Panasonic Viera TC-P54S1 Plasma Review


Model: Panasonic Viera TC-C54S1
Description: 54" Full 1080P HD Plasma TV
Reviewer: Jack Burden
Date: Fall 2009

Panasonic TC-P54S1 Review

Test and Optimum Viewing Distance: 15 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 54S1 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 54S1 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-P54S1 Review
A great shot from the DVD of Perfume shows great dark shadow detail and impressive brightness.

1080p HD Picture Quality: The picture presentation of the 54S1 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.

Panasonic TC-P54S1 Review
This scene from the Blu Ray release of Rocky shows how bright the Panasonic 50S1 picture can be even in a dark room setting.

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 1202:1 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.

Panasonic TC-P54S1 Review
Notice the detail in the fabric, armsleeve and sleeve cuff in this shot from the 480i DVD of Perfume.

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.

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 599 Watts.

Aesthetic Considerations: The thin framing bezel on the 54S1 is very appealing at just over 1.5". 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). Total depth of the 54S1 has increased from previous models to about 4 inches.

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 Funtionality: 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-P54S1 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 15W X 15W with a 15W subwoofer. The A-I sound option equalizes volume as a compressor and is useful for watching TV by toning down volume increases in those annoying ads.

The 54S1 is priced at around $1500 and $100 less than its Panasonic TC-P54G10 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. These are the only two 54 inch plasma TVs in the market today, so Panasonic pretty much has it sown up. The closest competitor we can find size and feature wise is the Samsung LN55B650 55" LCD TV, which sell for around $500 more and is difficult to compare. Samsung LCD TVs of late have displayed excellent black levels while this Panasonic S1 series displays brightness levels close to that of the best LCD TVs. This reversal from the past is due, no doubt to the two companies (and technologies) efforts to make up for weaknesses from the past and somewhat overcompensating in doing so. This Panasonic offers an unusually bright picture for a plasma television. Black levels are somewhat compromised with normal television signals and contrast is competitive though not great for a plasma TV.

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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