. On the plus side, that preset came quite close to our ideal comparison settings, with just about 40ftl of light output, excellent 2.28 gamma (versus an ideal of 2.2), and solid, if certainly plus-green overall, grayscale. We're sure a good professional calibration would improve matters.
Our comparison of the TC-P54S1 didn't involve any TVs quite as large, so we made do with a selection of 50-inch plasmas--the higher-end Panasonic TC-P50V10, the Samsung PN50B650, the LG 50PS80, and our reference, the Pioneer PRO-111FD--in addition to a 52-inch LCD, the Samsung LN52B750. We checked out "The International" on Blu-ray for most of our image quality tests.
Black level: The Panasonic TC-PS1 series delivered in spades on the promise of deep black levels. When showing dark areas of dark scenes, like the letterbox bars, the shadow around the peephole and the night sky above the building in Chapter 8, or the nighttime cityscape in Chapter 12, its blacks appeared just a hair lighter than those on the V10, visibly deeper and more realistic than the Samsung B650's, and significantly better than on the Samsung LCD or the LG plasma (as usual, the Pioneer was a good deal better than any of them). Typically, the differences grew less apparent as scenes brightened, but we could still make them out in many cases, especially letterbox bars.
We also appreciated the S1's excellent shadow detail. The folds in dark the sweater worn by Naomi Watts in Chapter 10, for example, looked as realistic as any of the sets in the room, and the Panasonic's progression from darker to lighter areas was spot-on compared with our reference.
Color accuracy: As we've seen on many Panasonic plasmas, lack of control combined with less-accurate initial colors to hinder the S1's comparative performance in this area. Its grayscale was relatively accurate, but overall the greenish tinge was visible throughout in side-by-side comparisons, especially in skin tones, like Watts' face, and unlike with the V10 we couldn't adjust it out. All of the other sets were better to some degree in this regard. Primary colors on the S1 also fell short of the others, especially green. Even the muted plants in Central Park, after the Guggenheim shoot-em-up in Chapter 11 seemed too vibrant and neon-like compared with the other sets. And in most lush, saturated material, such as the field during a football game, the difference was even more apparent.
The S1's saturation in most scenes was very good, on the other hand, owing mainly to its deep black levels. But it didn't match that of the V10 and the Samsung B650 plasmas, primarily because we had to reduce color to make up for the Panasonic's red push, which turned skin tones too ruddy for our tastes. We also appreciated the S1's true color in dark areas, which remained as accurate as on any display in our group.
Video processing: In resolution tests the Panasonic performed as expected, delivering every line of a static 1080i and 1080p test patterns. Its de-interlacing was subpar according to test patterns, passing the video de-interlacing test but failing the more-important one for film-based sources. As usual, however, instances of improper de-interlacing were difficult to notice.
Panasonic makes a big deal about its new "600Hz subfield drive," which it claims delivers better motion resolution. There's nothing incorrect about that claim as far as we can tell. According to our test, the TC-PS1 series resolved all 1200 lines of horizontal resolution in the Monoscope pattern, beating the Pioneer PRO-111FD, for example, which resolved "only" between 900 and 1000 lines. As usual, however, it was basically impossible to see any difference between the two sets' capabilities to deliver detail in fast-moving scenes; as far as we could tell, both looked equally superb in this regard. As we've said before, to our eyes superior motion resolution is quite difficult to appreciate.
We did miss proper 1080p/24 processing, however. Unlike many 120Hz and 240Hz LCDs, as well as many plasmas, including the others in our test, the S1 cannot reproduce the correct cadence of film when fed a 1080p/24 source, which is available from most Blu-rays for example. We noticed the difference in camera movement especially, such as the sweep over the Intrepid from "I Am Legend," and the numerous establishing flyovers from "The International." In such scenes, objects would stutter with a slight hitching motion on the S1, whereas on the other sets they moved across the screen with the regular cadence of film. The difference is relatively subtle for most viewers, but videophiles definitely prefer proper 1080p/24 reproduction.
Bright lighting: The S1 did not attenuate ambient light in a brightly-lit room as well as any of the other models, aside from the LG. We could make out some sharp reflections in the glass of the Panasonic's screen, and the light washed out the darker parts of the image worse than on the Samsung models and the Kuro, but reflections still weren't as distracting as on that set. We didn't see any difference between the S1 and the V10 in this area.
Standard-definition: The Panasonic was a mediocre performer with standard-def material. It resolved every line of the DVD format, although details weren't quite as sharp as on the Samsung, for example. The S1 did a subpar job of moving diagonal lines and stripes on the waving American flag, leaving plenty of jaggies along the edges. Noise reduction was solid, on the other hand, and both Video NR and MPEG NR settings contributed to removing moving motes and snow from low-quality shots of skies and sunsets. Finally, the set properly engaged 2:3 pulldown to remove moire from the grandstands behind the racecar.
PC: Via HDMI, the Panasonic performed perfectly, resolving every line of a 1,920x1,080 source and showing text and lines with no edge enhancement.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6407/6439||Good|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||99||Good|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.659/0.333||Average|
|Color of green||0.264/0.661||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.151/0.056||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|
Power consumption: Like most plasmas we've tested, the Panasonic S1's default picture mode, labeled standard, is relatively dim in an attempt to save power--which explains its decent scores in the Juice Box. We were surprised that when we equalized light output, the S1 was actually a good deal more efficient than the same-sized Panasonic G10 we tested earlier, and, in fact, used less power than the 50-inch models in our comparison. Of course, it's no match for a slightly smaller LCD, but compared with other plasmas the 54S1 is relatively efficient.
|Panasonic TC-P54S1||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||245.85||288.17||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.2||0.23||N/A|
|Cost per year||$53.11||$62.12||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Good|