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!

Anamorphic Lenses and Cinemascope

Here’s a difference: The Panasonic supports using anamorphic lenses for Cinemascope movies to be viewed without the black bars at top and bottom of the screen. The Epson does not (but can, with an outboard processor). The Panasonic lacks the outputs to control the anamorphic lens’ motorized sled, but that is not a biggie, and can be accomplished other ways. Remember, you need a different shaped screen (2.35:1) instead of the “traditional” home theater 16:9 (1.78:1) screen ratio. Please note, only a tiny percentage of home theater projector buyers go the anamorphic lens route, but if you are one of them, the Panasonic will save you the $1000 to $3000+ for an outboard processor.

Projector Warranties

Theoretically, the Panasonic comes with only your basic one year parts and labor warranty, but Panasonic has been offering a second year extended warranty, for most of the PT-AE2000U’s existance. By comparison, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, comes standard with a two year parts and labor warranty, and both years include their replacement program. If you have a warranty issue, Epson sends out a replacement, and you return yours to them, after the replacement arrives. You can’t beat having a replacement warranty.

Projector Brightness

The Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB has the advantage here, both in “best” and brightest modes.

In that best, movie watching mode, they are fairly close, with the Panasonic clocking in at 402 lumens compared to the Epson’s 468 lumens. Those extra 66 lumens compute out to about 16 percent more horsepower. Translated, that typically means you can go with the same screen, but about a foot larger diagonal, to get the same brightness.

Overall, I would say that 110″ diagonal screens are about the maximum for the Panasonic, unless you go with hi-gain screens. And the Epson – well, as I said, about one extra foot diagonal.

In brightest mode, it gets more dramatic. The is the brightest game around, at least under $5000, and even between $5000 and $10,000, only one projector is significantly brighter. The Home Cinema 1080 UB cranks out over 1500 lumens.

By comparison the Panasonic, is still very respectable, but tops out at 1019 lumens.

That gives the Epson a real advantage if you have ambient light issues. Sports fans will definitely favor the Epson, as it will better “get them out of the cave”. After all, if you have friends over, who wants to watch football in the dark. The same applies for normal TV/HDTV viewing. Mind you this is not even remotely a “night and day difference”, but it is definitely significant. Think: Replacing a 50 watt light bulb with a 75 watt one.

To keep things in perspective, Panasonic’s 1019 lumens is still at least average, and far brighter than some of the competition (down around 600 lumens).

Projector Sharpness

The newer PT-AE2000U is definitely a bit sharper than last year’s model, the PT-AE1000U. Still it produces one of the softer looking images of the 1080p projectors. This is a trade-off. The Panasonic uses their “Smooth Screen” technology, to make the pixel structure completely invisible (unless you are standing a foot or two from the screen).

By comparison, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, is classic 3LCD, with more visible pixel structure than the other two technologies – DLP and LCoS, but generally that is not considered an issue with 1080p projectors. Still, having a pixel structure just at/below the point of visibility for those who like to sit relatively close, isn’t as good as no pixel structure at all.

The Epson does not produce the sharpest image around, but has to be considered better than average. Side by side, the difference between these two projectors is visible.

I think the Epson has the advantage here, overall, but some will like the Panasonic – they might say that the slightly softer, no pixel visibility makes the projector a bit more “film-like”. Let’s say that I don’t have a problem with the Panasonic’s image softness, and, in fact, my JVC DLA-RS1, last year’s best under $10,000 projector (opinion of most reviewers), is no sharper.

Overall, this is one of those minor points, that probably won’t be a decision maker, but may be one small, but significant factor that will influence your decision.

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