Connectivity on the TC-PS1 series is adequate but not extensive, starting with three HDMI inputs: two on the back and a third on the side. Other back-panel connections include two component-video inputs, an AV input with composite and S-Video, and an RF input for cable or antenna. There's also an optical digital audio output. We would have liked to see a standard analog audio output and, more importantly, a VGA-style PC input, but the latter feature is reserved for step-up models in the company's lineup. In addition to the HDMI port and SD card slot, the side panel offers a second AV input with composite video.
Overall the TC-PS1 series delivered excellent picture quality, with deep black levels and shadow detail, the former helping lend plenty of pop or saturation to colors. Color accuracy itself was an issue, as we mentioned above, but not enough to spoil an otherwise commendable performance.
During setup we noted that the Panasonic's Cinema preset, as expected, came closest to the ideal dark-room picture settings. Speaking of presets, it's worth noting that, as we saw with last year's Panasonics, Standard was quite dim (just 22 Fl; about half of our nominal dark-room target of 40 and a quarter of the panel's maximum of 83 in Vivid mode), to the point where the picture seemed dull and washed-out compared with the other picture settings. The reason is simple: Energy Star 3.0. To qualify, Panasonic had to set the default picture mode, Standard, to be quite dim, since dimmer pictures use less power. For more, check out the Power Consumption section below.
Our calibration was relatively brief, bringing light output up to the aforementioned level, tweaking the color slightly and leaving the rest alone. We really missed having full grayscale controls; Panasonic is one of the last manufacturers left that doesn't implement those controls. Without them, the Warm color temperature preset was quite green, hampering overall color fidelity, an issue exacerbated by the inaccurate green primary color. On the flipside, grayscale tracking was excellent, maintaining a consistent color from light to dark areas, and gamma was very good at 2.25 versus the ideal of 2.2.
Check out this post for our complete picture settings.
Although the TC-PS1 is among Panasonic's lower-end 1080p plasma series, its basic picture quality specs, such as contrast ratio, are similar to those of higher-end models. That's one reason we compared it with the best HDTVs we reviewed last year, namely the Samsung LN52A650 and the Sony KDL-55XBR8 LCDs along with the Pioneer PRO-111FD plasma. We were unable to directly compare the S1 with any of last year's Panasonic plasma models. Our image quality tests primarily involved watching the Blu-ray of "Australia" courtesy of the Sony PlayStation3.
Black level: The S1 performed admirably in this area, and if we had to guess (and we do, since we didn't have a direct comparison on hand), it equals or exceeds the black-level performance of the best Panasonic plasmas from last year. Compared with the displays we did have on hand, it couldn't compete with the Kuro, but handily beat the Samsung and compared well with the Sony in terms of delivering a deep shade of black and preserving shadow detail.
In the nighttime scene around the campfire from Chapter 10, for example, the Panasonic's letterbox bars, shadows, and black sky all appeared quite dark and realistic, although not as deep as on the Pioneer. Details in shadows, such as the darkness between the cattle and the shades along the edges of the hills, looked every bit as realistic as we saw on the Pioneer, and better than either of the other two displays. Shadows also appeared quite clean, without the excessive noise we complained about in last year's TH-46PZ85U review.
Color accuracy: As with most previous Panasonic panels, the TC-PS1 series falls short in this area. The problem is green. Despite any user-menu adjustments we made, skin tones, for example, had a slightly greenish-pale cast compared with the reference displays. Nicole Kidman's pale face during the close-up in Chapter 2, for example, looked even paler and a bit less lifelike. Part of the issue was that we had to turn down the color control a bit to make up for some red push in the color decoding, which decreased saturation accordingly. The other part had to do with the plus-green color temperature, which also affected whites such as the slightly greener-looking white parasol carried by Kidman into the harbor in Chapter 3.
The grass and shrubs of the Ashlight House also appeared a good deal more neon-like and less natural. The sky above the Aborigine kid in Chapter 1 and the sea under Kidman's plane in Chapter 3 both appeared markedly greener than the azure hues of the reference displays. Both issues were because of the inaccurate primary color of green and secondary color of cyan, respectively.
In its favor, despite our reduced color control setting, the Panasonic S1 still managed very good saturation and colors certainly popped--not quite to the extent of the Pioneer and the Sony, but still satisfactorily. We lay the credit at the feet of the Panasonic's solid black levels, which as usual increased apparent saturation.
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 sub-par 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 sub-field 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 1,080 lines of resolution in the Monoscope pattern, beating the former champ, Pioneer's PRO-111FD, which "only" resolved between 900 and 1,000 lines. As usual, however, it was basically impossible to see any difference between the two sets' ability to deliver detail in fast-moving scenes; as far as we could tell, both looked equally superb in this regard. For that matter, we couldn't discern any difference between the plasmas and the Samsung LCD, which only resolved between 300 and 400 lines with dejudder turned off, during regular program material. As we've said before, to our eyes superior motion resolution is quite difficult to appreciate.
Bright lighting: The S1 did a solid job attenuating ambient light in a brightly lit room, but did not perform as well in this regard as the matte-screened Sony or the Pioneer plasma. 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, but reflections still weren't as distracting as on that set.
Standard-definition: The TC-S1 series 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 sub-par job with 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 pull-down to remove moiré from the grandstands behind the racecar.
PC: Via HDMI, the Panasonic performed extremely well, resolving every line of a 1,920x1,080 source and showing text and lines with no edge enhancement. We did notice faint diagonal lines in some flat fields in the highest-resolution test patterns, which were perhaps an artifact of the screen itself, but they weren't distracting in most material.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6299/6558||Good|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||70.8||Good|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.6642/0.3292||Average|
|Color of green||0.2578/0.6653||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.1486/0.0573||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: Power Consumption testing was only performed on the 42-inch TC-P42S1, not on the 50-inch TC-P50S1. For details, see the TC-P42S1 review.