Watchers paranoid about burn-in (we aren't) will appreciate the scrolling bar designed to erase it, and the pixel orbiter intended to prevent it in the first place. We'd like to see a brightness-limiting energy-saver mode, although the Standard picture setting, which engages Panasonic's "C.A.T.S." light sensor by default, is already pretty dim.
|HDMI inputs||2 back, 1 side||Component video inputs||2 back|
|Composite video input(s)||1 back, 1 side||S-video input(s)||0|
|VGA-style PC input(s)||0||RF input(s)||1|
|AV output(s)||0||Digital audio output||Optical|
|USB port||0||Ethernet (LAN) port||No|
|Other: Side SD card slot|
Three HDMI inputs total is fine for this price level, although we would like to see a PC input. The SD card slot can display photos only; it won't play back music or video like on step-up Panasonic plasmas.
Panasonic's midrange plasma delivered very good picture quality. It was on a par overall with some of the other plasmas in its class, including the Samsung PNC590 series, but a few issues kept it out of the upper tier. Black levels were average, although still good for the price, but color accuracy suffered compared to models with more controls and options, and inaccurate gamma didn't help. We also noticed worse bright-room performance many plasmas, including Panasonic's step-up models, but of course saw the same excellent uniformity and off-angle quality inherent to all plasmas.
Editors' note: Like the TC-P50G20 we tested earlier, our TC-P46S2 review sample will undergo long-term testing to track its black-level performance. If we measure any change, we'll update this review.
calibrate the other basic settings somewhat to optimize for our dark room. We really would have liked the option to tweak a few more settings, however, especially gamma.
Afterward we slid in the "Clash of the Titans" on Blu-ray and inserted the S2 into the lineup below for our main image quality tests.
|Comparison models (details)|
|Samsung PN50C590||50-inch plasma|
|Panasonic TC-P50G20||50-inch plasma|
|LG 50PK950||50-inch plasma|
|Samsung UN46C6500||46-inch edge-lit LED|
|Vizio SV472XVT||47-inch full array local dimming LED|
|LG 47LE8500||47-inch full array local dimming LED|
Black level: The depth of black produced by the S2 in our dark room was decent, if not as deep as what we saw on most of the others in the lineup in many scenes. In mid-dark scenes, such as Perseus in the storm in Chapter 2, or when Andromeda tends him in his tent in Chapter 9, the letterbox bars and deepest shadows on the S2 seemed lighter than the others aside from the C590 and the C6500, which were similar in depth. The differences between the S2 and the darker G20, PK950 Vizio were relatively slight, however, whereas the LH8500 and Kuro were significantly deeper.
As we saw on the G20, the S2 also shifted black-level depth depending on program content slightly, a difference that was visible mainly in the darkest scenes. During the rolling credits, for example, the black background on the S2 darkened significantly. These fluctuations were mostly evident in side-by-side comparisons and we didn't notice any abrupt black level shifts during normal viewing, however. That said, neither the LG nor the Samsung plasmas evinced as much fluctuation.
Gamma on the S2 was worse overall than on most of the other sets, an issue that manifested in both shadows and brighter areas. In dark scenes, such as the inside of Perseus' tent in Chapter 9, the details in the hangings and folds in the bedding seemed brighter and less realistic than on our reference or the G20, although it didn't obscure details as did the PK950 and the Samsungs. In bright scenes the image appeared flatter than on any the other sets, robbing them of some of the impact and dimensionality we're used to.
Color accuracy: The S2 fell short of the accuracy of many of our comparison sets overall, although grayscale was a strength. As a result skin tones looked very good, as seen in the faces of Andromeda and Cassiopeia in Chapter 4. If we had to complain, they did look a bit warmer and more golden than our reference and a couple of the others, but happily missed the slight greenish cast of the G20 or the slightly too-pale look of the Samsungs and the Vizio.
On the other hand darker areas and shadows did dip into green, as seen on the shadowed walls of the temple in Chapter 6. Green also appeared overly intense in the forest scenes in Chapter 7, to a much larger extent than on any of the other sets, and skies and seas also looked too greenish. The latter two issues primarily result from the S2's inaccurate green primary and cyan secondary.
Video processing: Panasonic makes a lot of marketing hay out of it 600Hz subfield drive, but as we've observed in the past its benefits (much like the antiblurring effects of 120Hz, 240Hz, etc. LCDs) are exceedingly difficult to discern. When we engaged the Blur reduction setting, our motion resolution test showed that the S2 was delivering all 1,200 lines of the source. When we turned off the control, the result dipped down to somewhere between 700-800 lines (this performance is basically identical to that of other Panasonic plasmas we've tested this year). Although the difference between the two settings was impossible for us to see outside of specialized test patterns, there's no obvious reason not to turn the control on--it introduced no negative effects we could see.
Bright lighting: The picture on the Panasonic TC-P46S2 suffered worse than any of the others in our lineup under bright lighting, with the exception of the LG LH8500. The S2's screen did a significantly worse job preserving black levels than any of others, including the G20 and the C590. Reflections from bright objects in the room appeared somewhat dimmer and less noticeable than on the PK950, the C6500 and especially the LH8500, but not much different than on the other plasmas (aside from the excellent Kuro) and quite a bit brighter than the Vizio, which as usual for a matte screen performed best overall under the lights.
Standard-definition: Like the G series, the S2 is one of the worst standard-def performers we've tested recently. Although it did resolve all of the detail of the DVD, the shots of the stone bridge and grass appeared a bit soft. Jaggies in moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag were more prevalent than on the Samsung or LG plasmas. Noise reduction was also less effective; we still saw motes and video noise in low-quality shots of skies and sunsets with Video NR engaged. Unlike the G20, the S2 did manage to pass the 2:3 pull-down test in both Auto and On modes.
PC: The S2 lacks a VGA input, but via HDMI it's a excellent-performing monitor, resolving every detail of a 1,920x1,080 source with no edge enhancement or softness.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6203/6347||Good|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||189||Good|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.659/0.335||Average|
|Color of green||0.277/0.655||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.149/0.057||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Panasonic TC-PS2 series, but we did test the 46-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Panasonic TC-P46S2.