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Panasonic Viera TC-PS2 review: Panasonic Viera TC-PS2

Panasonic Viera TC-PS2

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
9 min read

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.


Panasonic Viera TC-PS2

The Good

Relatively inexpensive; decent black-level performance; solid grayscale accuracy; fingerprint-resistant finish; energy-efficient for a plasma.

The Bad

Inaccurate primary colors and gamma; subpar bright-room quality; last year's Panasonic plasmas lost black-level performance over relatively short periods of time; sparse picture controls; uses significantly more power than LCDs.

The Bottom Line

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

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 46-inch TC-P46S2, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Models in series (details)
Panasonic TC-P42S2 42 inches
Panasonic TC-P46S2 (reviewed) 46 inches
Panasonic TC-P50S2 50 inches
Panasonic TC-P54S2 54 inches
Panasonic TC-P58S2 58 inches
Panasonic TC-P65S2 65 inches


Those little ridges actually do help deter fingerprints.

Design highlights
Panel depth 3.7 inches Bezel width 2.1 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand No

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) and 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.

Although it does match, the stand does not swivel.

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 8.5 x 2 inches Remote screen N/A
Total keys 47 Backlit keys 0
Other IR devices controlled No RF control of TV No
Shortcut menu Yes Onscreen explanations Yes

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. The company 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.

The menu design is straightforward and functional.


Key TV features
Display technology plasma LED backlight N/A
3D compatible No 3D glasses included N/A
Screen finish Glass Refresh rate(s) 60Hz
Dejudder (smooth) processing No 1080p/24 compatible No
Internet connection No Wireless HDMI/AV connection No

You'll notice plenty of red ink in the chart above, as befits a mainstream-priced TV model. If you want streaming video and widgets in a Panasonic plasma, you'll need to pay extra for the TC-PG20 series.

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 5 Independent memories per input Yes
Dejudder presets 0 Fine dejudder control N/A
Aspect ratio modes -- HD 5 Aspect ratio modes -- SD 4
Color temperature presets 3 Fine color temperature control No
Gamma presets 0 Color management system No
Other: On/Off "Blur reduction" setting

Unlike most other makers Panasonic omits fine color temperature and gamma controls from its midline models, leaving the S2 series with a paucity of picture tweaks. Tweakers will, however, note the new-for-2010 "blur reduction" setting described thusly: "Improves motion picture quality. Additional subfields are created to reduce motion blur." See Performance for details.

Tweak-happy would-be calibrators need not apply.

Other features
Power saver mode No Ambient light sensor Yes
Picture-in-picture No On-screen user manual No
Other: Two modes to combat burn-in

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.

Image retention gets its own menu.

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.

The back panel is missing a third HDMI input and any PC input.

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

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.

TV settings: Panasonic TC-P46S2
In its default Cinema setting, which provided the most accurate picture out of the box, the Panasonic TC-PS2 showed a typically minus-blue grayscale, although it wasn't that bad. Gamma was worse, at a relatively bright 1.91 average (compared to the 2.2 target). Controls were available to modify neither of these issues, however, so all we could do was reduce light output to our nominal 40ftl and 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
Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

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.

Geek box
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
Overscan 0.0% 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.

How we test TVs.


Panasonic Viera TC-PS2

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 7