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Panasonic TC-PS2 series (photos)

While not without its performance gaffes, the midrange Panasonic TC-PS2 series of plasma TVs still offers very good image quality for the price.

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David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

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Overview

One of the big advantages of plasma compared to LCD and LED-based TVs has nothing to do with off-angle viewing or picture uniformity--it centers on simple bang for the buck. The S2 series from Panasonic offers plenty of said bang, with mostly solid picture quality and none of the extra frills you might not want to pay extra for. On the downside, we'd have liked to see a few more picture tweaks, and people with bright rooms with no light control will want to think twice before drafting an S2--as will those worried about the 2009 black level debacle. Even with those caveats, however, the Panasonic TC-PS2 series remains a great value among flat-panel TVs.
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Corner detail

Panasonic's designers wrapped an equal-width, glossy black bezel around the top and sides of the screen that grows in width and adds a slight curve along the bottom. To differentiate it from the other TVs in the company's lineup, they textured the gloss to resist fingerprints (it works).
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Stand detail

They also set off the bottom of the bezel with a subtle bluish accent. The matching black stand doesn't swivel. Overall we like the understated look well enough, but it won't elicit many oohs or ahhs from the crowd.
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Side view

You won't mistake the 3.7-inch-thick S2 plasma for a thin LED-based LCD if you see it from the side, but then again, who watches TV from the side?
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Remote control

We like Panasonic's remote, with its medium size and well-spaced and -differentiated keys. Its only downsides are lack of illumination and an inability to control other gear directly via infrared.
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Back panel inputs

The back panel is missing a third HDMI input and any PC input, but the basics are there.
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Side panel inputs

The side panel input bay is standard aside from the photo-only SD card slot.
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Main picture menu

Panasonic has updated its blue-and-yellow menus to include onscreen explanations and a persistent navigation column of icons on the left, and as a result they feel more modern and are easier to use than last year, if not quite up to the level of a Sony or Samsung.
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Aspect adjustments

Be sure to select Size 2 if you want full 1,920x1,080 resolution with no overscan.
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Anti-image retention menu

Watchers paranoid about burn-in (we aren't
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Picture menu (page 2)

Not many options are available to would-be calibrators.
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Advanced picture menu

While many other TV makers offer extensive control even on entry-level models, the so-called "advanced" controls are minimal on this less expensive Panasonic.
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Picture quality

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.

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