Posted on October 27, 2007 Art Feierman
Reviewing the latest Panasonic 720p projector is a bit of deju vu, it seems. Every fall, Panasonic rolls out a new 720p projector, and the PT-AX200U is simply the latest. Last year it was the PT-AX100U, and before that… PT-AE900U, PT-AE700U…
I’m going to devote a few paragraphs here, on the nature of this segment of the home theater projector market, in terms of what is popular. If this bores you, just skip down to the next heading.
Every year I have to listen to Panasonic remind me that the model they are replacing has been the best selling home theater projector in the market. Every year, they proclaim that they expect the newly released Panasonic home theater projector to become the new best selling projector on the market. And, it seems, every year they are right.
So, what gives? With competition out there from plenty of major players, from the likes of Sanyo, Sony, Optoma, and Mitsubishi (to name just a few), you would think that sooner or later, a more popular projector would show up from someone else.
So before we figure out in this review, whether the Panasonic PT-AX200U should be the best seller this coming year, let’s spend a few more seconds exploring why Panasonic has been dominant.
It really is fairly straightforward. Until last year, Panasonic and Sanyo seemed to be in a perpetual duel for best sales, but with the launch of the PT-AX100U and the Sanyo PLV-Z5 a year ago, finally there was a major difference separating these two LCD home theater projectors. The PT-AX100U is simply far, far brighter than the Sanyo, and that alone gave Panasonic a huge edge (which should continues with the new PT-AX200U, since Sanyo has not replaced the PLV-Z5).
As to the rest – well, brands like Optoma, BenQ and Mitsubishi, normally build DLP projectors for this low cost 720p resolution market. Since LCD models like those from Panasonic, Epson and Sanyo have far more placement flexibility, they are much easier for most people to install, or just generally “fit” into their rooms. This gives a huge selling advantage to the LCD models. And as a direct result, LCD projectors dominate sales.
Two other major players on the LCD home theater projector side, are Sony and Epson. Sony however, seems to focus most of its marketing push on its much more expensive, higher end, 1080p projectors using LCoS technology (Sony calls it SXRD), and not their more affordable LCD products.
Epson, on the other hand, has kept their sales channel for home theater projectors very limited the past few years, but recently has dramatically expanded their lineup, and has been altering distribution. So, of the competitors, I see Epson as the most likely threat, but, it may take another year before Epson has the marketing and dealer network in place to slug it out with Panasonic, for sheer volume sales.
Okay, enough of the marketing hype, let’s get back to the PT-AX200U. Talk about deja vu, the PT-AX200U is almost identical to last year’s PT-AX100U projector. In fact, there are few changes changes of note, except in the support of game machines. Other than that there are subtle improvements in areas like contrast.
In fact, Panasonic has definitely focused much of its advertising at the gamers, touting the PT-AX200U as the first and best projector for video game playing. While I’m not much of a game player. I do have a Sony PS3 – mostly to play Blu-ray discs, and an old Dreamcast, but no X-Box 360. I pop in a PS3 game every month or two, although I prefer to play my pinball machine. At the CEDIA show, I listened and saw Panasonic’s demonstrations as to how they have enhanced the PT-AX200U to tremendously improve the game playing experience, but not being a hard core player, I’ll have to take their word (and the testamonials of top game players like Tsquared) as to the full benefits. I’ll comment more on the PT-AX200U’s gaming skills for game machines like the PS3, Wii, and X-Box 360, in the General Performance page.
After saying all that, the PT-AX200U has been slightly improved as both a projector for movie watchers, and TV/HDTV/sports, and it remains the brightest home theater projector on the market under $15,000! It also features Light Harmonizer 2, an adaptation from earlier business projectors, that automatically adjusts most aspects of the image to compensate for varying room lighting conditions.
Let’s take a look at the basic specs. For more detailed specs: PT-AX200U
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