Panasonic PT-AE7000 Home Theater Projector Review

Panasonic PT-AE7000 - Competitors

How does the Panasonic PT-AE7000 compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market, including the Sony VPL-HW30ES, Epson Home Cinema 5010, Optoma HD8300, and the Sharp XV-Z17000?

Panasonic PT-AE7000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 8700UB

This comparison is similar to the one comparing the PT-AE7000 with the PT-AE4000 it replaces (below). I’m leading with this because I was able to view side by side.

If you assign zero value to having 3D, and compare these two excellent projectors as 2D only projectors, features vary tremendously, and there are performance differences as well.

The Epson, though, will be going away by end of 2011. In the meantime it is $1000 less.

From an image performance standpoint (2D only), I’ll give the edge to the Epson for having blacker blacks (still a real difference), and slightly better shadow detail. The Epson has a touch more “pop” to their image (and some extra lumens), while the Panasonic PT-AE7000 is a touch subdued by comparison, one might say, more natural. Of course, both are loaded with dynamic features and every time you touch those to improve something, you are a touch further from the “original”. You can adjust away or add “pop” to any projector, but we’re discussing tendencies.

OK, above, Panasonic PT-AE7000 (left) vs. Epson Home Cinema 8700UB. No question about it, our badly over-exposed night train scene shows blacker blacks on the Epson, and even a bit more dark shadow detail. Live and larger, the Epson also just has noticeably more “pop”.

The Panasonic, though, does have the better CFI if you are looking for smooth, less noticeable soap opera/live digital video effect, and in general, it seems a touch more forgiving on poorer content, including standard DVDs.

When it comes to placement flexibility and options, both have similar range lenses. Panasonic motorizes zoom and focus, while Epson doesn’t, but the huge difference is Panasonic’s Lens Memory.

If you aren’t going with a 2.35:1 screen (or similar), it really isn’t a big deal. But if your room supports the wider screen, the Panasonic lets you go “Cinemascope” without having to buy an anamorphic lens.

And the PT-AE7000 has other additional features, including their Waveform generator allowing some help in calibrating.

If you want to play in the 3D world, of course there’s no comparison.

Bottom line: If 3D isn’t your thing, and you’re sure it won’t be in a couple of years. the Epson is a a projector, with less features, but an overall similar quality picture, a few more lumens, better warranty, and a lot less money while they last.

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Panasonic PT-AE7000 vs. Optoma HD8300

I found this interesting. I was never overwhelemed by the HD8300, which has a mix of strengths and a few weaknesses. Then considering it’s a lot more money than the Panasonic, as I started testing the Panasonic, I was thinking, that, as a value, the Panasonic PT-AE7000 has to blow the Optoma HD8300 away.

For the most part, that was my expectation, and belief, through most of the reviewing process of the Panasonic. When I finally set the two projectors up side by side, though, reality returned.

These are two rather different projectors, and both will find supporters. You’ve been reading about all the wonderous aspects of the Panasonic, so no need to repeat most again. Let’s consider from an HD8300 perspective.

It’s a sharp DLP projector, a single chip projector. When I viewed them side by side, that translated into a slightly sharper/crisper looking image, with a touch more depth. Watching dark scene sequences, like the Casino Royale night train, the Optoma HD8300, which I had pointed out at the time, does particularly well producing rich dark colors in darker scenes. With its slight edge in black levels assisting that, the HD8300 does look better to me on darker scenes, between the colors and the depth.

Above, Panasonic on the left, HD8300 on the right. Overall, the two images are of similar brightness in that both have their brightest areas measuring about the same. But when you measure the blacks, (using the letterbox area, since it’s easy), the Optoma is definitely, slightly darker. I’d put the Optoma about half way between the blacks of the Panasonic, and the Epson above – with neither difference being really great.

It also has more “best” mode calibrated lumens, although not as bright overall.

But things aren’t all that rosy when it comes to 3D. The roughly 50% brightness advantage for the Panasonic makes a huge difference. The HD8300 was one of those that I find to be somewhat dim. That’s correctable with high gain or small screens, but, it’s a significant downside to those really interested in 3D and reasonable brightness. Fine for those who don’t find it as dim as some of my friends do. Let me put it this way, on my 100″ size for 16:9, I think the Panasonic gets the job done. (I don’t want a screen high gain enough to matter and significantly narrow the viewing cone or corner brightness). The Optoma though, is a bit rough with some of its dynamic controls, not the best CFI, or iris action.

