Panasonic PT-AX200U Home Theater Projector Preview

Panasonic’s new PT-AX200U is an evolutionary upgrade to the PT-AX100U, but with a special bonus for video gamers.

Panasonic certainly doesn’t have to change much to keep its fans happy, as the PT-AX100U, has been, according to Panasonic, and others, the best selling 720p projector in the US, and worldwide.

The Panasonic PT-AX200U basic specs are

MSRP: $1995.00
Technology: 3LCD
Resolution: 720p (1280×720)
Brightness: 2000 lumens
Contrast: 6,000:1
HDMI Support: 1.3
Lens: 2:1 zoom will fill 100″ screen from approximately 3 to 6 meters
Lens Shift: Vertical and horizontal, allows placement of projector anywhere from above screen top, to below screen bottom
Noise levels: Not published, but should be as quiet as the AX100U which was definitely quiet.

There’s a lot of tasty new technology, and improvements, in the PT-AX200U, some I’ll touch on here, the rest, you can find in the Panasonic press release which will start further down.

Everyone’s first question is when. October is the answer, hard to pin down more details but it sounds like Panasonic is trying to get these home theater projectors into dealers’ hands by mid October.

Click to enlarge. SO close

As noted above, one of the big changes is a lot of fancy electronics to make the PT-AX200U ideal for gamers. There are a number of issues the AX200U addresses. First is response time, which is significantly faster than the older AX100U, then, there are a number of new savable modes, designed to allow gamers to set their projector up ideally for the game they are playing. Those of you who break out Halo, or other lengthy games, know that the graphics is often extremely dark, and other graphics are typically over saturated. The Panasonic will let you get that game looking just right, for your preferences, room, and ambient lighting.

Speaking of ambient lighting, the Panasonic Light Harmonizer, which the AX100U had, has been improved. The purpose of the Light Harmonizer 2, is to automatically adjust the projector’s image to match room lighting conditions. On the older projector this worked moderately well, but it really can’t read your mind, as to what you like. With the new version in the PT-AX200U, the Light Harmonizer 2 has more control of many of the adjustments. It should work better. This is not a “biggie” feature, in my book, but many may like it. (To me it’s sort of like the auto lighting on my keyboard and MacBook Pro display. Sure, it adjusts things automatically, and sometimes it’s great, but then quite often, I’m adjusting them myself, anyway.)

Click Image to Enlarge

Like the PT-AX100U, the PT-AX200U uses Panasonic’s Smooth Screen Technology, to make pixels virtually invisible. A side-effect, however is a slightly soft looking image. Panasonic has added some sophisticated image sharpening processing that will sharpen automatically, areas of the image that it determines can be improved. I’m really looking forward to seeing if the net result is a projector that seems sharper than it’s predecessor.

Panasonic says that it has also further improved their dynamic iris, which now updates 60 times a second!

On the physical side, the PT-AX200U gets 2 HDMI ports, up from just one on the older Panasonic projector. The press release and literature do not specify whether the HDMI ports are HDMI 1.3 (supporting Deep Color – a real plus, as content starts coming out with deeper color palettes). I did ask the techs at CEDIA though and was told that the HDMI ports are 1.3. Good!

I could go on, but I’ll probably just be repeating more info from the press release. In addition, the pdf of the full brochure should be

Panasonic PT-AX200U Home Theater Projector: Press Release

PANASONIC DEBUTS NEW LCD HOME THEATER PROJECTOR
HOLLYWOOD-QUALITY CINEMA AND GAMING MODES

Panasonic PT-AX200U Projector Displays Brightest Images In Its Class1, Improved Color Reproduction, Gradation, and Sharpness

Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA) EXPO – DENVER, Colo., (Booth # 825) – September 6, 2007 – Panasonic Projector Systems Company, Unit of Panasonic Corporation of North America, today announced the unveiling of its new PT-AX200U LCD (1280 x 720 pixels) home theater projector.  Designed as an affordable luxury for gaming and home theater enthusiasts who desire a rich home entertainment viewing experience, the new projector brings Hollywood-level picture quality to home screens in nearly any lighting environment.

The new PT-AX200U model is the next evolution of its award-winning predecessor, the PT-AX100U, which was the worldwide market leader in the 720p native resolution class of projectors during fiscal year 2006 (source:  Pacific Media Associates). 

