Panasonic PT-AX100U Home Theater Projector Review

Four main menus, but most of the action is on the Picture Menu, and its sub menus. Let’s start there. This image shows the main Picture Menu, and as you can see, there are a great many options.

PT-AX100U Len Throw and Lens Shift

Click to enlarge. So close

As previously noted, this Panasonic home theater projector offers a zoom lens with great range: 2:1. That means the closest you can place the PT-AX100U to a given size screen, is half the distance from the furthest away you could place it to fill the same screen. The previous PT-AE900U offered the same zoom range. With all that range, it offers the opportunity to most buyers, to place the projector on a rear shelf, as well as a tabletop or ceiling mounting. Generally shelf mounting is simpler and less expensive than ceiling mounting, so this is a big plus for many users.

 

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While other LCD projectors offer wide range zooms (Sanyo is also 2:1, Epson’s is 1.5:1, etc.), most DLP projectors by comparison, have only 1.15:1 to 1.3:1, allowing only a 15 or maybe 30% range, not the 100% range of the Panasonic. As a result, the Panasonic will work easily in far more people’s rooms.

Here are a couple of numbers, from these, you can easily figure out distances for your sized screen. If you have a 100″ diagonal 16:9 screen, the closest you can Place the PT-AX100U is 10 foot 2 inches back from the screen (measured from the screen surface to the front of the lens). Or, you can place it 20 foot, 4 inches from the screen, or anywhere in between. If your screen is larger, say 110″ diagonal (a popular size), since that screen is 10% larger, then just increase the distance numbers by 10%, which would make the closest about 11 foot 4.5″. These numbers, by the way, are right out of the Panasonic PT-AX100U manual.

The PT-AX100U uses the same joystick control of lens shift. For those of you not familiar, this allows you to position the image higher or lower relative to the projector’s placement, without ending up with keystone distortion. The PT-AX100U offers a tremendous amount of lens shift, allowing you to have the projector (measured to the center of the lens) anywhere from slightly above the top of the screen surface to slightly below. Talk about placement flexibility. Officially the range is 63%, so if you have that same 100″ screen (49″ tall), 50% would be even with top or bottom of the screen. With 63% that would allow you to have the lens up to about about 6 inches above the top or 6 inches below the bottom, or anywhere in between!

PT-AX100U Screen Door Effect (SDE) and Rainbow Effect

Being a 3 LCD projector, there is no rotating color wheel, thus no Rainbow Effect. Screen door effect (and pixel visibility), relates to how close you can sit to a given size image before you can spot the pixels. Thanks to Panasonic’s latest smooth screen technology, in front of the LCD panels, the pixel visibility issue is basically non-existant. Normally LCD projectors have much more visible pixels than DLP, but not in this case. In fact, the pixels are far less visible than on DLP projectors, allowing you to sit significantly closer and never notice the pixels. Watching on my 128″ diagonal screen, even at a mere 8 feet away, the pixels were rarely visible (and only on large bright stationary areas), and at 11 feet, I was totally unable to see them. Even with my DLP, I need to be about 14 feet back before they competely drop off my radar. This is a major breakthrough for affordable projectors.

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I’ve got two images for you here. The one you see immediately below shows an image of the projector doing HDTV, with my cable company’s Channel Guide on. Note down by the bottom center, where it says Time. If you click here, or on this image you will see a much larger image, that only looks at that area, about 1% of the total screen, and even with the huge image, you can just see the pixels. You have no idea how impressed I really am with this drastic improvement! And that’s especially true because the overall image remains sharp. Not the sharpest ever (my more expensive BenQ is visibly sharper) but the Panasonic certainly provides good overall sharpness, and no pixel issue!

Only LCOS type projectors (as opposed to LCD and DLP), have less visible pixel structures, and not by much at all, if any. But, LCOS home theater projectors start at $5000, with Sony’s VPL-W50. Sony calls their LCOS technology SXRD, which you may have heard of, since they tout it on their projectors, but also on many of their Big Screen TVs.

Thus, the PT-AX100U’s performance in this regard (pixel visibility) is a major plus for home theater viewers, as now you can simply sit much closer and enjoy a clean image!

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