Panasonic PT-AE3000U Projector Review

This section will consider how the Panasonic PT-AE3000 home theater projector stacks up against much of the competition. Here you will find our impressions of the Panasonic projector as it compares to a mix of projectors that are now being phased out, as well as conjecture on how it will perform compared to some brand new ones that we have not yet received for review. It’s that time of the year (Sep. – Dec.) when most new home theater projectors hit the market.

PT-AE3000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB

Last year, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB was my favorite projector under $3000. That projector is on its way out, with a newer Home Cinema 6500 UB starting to ship in December ’08. I’ll discuss the new one, separately, below.

The Epson is slightly brighter (roughly 15%) in best mode, and significantly brighter in its brightest mode (by almost 50%) giving it an advantage for those wanting larger screens. The Epson was the lower cost king of black level performance, and while the Panasonic claims higher contrast, the Epson still has a slight advantage in this department.

 

I’ll give the Panasonic the advantage in terms of “film-like” imagery when watching movies. The Epson has a bit more “pop and wow” feel to the image, which is the trade-off. Thus, a slightly more natural picture from the Panasonic, and one with a bit more dazzle for the Epson. The two are extremely close in terms of sharpness, with an insignificant advantage to the Epson. Epson also wins the warranty battle.

Both have almost identical placement flexibility, however the Panasonic has that pseudo anamorphic lens emulation, which will allow hard core movie fans the option of going with a 2.35:1 screen. In addition, the Panasonic supports third party anamorphic lenses, if you can afford one.

The Panasonic is truly loaded with features compared to the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB. Zoom and focus are motorized compared to manual on the Epson. The Epson does not support an anamorphic lens. Their more expensive Pro version does.

Lastly, the Panasonic PT-AE3000U has 96/120fps frame interpolation which reduces motion blur. A nice touch, but, from my initial take, the improvement when there are fast moving scenes, is minimal.

Tough call between these two, as the Epson is in closeout mode, and nets out to a few hundred less dollars.

Panasonic PT-AE3000 vs. Mitsubishi HC5500 HC6500 and HC7000

The PT-AE3000U is a step up compared to the less expensive HC5500. The Mitsubishi has an advantage in brightness, but is no match at all, in terms of black levels. It also has very limited placement flexibility compared to the Panasonic. Unless you need the extra lumens, or are on a tight budget, the HC5500 is a tough sell compared to the PT-AE3000. Both have natural looking images, but the Mitsubishi has a sharper image.

Next are the HC6500 and HC7000. This is an interesting situation, as the Mitsubishis are not sold online, and even the HC6500 commands a higher price, despite being what I’ll call a middle of the line projector. The HC7000 is more expensive still (we are receiving our review unit next week), but is the direct competition for the Panny.

Like the Panasonic, these two Mitsubishi projectors have motorized zoom and focus, and they even have motorized lens shift. (They do have less zoom range – only 1.6:1 vs. 2:1, but 1.6:1 is more than enough to make the Mitsubishis work in almost everyone’s room). The HC6500 is no match for the PT-AE3000U in terms of black levels, it’s a step down in this regard, although the Mitsubishi is still better than the older PT-AE2000U

The HC7000 compared to the Panasonic should prove to be a very interesting battle in terms of pure performance. The HC7000 claims even higher contrast, so it may have even better black levels. The HC7000 also supports 96fps/120fps frame rates. While the Panasonic actually interpolates frames to make motion smoother, the HC7000 simply repeats rate for smoothness, but perhaps not as smoothly. We will do a side-by-side, when the HC7000 arrives, to get to the bottom of this. Is this difference a big deal? I don’t think so, but time will tell. Most likely the HC7000 will have to rationalize its higher price, by virtue of a sharper image, and more lumens, while the Panasonic will have the advantage with their pseudo anamorphic emulation’s save functions. The Mitsubishi has the same zoom function and aspect ratio ability, but, as I understand it, you have to adjust the zoom manually, while the Panasonic can save settings so it’s a two or three click operation to toggle back and forth. Of course that only comes into play if you decide to go with a 2.35:1 screen.

Bottom line, the Panasonic, except for sharpness and brightness, has the advantage over the HC5500 and the HC6500. The HC7000, on the other hand, should prove to be a formidable competitor, despite being more expensive. Stay tuned for the review

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