To summarize, the HD8300 will appeal more to the purist, for the rich colors, and image depth, slightly better blacks, wanting the best possible picture quality in 2D. The HD8300 can deliver on that, and a longer warranty as well. The price difference of $1000 or so will be a big determining factor, but one of these two likely will have a lot more appeal to you than the other, even forgetting price, and that should make choosing somewhat easy.

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Panasonic PT-AE7000 vs. Sony VPL-HW30ES

Bad timing! I couldn’t hang on to the Sony VPL-HW30ES long enough to have them both here at the same time.

Like with the Optoma, again, when reviewing the Panasonic, I was wondering: “how can the Sony VPL-HW30ES compete?”

The Panasonic has the Lens Memory, if you want to go “Cinemascope” screen and not spring for an expensive anamorphic lens, that’s a strong benefit.

These two projectors are close in price, with about a $700 or less street price difference. The Sony is going to be tough to find online, as it’s not supposed to be available there.

Placement advantage, of course goes to the Panasonic, and all considered, it clobbers the otherwise well featured Sony, in number of features.

Let’s talk Picture Quality. Now that I’ve seen the Panasonic take on the Optoma in terms of black levels, and come up a bit short, I can conclude that the Sony VPL-HW30ES too has the advantage on blacks, which will appeal to those of us who really love the advantage on darker scenes. I’d count these two, to be about tied, in terms of dark shadow detail.

Give the Sony the advantage on darker scenes in general, and also a touch more “pop”.

Sharpness: Both are perfectly good, sharp projectors, but those few DLP projectors are typically “sharper still”.

Brightness: Brightness considerations will be a huge factor. That’s because these two are so different, each with a major strength and weakness compared to the other.

Post calibration, the Panasonic PT-AE7000U’s 422 measured lumens, are barely half of the Sony’s just over 800. Movie afficianados, and in general, for folks with good controlled lighting and not needing lots of lumens for things like sports, and HDTV, will be able to enjoy a brighter pictures or a significantly larger screen with the Sony VPL-HW30ES.

On the other hand, for those needing or wanting the maximum lumens for the purpose of fighting ambient light, the Panasonic is a good 50% brighter when comparing bright modes. That makes the Panasonic the choice for a lot of folks, such as those watching sports with friends in a living/family room environment.

For 3D though, the advantage is the Panasonic. It’s just brighter. Here the 50% advantage in brightness, does make a difference.

More likely, matching these two projectors to your room and your watching habits will be more critical than most of the aspects of the picture quality. It’s an old quandry, with a 3D twist thrown in. As a side note; in the past, the price spread was much larger, the Sony costing a lot more.

Panasonic PT-AE7000 vs. Sharp XV-Z17000

The XV-Z17000 was the first of the 1080p home theater projectors to sport 3D. That makes it about a year and a half older. Yet, when the Sharp came out, it performed exceptionally well, considering it was first to market. Unlike most of the others to follow this year, the Sharp supports those optional 720p 3D modes, that the Sony, JVC, and Mitsubishi 3D capable projectors couldn’t.

Brightness wise, the Sharp’s not bad, a bit brighter than average, but the Panasonic is a good bit brighter.

Flexibility wise, no contest, the Panny’s about the best, and the Sharp is extremely limited, with only a 1.15:1 zoom and no lens shift.

The Sharp is smaller, and lighter, so it can move around. Inherently the XV-Z17000 comes from a crossover projector design, as did the Z15000 (2D). Overall, the platform (not the 3D and this model), is several years old.

Panasonic PT-AE4000 vs. Panasonic PT-AE7000

Overall, since the PT-AE7000 seems to be an evolved PT-AE4000, but with 3D and a whole lot more lumens. I haven’t had a PT-AE4000 here in quite some time. That said, despite the increase in published contrast ratio, I don’t see any significant improvement in black level performance.

Since the PT-AE4000′s are by now, out of production (11/14/11), most likely they won’t be around very long, from days to a couple of months.

While they are still available, some potential PT-AE7000 projector owners may do better for themselves with “last year’s model.” That would be mostly three types of home theater folks: Those with no interest at all in 3D, those looking for a big boost of lumens, and those desiring both the brightness and 3D abilities.

As those are the major enhancements, consider that in a typical year to year, one would expect improved performance for slightly less. If the extra 500+ lumens isn’t important to you, nor is 3D, then it will be very hard to rationalize the PT-AE7000 for an extra $1000.

On the other hand, 3D and all those extra lumens do make the PT-AE7000 a whole lot more projector. With a price easily in line with any of the other new 3D capable projectors we’ve reviewed to date.

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