Panasonic PT-AE4000 Projector Review

Appearance

Not much new hen it comes to touring the physical layout of the PT-AE4000. To the eye, it’s pretty much a replay of the PT-AE2000U, and PT-AE3000U projectors. There are very few differences between them. Overall, the projector is a medium sized, flat finished, dark gray, rectangular box. Definitely no styling awards, except, perhaps for industrial efficiency. In a dark room, you won’t be looking at the projector and that’s what counts.

The noteworthy change to the Panasonic PT-AE4000 projector is the addition of a pair of 12 volt triggers on the input panel.

From the front, the PT-AE4000 has a centered 2:1 motorized zoom lens, which is almost completely recessed (except for the lens ring). Also in the front is an infra-red sensor for the remote control. Below are two screw thread adjustable front feet.

Moving to the top of the Panasonic PT-AE4000, all you will find are two recessed, manual lens throw adjustment “wheels”, one for vertical and one horizontal. Details on lens shift range will be found in the Lens shift section below.

Looking from the rear of the PT-AE4000, there is a spring released door on the left side, which reveals, when open, the control panel of the PT-AE4000. The control panel is a very standard affair.

The projector vents hot air out the vents in the front, and takes in air from the vents in the rear.

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Panasonic PT-AE4000 Control Panel

Open the door on the side of the PT-AE4000 to access the Control Panel and here’s what you will find:

There is a large power button (once for on, twice for off). Below it, is the Menu button. To the right is the usual menu navigation, in a round layout (up, down left right arrows), with a center Enter button. To the right of the navigation area, is an Input Select button, and below it, the Return button (moves the menu back up one level toward the main menu). Finally, there are two buttons to the right for focus adjust, and two below it for zoom in, zoom out. Separate from the control panel, in the lower back corner, is a “hard” power switch, which must be on, for the projector to be powered up by the remote control (or the control panel itself).

Essentially all the basic power, source and menu navigation controls are found on the control panel, as well as the controls for the power zoom and focus.

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Input/Output

I must, like last year, offer congratuations to Panasonic for the PT-AE4000 having three HDMI inputs instead of the usual two. Most people won’t care, but some with more HDMI sources than their AV receiver or HTPC can support, need extra HDMI inputs, and the Panasonic’s three, should do the job, whereas most offer only two HDMI inputs.

The image above of the input/output panel is of the PT-AE3000. This image will be replaced shortly with the PT-AE4000 image, which is laid out the same but for the addition of two screen triggers.

In addition to the HDMI 1.3 inputs there is a computer input to the immediate right. That is followed by a pair of color coded (separate R, G, B, RCA jacks) Component Video inputs. Then, of course, the usual S-Video and Composite video inputs (one each). Finally, there is an RS-232 port for controlling the projector from a computer or room control system. There is also a Kensington Lock slot, the rear infra-red sensor for the PT-AE4000U remote control, and the power cord receptacle.

This year, the PT-AE4000 supports CEC for room control type setup, and that’s something the PT-AE3000U did not do.

Also new for this year are the two 12 volt screen triggers, which can be used as input or the more traditional output switching. Considering Panasonic’s “thing” with fancy lens controls (I do like the Lens Memory option), that makes sense.

In this day and age, most projectors have a single trigger, a few have two, and some have none. While convenient, they are not critical, as the types of devices normally controlled, like lowering or raising a screen, triggering an anamorphic lens sled, a screen masking system, or even just powering on and off other components, can be controlled with 3rd party “universal” remotes, room control systems, etc. In other words, definitley a nice touch, but one most people won’t need to have.

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PT-AE4000 Menus

Panasonic has continued with the same, successful, very good menus that have worked well in their previous home theater projectors. There are minor changes, and of course settings and controls for new features. I like that Panasonic puts just about everything on their main picture menu and the advanced menu found inside that menu.

On the downside, their menu size is very large, which blocks a good chunk of the entire screen, making it a little tough to see the effects of what you are adjusting. You can, however select different positioning for the menu. (I normally like putting menus in the lower left corner.) Still it occupies well more than 1/3 of the scren.

Menu images coming!

PT-AE4000 Remote Control

Panasonic offers a very nice, basic remote control. Range is pretty good, but not exceptional. The backlight is nice and bright. The keys well spaced. There is a Function button which can be programmed for one feature.

This Panasonic projector supports Panasonic’s Viera Link, a language which allows different Panasonic products to talk to each other. With it, for example, the PT-AE4000′s remote can power up a Viera compatible Blu-ray player.

Image coming!

Lens Throw

The PT-AE4000 can be placed as close as 9.9 feet, or as far back as 19.8 feet from a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen (as measured from the front of the lens). This provides about as much placement range as is found in any home theater projector. If you plan on a different sized screen, you can use these numbers to figure out the appropriate distances. A 90″ screen would have distances 90% of those listed above for a 100″ screen, and so on.

Note, that if you are planning to go 2.35:1 screen and use the anamorphic lens “emulation” features, which are part of the Lens Memory function, this Panasonic is offering a great option not found on any other home theater projector (except last year’s PT-AE3000, of course).

Since Lens Memory involves zooming the lens, to set that up properly you will no longer have as much placement flexibility. Rather, you won’t have all that same placement flexibility if you plan to watch more than just Cinemascope movies. You’ll definitely be limited to a narrower zoom ratio if you still also want to watch HDTV or regular TV. According to Panasonic, if you go with a 100″ 2.35:1 screen (for both cinemascope and HDTV), then the closest you can place the projector – measured from the front of the lens – is 10.4 feet, and the furthest from the projector screen would be 15.8 feet. That’s a lot less depth than the numbers above for working with a 16:9 screen. This means that some who would prefer to shelf mount in the rear, may not be able to place the projector far enough back for a rear shelf, if their room is fairly deep.

Keep in mind, a 100 inch diagonal 2.35:1 screen is about five inches wider than a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen, and about ten inches shorter in height.

Lens Shift

When it comes to lens shift, the Panasonic PT-AE4000 home theater projector has manual vertical and horizontal lens shift controls, with a lot of range. This makes for excellent placement flexibility. According to the, the projector can be placed anywhere (for a 100″ diagonal 16:9 screen) from a half screen height (screen height is approximately 49 inches), above the top, or below the bottom of the screen as measured from the center of the lens. That translates into about 24.5 inches above the screen surface top, or the same amount below the bottom of the screen surface. That’s about as good as it gets. Panasonic does not publish any numbers for working with a 100″ 2.35:1 screen.

People with high ceilings will really like all that lens shift, as the projector will not have to hang down as far as it would if it had less vertical lens shift range.

There is also 40% left to right horizontal range (more than almost anyone needs). Remember, using horizontal lens shift limits the maximum amount of vertical lens shift.

I can’t think of another home theater projector recently reviewed with as much lens shift as the Panasonic (congratulations), although, the Epson competition does come very close.

Anamorphic Lens

es, the PT-AE3000 will support anamorphic lens and sled. With this projector, though, you can opt for the same 2.35:1 Cinemascope type screen that you would buy if you got an anamorphic lens, but by using, instead, the Panasonic’s “Lens Memory” anamorphic lens emulation that I have been discussing. Saves thousands of dollars, but isn’t quite as good of a solution, from a pure performance standpoint. Either way, though, (a real anamorphic lens or Lens Memory, and those primarily interested in movies, end up without those pesky letterboxes at the top and the bottom of most movies.

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