Superior Image Quality in Any Ambient Light
The PT-AX200U projector produces bright, eye-catching images, buoyed by its 220-W UHM™ lamp and optical unit that combine to generate 2,000-lumen brightness. It also incorporates Panasonic’s improved Light Harmonizer 2 image technology, which measures ambient light and adjusts the image brightness by controlling not only the gamma curve, but also the iris setting, lamp power, and picture sharpness to maintain bright, crisp and vivid pictures under any lighting condition.

Gaming Mode
The PT-AX200U ships with a new gaming mode so consumers can enjoy playing their favorite video games. According to the Entertainment Software Association, game software sales reached approximately 240 million units during 2006 and Panasonic is poised to begin capturing this market.  Compared with Panasonic’s prior model, the new projector’s gaming mode improves signal processing for 1/3 faster response time, using the controller buttons. Gamers can also program and save up to eight settings for games or movies, making it easy to view the content as they wish.  In addition, picture quality characteristics have been specifically tuned to reveal more image details that were previously not as visible in very dark or over-saturated areas that are prevalent in many games.

“The PT-AX200U is our first projector uniquely designed with gamers in mind. And it beautifully displays high-definition content like HDTV and video games, which are both rapidly growing in popularity,” said Thomas Zitelli, president of Panasonic Projector Systems Company. “Consumers are telling us they want to enjoy hi-def content without closing their window blinds, but they also want to watch movies within the cozy, dark confines of their home theaters.  Our new PT-AX200U projector delivers the flexibility for anyone to relish movie theater-quality entertainment anywhere in their home.”

Major League Gaming (MLG) professional Tom Taylor, also known as Tsquared, will be at the Panasonic booth showing how easily and captivating video game images are displayed using the PT-AX200U.  Recognized as one of the best Halo 2 video game players in the world, Taylor is the captain of the Str8 Rippin gaming team that won an MLG tournament – something very difficult to do on a team level.  Taylor remarked, “I’ve been in the gaming industry for a while now and have played on other projectors, but my experience with the AX200 is unmatched.”

Hollywood Picture Quality in Dark Rooms
The PT-AX200U projector reproduces Hollywood movies, independent films and other entertainment with exceptional color accuracy and sharpness.  Its new Advanced Dynamic Sharpness Control intelligently determines image areas that need to be sharpened at varying degrees to deliver clear and natural-looking pictures.  The refined Dynamic Iris adjusts the unit’s optical iris, the UHM™ lamp and gamma curve2 60 times per second at stunning smoothness to produce beautiful images with a 6,000:1 contrast ratio. 

The PT-AX200U’s Pure Color Filter uses optical adjustment to achieve accurate color reproduction, going a step further than conventional projectors that reproduce colors by adjusting the white balance. The color filter achieves a higher purity level of the three primary colors – red, green and blue – displays deeper, purer blacks, and significantly expands the color gamut.
In addition, the new Smooth Screen technology uses crystal double refraction to arrange pixels on a screen with no gaps in between them – producing vivid, smooth images found in commercial movie theaters.  The technology also enhances images’ three dimensional effect for a completely immersive viewer experience.

The new home theater projector’s Cinema Color Management feature allows the users to control color correction of up to approximately 1,070,000,000 colors to create images to their liking.  The users can now store up to eight adjustment settings into the memory with custom names.

Ease of Use
Thanks to the PT-AX200’s 2x optical zoom lens and lens shift function, the new projector now offers consumers more places to view their favorite home entertainment.  Viewers can easily set up and install the projector on a coffee table, suspend it from the ceiling, or set it on a bookshelf.  The projector can cast a 100-inch image at a range of approximately three to six meters from the screen, and its pearl-white color and sleek cabinet design fit well in almost any room décor.  The PT-AX200 also comes equipped with two HDMI inputs, eliminating the need for an HDMI switcher. Finally, the new model’s remote control has powerful settings for different types of video such as television sports, home movies or commercial films.

Building upon the PT-AX200U’s innovative feature set, today Panasonic also announced its next advanced, full high-definition, 1080p home theater projector – the PT-AE2000U – designed for savvy home theater enthusiasts and audio-video professionals.

The Panasonic PT-AX200U LCD home theater projector will be available in October at Panasonic authorized presentation systems dealers. Pricing will be announced at CEDIA 2007.

About Panasonic Projector Systems
Panasonic Projector Systems Company is a prominent supplier of projectors and presentation systems in the United States.  It is a unit of Panasonic Corporation of North America, the principal North American subsidiary of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (NYSE:MC) of Japan, and the hub of its U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations.  For more information on Panasonic Projector Systems products, visit the company’s Web site.

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