Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB vs. Panasonic PT-AE2000U

Looks like we have a rematch here, from last year. Last year, the older Epson Home Cinema 1080 (no “UB”), did battle with the Panasonic PT-AE1000U. In last year’s “contest” the results were pretty much a tie, with each projector having some advantages and disadvantages.

This year the results are definitely different! Both took our top honor, the Best In Class Award, but the Panasonic got placed in our 1080p Entry Level group (approximately $2000 and under – street price), and the Epson in the main grouping ($2000 to $3500). This makes things interesting!

Out of the Box Projector Performance

This works out to a tie. Both projectors, I describe as having very good color accuracy “out of the box”. If you look at my calibration sections, you’ll see that neither requires any significant adjustment to get truly excellent color at the ideal 6500K color temperature.

Black Levels and Shadow Details

No contest here. The Epson beats the Panasonic at black level performance rather easily. Not surprising, as I consider the Epson to be, by far the best of any projectors except for the far more expensive Sony VW60 and the JVC’s, most of which cost at least twice the price.

Panasonic’s black level performance is, however, very good, as I pointed out in the review. Let’s say its typical of 3LCD 1080p projectors, and notably better than a couple, and definitely comparable on dark scenes to most of the DLP’s out there as well.

When it comes to shadow detail, the battle is much closer, especially if you “tune” the Panasonic’s gamma, a bit. That makes the two somewhat close, but the Epson, again, gets the nod.

Overall Picture Quality

A couple of months separated the two reviews, so I didn’t get a chance to run these two projectors side by side.

The Panasonic, as previously noted, is very film like, and I used the phrase “a pleasure to watch” in describing it in the review. Nothing has changed. That makes it an exceptional consumer projector – for the people who just want to watch content, and not fiddle (although every projector can use a a little improvement that can be accomplished by a basic end user calibration (or hiring a professional).

The Epson is, I have to say, a touch less “film-like” (by the way, “film-like” is a very subjective term). Overall its image appears a touch harder, but also more dynamic – more “pop” and “wow”.

For me, the extra horsepower, and the really superior black levels make the picture quality of the Epson, a step up from the Panasonic.

Projector Pricing

Murky. I put the PT-AE2000U in the Entry level – $2000 and under category, where it took top honors, (and is the most expensive entry). However, it was a tough call whether it belonged there, or in the same category as the Epson. This is due to Panasonic’s chronic use of rebates and promos, which I try to factor in. As stated elsewhere in this report, however, I got the newest promotion wrong, thinking that, for example, it had a $400 mail in rebate, and $250 Blockbuster Rental card. Turns out, it is a $400 Blockbuster card, and that extra year of warranty (which Panasonic sells for $250). Most will agree, that the second promo, while nice, isn’t as nice as what I originally thought. BTW, the error was all mine.

Still, no matter how you slice it, the Panasonic is less expensive. If you allow the full value of the rental card, but not the warranty (since both would have 2 year warranties), the difference would be over $600 at the time this is being written. Of course prices will change thoughout the life cycle of both projectors. The Epson definitely is selling for close to $3000.

Projector Value

Projector Value (or value proposition, or price/performance), is where price meets performance.

This is a close one. Figuring that the Panasonic is roughly (don’t call me on this) 20% less after promos, rebates, etc., the two, I would say are similar in value. The Epson definitely has more going for it, but the price difference might cover the price of a good screen, or perhaps a Sony PS3 to play games and serve as your Blu-ray disc player, plus, really nice night on the town as a thank you to your spouse, for letting you get a projector.

The key thing here, is that regardless of the the overall better performance of the Epson, the Panasonic does a beautiful job. The Epson will definitely appeal to the enthusiasts, but most people will just be absolutely thrilled with the either projector. So, to paraphrase Dirty Harry: “Do ya feel rich, Do ya? Well Do ya?… (I’ll skip the “punk.”)

Here’s some help, in deciding, especially if the money is tight. If you think that if you save the big bucks and buy the Panasonic, you will find yourself second guessing your decision, then you probably should spring for the Epson, because it is more projector, overall. If, on the other hand, if you are more the type that will go when getting an excellent projector like the PT-AE2000U set up, your reaction will be “awesome” I don’t really give a damn, if something else is better, this is great, then save yourself some money.

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