Panasonic PT-AR100U Home Theater Projector Review

How does the Panasonic PT-AR100U compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market, including the Epson Home Cinema 8350 and 3010, Optoma HD23, HD33, and Mitsubishi HC4000

 

Panasonic PT-AR100U vs. Mitsubishi HC4000

The Mitsubishi HC4000, now in its second year cycle (almost a 3rd year, since it is basically an improved HC3800). Interestingly, the PT-AR100U’s two predecessors were around for 3 years total with little changes.

On the other hand, the the PT-AR100U is a shiny new projector dramatically different than the PT-AX200U before it.

First, the PT-AR100U is pretty much the brightest projector around, making it a top choice for a non-theater environment, be it a bonus room, family room, livingroom, or backyard in the evening (no rain please). The Mitsubishi HC4000 by comparison, is no match, in brightness, but is an excellent little DLP projector with the rich image quality associated with DLP. I’ve always favored the HC4000, and still consider its picture to be a very good one.

The HC4000 lacks a dynamic iris, but, has better than entry level black performance than most of the other dlp projectors near its price (that lack the iris). The Mitsubishi HC4000 is also a bit sharper, which is typical of single chip DLP’s going up against 3 chip LCD or LCoS projectors.

The Panasonic has great placement flexibility, the Mitsubishi by comparison, minimal. The biggest appeal of the HC4000 compared to the PT-AR100U, will be that DLP look. Overall, from a price performance standpoint, the Panasonic definitely has the advantage unless you are a real DLP fan.

Panasonic PT-AR100U vs. HD33 Projector

The HD33 is several hundred dollars more, offers 3D, is reasonably bright, but as a 2D projector is still not a match for the Panasoni PT-AR100U.

The HD33, is definitely more competitive the HC4000. It’s black levels, thanks to a dynamic iris, are definitely competitive with the Panasonic, or even better, but the iris action was rough, more noticeable. At the time of review, I suggested many would find the action distracting. (Note: when I first reviewed the higher end HD8300 it was a similar story; a not very smooth iris. A few months later, Optoma advised that it had been improved. I took a look at a newer one, and it was much improved. Still not first class, but it had gone from “turn off the iris” to “decent” most folks will barely be aware on occasion. The HD33 lacks the flexibility, no lens shift, limited zoom range. In a home theater ceiling mounted, the HD33 zoom isn’t typically an issue, but with very low ceilings, or very high ones, the lack of lens shift could be a deal breaker. Not everyone shopping in this price range, however, needs a permanent installation. The HD33 sets up easily on a table (as does the Panasonic). Of the two, only the Panasonic can be shelf mounted up high.

Of course if you want 3D (a good idea, especially if you have a family), the HD33 has the 3D, the Panasonic does not.

All considered, two very different projectors, you just need to figure out which one is right for you.

Panasonic PT-AR100U vs. Acer H9500BD

Now the fun begins. Both have 3D. This Acer H9500BD, is another DLP projector, but in many ways it exceeds the abilities of the two above. Pricing, once again, is a few hundred dollars more than the PT-AR100U. The Acer offers 3D, and unlike the two previous DLP’s above, this one has lens shift – both vertical and horizontal. The Acer can’t match the Panasonic’s zoom which is 2:1, but at 1.5:1 it’s got more range than most of the other DLP projectors at or under its price.

It also has a good dynamic iris, very nice black level performance, which I consider to best than the PT-AR100U’s.

Based on our original review, and the lack of a full set of grayscale calibration controls, we found this projector a touch thin on reds… The out of the box color is actually rather good, but couldn’t be improved much. We later took a second look, after a reader suggested another way of tackling a the problem (using the wall color feature), not what one would think of, but it gives you another alternative, that’s a touch warmer.

Bottom line, the Panasonic calibrated is more accurate, but the H9500DB should be enough to satisfy those looking for a great projector for the money, but can forgive a little color accuracy imperfection.

 

As to brightness, actually the Acer calibrates better with Brilliant Color on than off, but with the usual touch of “over the top”. It does that with about 1100 lumens though, putting it right up there with the Panasonic. Turn off BC and you have only 500 lumens.

You’ve got tough choice, between these two, if you aren’t interested in 3D. Like DLP over LCD, you’ll almost certainly choose the Acer unless you need every last lumen. Mind you, the Panasonic still has a good deal lot more brightness, which would be great if it also had 3D.

Overall, the Panasonic can handle a larger screen, or brighter ambient levels, but many will prefer the Acer for it’s better blacks and what I like to call a bit more “pop” to the image.

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