Projector Comparison Summary: Z4 vs PT-AE900u
As I said at the start, two excellent projectors, similar overall image quality, but each with some advantages. (again, on these side by side images, the Sanyo is on the left). Note, in the side by side images the Panasonic is slightly brighter. Don't let that make a difference in which projector you think looks better in these images.
There's no easy way to map out which of these home theater projectors will work best for your requirements, so I'll do the best I can in pointing out where one will work better than the other:
- You want a projector that looks best out of the box with minimal or no tweaking: Panasonic AE900u
- You want the best (related to above) color accuracy on flesh tones in particular and color handling in general are very important to you: Winner: Panasonic PT-AE900u. If you properly calibrate the two projectors most of the difference will go away, however, that's either expensive, or you have to spend lots of time learning, and tweaking.
- But, If you buy a calibration disk, and invest an hour, the color differences become negligible. in that case, Color Accuracy becomes a Tie.
- You are a hard core hobbiest. Sanyo PLV-Z4 projector. You live to tweak, you often pick out movies to watch (over and over) because they look so good on the screen, and are probably already talking about replacing this projector (before you even buy it), with a 1080p resolution projector in a couple of years when
- a.) they start shipping - only a couple out there so far and
- b) the prices come down. (only one 1080p projector out there under $15K).
- Black levels and shadow detail: Panasonic PT-AE900u, by a slight margin. Again, a professional calibration may negate any real differences, but that might cost you $500 or more. These differences are visible side by side, but again, slight. You will notice more stars on those Star Wars and other space scenes, on the Panasonic.
- Sharpness: You watch DVD and Hi-Def exclusively: Winner - Sanyo Z4. It's pretty much a tie but the Sanyo PLV-Z4 projector does have a sharpness edge on DVD, although, with next generation DVD's this difference in sharpness will most likely disappear, as it may be upscaling related. That said, many will like the slight edge in sharpness, and for that reason alone, decide to go with the Sanyo PLV-Z4 home theater projector.
- You watch plenty of regular old fashioned TV (non-Hi-Def) in addition to DVD and Hi-Def, the Panasonic AE900u projector wins big here.
- You like to sit fairly close - to really get the "theater effect": a big win for the Panasonic AE-900u projector, as it lets you sit much closer with suffering from screen door effect and visible pixelization.
Those are the critical performance issues. These are more ergonomics, except for the bright room watching:
- You are placing the projector on your back wall or on a table that's not very low: Tie!
- You have a high ceiling or a low table: Due to more range in the vertical lens shift, the Sanyo can be mounted higher above the screen - closer to the ceiling (about a foot or so, depending on how the zoom lens is set, and the size of the screen), same is true if you have a low table: Advantage: Sanyo PLV-Z4 projector.
- You will be using the provided remote control (not buying a fancy programmable remote). Winner: Panasonic PT-AE900u projector
- Piece of mind - Warranty length: Winner - Sanyo PLV-Z4 projector comes with 3 years. (You get only one year with the Panasonic projector, but you can buy two more years, for a reasonable price, making it more of a pricing issue. As of this writing the Sanyo seems to be selling for about $100 less than the Panasonic projector, but Panasonic is offering a $200 mail in rebate (and $300 of Blockbuster rentals - 49 rentals). Forgetting about the rentals That makes the Panasonic about $100 less. But if you want to buy the Panasonic extended warranty, to bring coverage up to the same 3 years as the Sanyo PLV-Z4, then the Panasonic is about $100-$150 more expensive (depending on what dealers quote you on the extended warranty). Also, Sanyo promises a 3 day maximum turnaround at their service facility (plus shipping time). Panasonic does not quote a repair time, but expect it to be longer.
- Watching in rooms with significant ambient light: Tie. The Panasonic projector may be a bit brighter, but I preferred the brightest preset modes on the Z4 slightly over the AE900u.
- You really care what the projector physically looks like when the room lights are on: Sanyo PLV-Z4
I think that summarizes the key factors that will help you decide, between these two projectors. Personally, for my style of watching, I value the ability to sit closer (and its lack of Screen door effect), the better flesh tones, and general advantage in color accuracy, and it's better remote. I would choose the Panasonic PT-AE900u projector. (I do have a very high ceiling 19.5 feet - my DLP projector hangs down almost 6 feet, but I just don't care about such things). Still, the Sanyo is definitely as good a product as the Panasonic, so I recommend you consider the various factors above, and make your own choice.
Here are a few more images from the two, for your consideration: Note, the Panasonic - with lamp in low power mode, Cinema 2 setting, is slightly brighter than the Sanyo projector in it's best mode (also lamp on low) and Creative Cinema mode, and that does affect these images.
Sanyo on left
Sanyo on left
Sanyo on left
Above, note the difference in the wide semi-circle of lights top left
above - Z4, below AE900u
Sanyo above, Panny below (not quite the same frame - sorry!)
Bottom, Bottom Line: You will almost certainly be extremely pleased with either of these two projectors. A hobbies, as well as those fixated on sharpness,t will likely prefer the Sanyo, those who simply want to watch a wide range of content, will favor the Panasonic.
There are several items I pointed out that, if important to you, might make one projector'ss strengths or weaknesses a deciding factor.
But, either way, you will truly be impressed.
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Quicktip: And one last note. These two projectors as excellent as they are, especially for the price, are still, in my humble opinion (IMHO), not quite up to the level of performance that is achieved with DLP projectors featuring the DarkChip3. Some of these DC3 DLP's are now selling for under $4000. So, if your budget allows, do consider the difference. They will yield truly better black levels and get you one step closer to perfection.
Meantime, I have recommended the Panasonic to several of my friends right now, who are most pleased, and, I have since recommended a Z4 to still another friend, for different reasons, and I'm sure, he'll be just a happy.
Good hunting, and remember - once you get your new projector - Sanyo or Panasonic, feel free to marvel over its quality, and play with it - for a little while. But after that, leave the projector alone to do its thing, and just enjoy the content (DVD, Hi-Def, TV, games, computer) that you bought the projector for!
I'm out of here! It's time for Sunday Night Football on ESPN, in Hi-Def -art