Panasonic PT-AE1000U 1080p Home Theater Projector Review

Panasonic PT-AE1000U vs. Optoma HD81

This is almost a classic LCD vs. DLP. The Optoma is definitely brighter, and can handle much larger screens, but costs more, and the Panasonic clobbers it in placement flexibility.

On the other hand, the street price of the PT-AE1000U is more than $2000 less, so these two are hardly competitors in terms of price.

The PT-AE1000U, is far more likely to work in your room. Most people considering the HD81 will have no choice but to ceiling mount, for the projector has only a 1.2:1 zoom, and no lens shift. Even ceiling mounted it is especially limited in placement.

The Optoma HD81 should have a slight edge in sharpness over the Panasonic. I was extremely impressed when viewing the Optoma HD81 at CEDIA, doing Phantom of the Opera from HD-DVD.

The Optoma comes with an outboard processor that stays with the rest of your equipment, and has a single cable that runs from the processor box to the projector, carrying all your source selections. The HD81 has more inputs than any other projector in its class, so far.

Due to the pricing difference, these are only competitors in that they are two of the few 1080p projectors under $10,000, the Optoma’s real competition is the previously mentioned BenQ, while the Panasonic’s is the Mitsubishi.

As I finish reviews of other 1080p projectors you can look to the summaries there for updated info on how they compare.

PT-AE1000U Pros

  • Most affordable 1080p projector
  • Beautiful, accurate picture out of the box
  • Great flesh tones
  • No pixel visibility at all (at anything resembling normal seating distance)
  • Excellent black levels (within the limits of dynamic iris’es)
  • Extremely good shadow detail
  • Excellent placement flexibility thanks to zoom and lens shift
  • 2 HDMI inputs
  • Lamp can be changed without unmounting the projector
  • Very good remote control
  • Waveform monitor and custom color management (for serious tweakers)
  • Manual is good overall
  • 5 user savable settings
  • Very quiet
  • Very good Price/Performance

PT-AE1000U Cons

  • Image is a bit soft with 1080 sources (due to Smooth Screen technology)
  • Brightness is about average, the projector is therefore not ideal for larger screens (over 110″ diagonal) or for handling more than very small amounts of ambient light for things like sports viewing.
  • Manual could better explain some functions, instead of just identifying them (like Cinema Reality)
  • One year warranty

PT-AE1000U Typical Capabilities

  • Lamp life
  • Average brightness
  • Menus
  • Requires occasional filter cleaning
  • Selection of inputs

Summary

I’m probably the biggest sharpness fanatic I know of, for I like to sit close (11 feet) to a 128″ screen, and if I could, might even sit a bit closer. As a result of that preference, I’m a little more biased against the Panasonic PT-AE1000U, than the vast majority would be. To me the slight softness on 1080 resolution images is a big factor, yet, I realize that the average viewer isn’t likely to be able to tell the difference between, say the Mitsubishi and the Panasonic, unless in a side by side setup. Based on my strong preference for sharpness, I’m probably coming out sounding a little more down on the Panasonic than I should be.

Once that issue is set aside, the Panasonic really starts looking like not only a great value, but an excellent overall projector.

While the PT-AE1000U could use more lumens, it is typical for LCD home theater projectors in the 1080p class (so far) next year, no doubt, the replacement models will be brighter.

The great thing about the PT-AE1000U, is you can pop it out of the box and slap it down on a table, run some cables to it, and enjoy a great looking picture, even before you figure out where you are going to permanently place it.

The Panasonic’s overall image quality is about as good as it gets without having to adjust anything. The PT-AE1000U projector for people who are into movies, rather than those more interested in the equipment than the content.

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