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Panasonic TC-P42S2 Plasma HDTV Review

42 in.

An average plasma TV with a few notable problems, but some real bonuses, as well.

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Black Level

The Panasonic TC-P42S2 showed a good performance in the black level test, though it failed to beat the other Panasonic plasma display, and even a Samsung LCD. In the chart below, you can see how it stacked up. Remember, the lower the black level, the better. More on how we test black level.

Black Level Chart

Peak Brightness

The Panasonic TC-P42S2, like most plasma TVs, fails to deliver bright whites. Look at the chart below. The top two TVs are LCD units and the bottom two are plasmas. Now, most people don't consider a bright white as important as a deep black, but for practical purposes, you want a TV that delivers at least a little of each. TVs without a bright picture can be difficult to watch in a sunny room. The Panasonic TC-P42S2 was not the worst we've seen, but it's something to consider before buying any plasma. More on how we test peak brightness.

Peak Brightness Chart

Contrast

The Panasonic TC-P42S2 produced a decent contrast ratio of 1860:1, by our measurements. Sure, that doesn't come close to whatever ridiculous number the manufacturers probably provided, but it never does. Our contrast ratio test measures how black and how bright can a TV get under the same conditions, that is to say, without lowering brightness and backlight and cherry-picking the best results from each setting.

As you can see below, the Panasonic TC-P42S2 falls behind the other Panasonic plasma, and well behind the Samsung LN40C630, but better than the Sharp LC-40LE700. More on how we test contrast.

Contrast Chart

Tunnel Contrast

The Panasonic TC-P42S2, like many plasmas, has a hard time maintaining a consistent black level. Picture a rectangle of black in the center of the screen, surrounded by a just a little white. That's the right end of the scale. Now picture that black rectangle shrinking, and the white trim around it growing. As more bright white appears, that black doesn't stay quite as dark. You don't see this problem with LCD displays, but the chart below shows what happens to the typical plasma. More on how we test tunnel contrast.

Tunnel Contrast Chart

White Falloff

The Panasonic TC-P42S2 also showed some problems with maintaining a consistent peak brightness, which is tested like Tunnel Contrast (above), but in reverse. Again, it's a problem for many plasma TVs, but less so for LCDs. More on how we test white falloff.

White Falloff Chart

Uniformity

One of the benefits of a plasma TV is that they tend to have near-perfect screen uniformity because of how the screen is illuminated. An LCD TV must rely on a small handful of backlights (either CCFL or LED) for the whole screen, which can cause some uniformity problems. We saw no issues with the Panasonic TC-P42S2. More on how we test white falloff.

Greyscale Gamma

The greyscale gamma test measures how well a TV transitions from black to white. Look at the chart below. First, we're looking for a smooth line. Bumps in the line indicate problems where we might see some lack of detail. As you can see, though, the Panasonic has no problems. As you get towards the upper right, which indicates the highlights, it starts to taper into a horizontal like. That indicates that the TV may have some loss of detail in the brightest parts of the signal, but it doesn't look too severe. Finally, we look at the overall slope of the curve. An ideal gamma is somewhere between 2.1 and 2.2. A slope of 2.09 is a bit on the shallow side, but very good overall. More on how we test greyscale gamma.

Greyscale Gamma Chart
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Sections

  1. Introduction
  2. Tour & Design
  3. Blacks & Whites
  4. Color Accuracy
  5. Motion
  6. Viewing Effects
  7. Calibration
  8. Remote Control
  9. Connectivity
  10. Audio & Menus
  11. Multimedia & Internet
  12. Power Consumption
  13. Panasonic Viera TC-P42U2 Comparison
  14. Samsung LN40C630 Comparison
  15. Sharp Aquos LC-40LE700UN Comparison
  16. Conclusion
  17. Series Comparison
  18. Photo Gallery
  19. Ratings & Specs
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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