Panasonic Viera TC-P42S1 Plasma Review

 

Model: Panasonic Viera TC-P42S1
Description: 42" Full 1080P HD Plasma TV
Reviewer: Jack Burden
Date: Fall 2009

Panasonic TC-P42S1 Review
Although the 42S1 presentation of Blade Runner displays subdued color, this picture displays a punchy spirit albeit with somewhat muted black levels.

Test and Optimum Viewing Distance: 10 feet

Calibration Notes: Overall, calibration to D6500K was very easy with this TV. Though there are no white balance adjustments available on the menu without entering the service menu, the 42S1 calibrated so close to D65 from the start that it would have improved the TV inappreciably. We started our calibration from the custom setting in the Warm 2 color temperature position. The S1 series TV does not contain the THX picture setting option. Follow the following settings to calibrate to a nearly perfect D65. These picture settings are best viewed in a controlled light environment fairly dark room:

Picture Mode Custom Color Mgmt: OFF
Color Temp Warm2 x.v.Color: OFF
Brightness +74 C.A.T.S.: OFF
Contrast +75 Video NR: Weak
Color +45 Block NR: Off
Tint -2 Misquito NR: Off
Sharpness +15 Black Level: Light
    3:2 Pulldown: Off
    HD Size: 2

Picture Presentation from 480i signals: 480i resolution is a great test of a TVs upconversion and processing chip sets. The signal may be likened to what you would see with your normal digital cable or satellite signal.The 42S1 series plasma contains the new NEO PDP (I.e. plasma screen) from Panasonic. The S1 series uses the same screen used in the G10 series. The internal processing components also appear to be the same as the G10. The picture quality from 480i is very average, it's slightly soft and shows some graininess. The problem is not with processing but rather with color rendition and fading black levels. Dark shadow detail is excellent to to the TVs high brightness levels, while black levels are lacking depth and punch. Blacks can appear dark gray and hazy with 480i signals input. The processing chip sets in Panasonic TVs have been quite good for a long time but I feel like the company has stagnated here for some time and are not progressing any further in this area.

Panasonic TC-P42S1 Review
This shot from perfume displays the hazy blacks with a 480i input which dark shadow detail is excellent.

1080p HD Picture Quality: The picture presentation of the 42S1 is exceptionally bright for a plasma TV. Black levels are deep and strong with an HD signal input through HDMI. While not the best we've seen lately, they lose the dark gray haziness that the S1 displays with a 480i signal. Color is plenty saturated and dark shadow detail remains excellent.

Black Level/Contrast: As mentioned above, black levels appear sufficient though not excellent with and HD signal while appearing weak with a 480i input source. This result concurs with our post calibration ANSI checkerboard contrast test which held blacks at .11 average luminance. Final contrast measurement was 1201:1 which would be an excellent result for an LCD but is a rather weak result for a plasma TV. The TVs strength lies in its white brightness which measured an average luminance of 30.50. This result nears LCD TVs in brightness and points to Panasonic's desire to compete with LCD TVs in this area.

Dark Shadow Detail: Due to the high brightness of this plasma dark shadow detail is excellent.

Color Rendition/Color Accuracy: Color rendition is more subdued and realistic than the large majority of TVs on the market – both LCD and plasma. At times color information appears to lack pop, but this is more with 480i signal source content. Colors are much more saturated with HD content.

Panasonic TC-P42S1 Review
This shot from the Blu Ray release of Rocky shows improved blacks and enriched color (over the 480i signal).

Viewing Angle/Off Axis Viewing: Perfect off angle viewing.

Motion Lag: There was no motion lag apparent in any content viewed.

False Contouring/ Mapping: Through testing of various dark scenes we noted no false contouring and mapping – an excellent result.

Features: One of the key feature differences of the S1 series with the G10 series of plasma by Panasonic is the absence of The Viera Cast feature set, which enables online content via a web interface. As a result, there is also no Ethernet port. The Viera Link feature allows the user to control other Viera link capable outboard equipment. The S1 has discrete picture settings for each input as well as Panasonic's new "600 Hz" specification for blur reduction.

This TV is Energy Star compliant due to an energy saver feature option. Power consumption for this TV is 485 Watts (maximum).

Aesthetic Considerations: The thin framing bezel on the 42S1 is very appealing at just over 1.5". However the TV is thick for a 42" screen at 4 inches depth. The graduated silver bar in the bottom of the frame adds a nice 3-dimensional touch. The rectangular stand does not swivel side to side and is plainly unappealing (Panasonic needs to get to work on that option).

Video Aspect Ratio Sizing: The Format button on the remote controls this function with options: Just, 4:3, Zoom, Full, H-Full. Panasonic's Just aspect ratio setting does a great job of displaying an algorithmically balanced picture image.

Inputs: 3 HDMI, 2 Component, 1 15pin PC, digital SD card slot.

Remote Control/Menu Functionality: The menu is very simple and straightforward but with ample options except white balance controls. Picture settings are discrete per input which is always a plus. The remote is functional, easy to use and rather plain.

Panasonic TC-P42S1 Review

Audio Output: There is no voice enhanced feature option for sound though I found the volume to be sufficient. Sound is a little muddy and I would recommend every TV include a voice enhanced option as so much broadcast material these days needs it. Speakers are 10W X 10W. The A-I sound option equalizes sound as a compressor and is useful for watching TV by toning down volume increases in those annoying ads.

The 42S1 is priced at around $950 and $100 less than its Panasonic TC-P42G10 counterpart. The main two features of the G10 over the S1 is inbuilt Internet compatibility and the THX picture setting, The NEO PDP screen and other features are basically the same and so is the picture quality. The Samsung PN42B450 sells for around $750, a nice savings of $200 with similar features and picture quality. The LG 42PQ30 is even less expensive at $675 with similar features and a slightly lower picture quality. These two plasma TV options are only 720p resolution plasma TVs however on a 42" screen it will not make much difference if the viewer is 10 feet away or more – even with the best HD content. Basically the Panasonic TC-P42S1 may not be your best value oriented bet at current prices. If you want more features, you can opt for the Panasonic TC-P42G10. If you want similar features you can go with the Samsung or LG listed above. I suspect we'll see the 42S1 at 10% to 20% lower prices before years end.

A solid quality LCD TV from a major manufacturer runs around $1250 so the 42" Panasonics have most of LCD TVs beaten in a price/quality standoff.

Rating scale from 70 (denoting poorest quality) to 100 (signifying the very best quality). A rating in the 60s for any particular category of a product review indicates a serious defect which causes the product not to operate properly. Picture quality is double-weighted in the Overall Rating Score calculation.

 

Review Equipment Used: Sony Blu Ray BDP-S1 High Definition DVD player, Sony DVP-S50 DVD player (480i), Digital Broadcast Television, Sencore Color Pro 5000, Sencore Auto Cal Pro TWC6500, Sencore signal generator.

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