Panasonic PT-AE2000U Projector - Update!
12-29-07 - Art Feierman
Here are the links to the full review done in November:
Check out how the Panasonic PT-AE2000U fared in our comparison report.
Click to read the head-to-head Panasonic PT-AE2000U vs. Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB projector.
Click to read the head-to-head Panasonic PT-AE2000U vs. Mitsubishi HC4900 projector.
Click to read the head-to-head Panasonic PT-AE2000U vs. Sanyo PLV-Z2000 projector.
View annual winners.
I'll keep this short and sweet!
In the original review of the Panasonic PT-AE2000U projector, I got to work with a pre-production version. As is expected, pre-production units often exhibit some issues not found in the full production versions. Why?
Typically those pre-production projectors are built a couple of months before full production begins. With most home theater projectors having a model life of about 12 months, a lot of fix'in can be done in that time between samples and final production projectors.
In the full review, these were the issues I discussed:
Unevenness of the color balance, across the screen. This is something that virtually all 3 panel projectors suffer from, including LCD, LCoS, and even 3 chip DLP projectors. That said, the shift should be rather slight, measuring various points on the image (a couple hundred K in color temperature is pretty normal, and not normally visible when watching content. The pre-production Panasonic's were significantly greater than that, enough that getting good measurements was difficult.
Pre-production projectors typically aren't quite as bright as full production versions. I had predicted an extra 30 to 75 lumens.
Out of the box color (grayscale balance) on the pre-production PT-AE2000U was not as dead on, as the full production PT-AE1000U. I predicted that the full production version would be better, even though the first projector wasn't bad. The problem with the pre-production model lies in the color shift problem While my measurements taken around the middle of the screen looked pretty good, they were different in the top center, the left, the right, etc.
OK, Here's the scoop on the full production model.
First, the evenness of the color (as seen in this image of a gray screen is now very good, and typical of a well made 3LCD projector). This is no longer a problem.
Next: Brightness - Instead of the 30 - 75 extra lumens, the production version measured out at 402 lumens in Cinema 1 mode, up only 14 lumens(talk about insignificant). Let's say that 14 lumens is about the margin of error, and certainly if you had two otherwise identical projectors side by side, you'ld be hard pressed to spot the brighter one (afterall, it measured only 3% brighter).
Thanks to the background color consistancy of the production projector, I am now confident of the color accuracy. Out of the box color is very good, and after adjustment, I ended up with these settings for Cinema 1:
Red Contrast -1, Green Contrast -1, Green Brightness -1. Blue contrast, and Red and Blue Brightness remain at 0. (Green Brightness of -2 also works.)
Here are the color temperaturemeasurements (ideal is 6500K) based on those adjustments:
White (100IRE): 6493K
Lt. Gray (80 IRE): 6606K
Medium Gray (50 IRE): 6636K
Dark Gray (30 IRE): 6691K
That is both excellent overall, and very consistant from bright to dark!
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1080p Competition - PT-AE2000U vs Sony VW60
I've already written about how the Panasonic compares to other similarly priced 1080p projectors. When the new Panasonic arrived, I also had the opportunity to put up the Panasonic PT-AE2000U ($2699) side by side against the new, and significantly more expensive Sony VW60 projector (MSRP $4995).
The Panasonic is definitely the more consumer friendly, in terms of price, and out of the box accuracy. The Sony, by comparison, was just slightly brighter in best mode, but not as bright, in brightest modes, so the Panasonic has the advantage as a mixed use (movies in the dark, HDTV/TV/Sports with some ambient light) projector, while the Sony has the brightness edge for those almost exclusively interested in movies.
From a pure performance standpoint, though the Sony definitely improves upon the Panasonic in terms of both black levels and shadow detail. That's not surprising because the Sony is one of the best on the market in those areas, and the least expensive of the projectors really superior in those areas (VW60, JVC RS1, JVC RS2, Sharp XV-Z20000). Still the important point is that the Sony, and the others mentioned, are for lack of a better term "purist class" projectors - that appeal to those really hung up on best performance, especially in those areas. By comparison, the Panasonic may come up a little short, but still does a very respectable job that should please all but the purists and hobbiests.
For your consideration here are a few side by side images. The Sony projector will be the left image, the Panasonic, the right. Before you look, be aware, that both projectors were in their best modes, and that the Sony definitely appears a little brighter (less than 10%), enough that you need to take that into consideration:
The first image is of Jame Bond, a typical outdoor scene.
Next comes a pair of images that are good for shadow detail and black level comparisons. As I have commented in some reviews, the roof of the building is very, very dark, and is lost or almost lost with most projectors. Consider that these images have been overexposed intentionally to better reveal what shadow detail is there (and to compensate for the camera's inability to resolve dark shadow information during a normal exposure:
This next image of a cave entrance (for lack of a better description), is seriously overexposed to reveal detail in the cave walls. Here you can really see a difference. That said, the Panasonic still handles this seen well, in real life. This image is also affected by the difference in brightness, which will tend to make the difference greater than it really is. By the way, don't worry too much about the color differences, in these two images. When I move to long time exposures of very dark material, there is also some shifting and emphasis of colors:
And one more image, just because I need a vacation, and this looks like the right kind of place:
How do you sort all this out? Always a tough call when you are comparing to really good products but one is better than the other and appropriately more expensive. I reiterate. The Panasonic really does produce an excellent film-like image. The Sony, is simply - a bit better, but the Panasonic should easily exceed the threshold of performance demanded by most buyers! What could you do with an extra $1500 - $2000 - the difference in street price? That's a question you'll have to decide.
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Panasonic PT-AE2000U Home Theater Projector - The Bottom Line
I'll stick by my original recommendation. I pretty well anticipated the differences between the first and second projectors, and I based my discussion of the PT-AE2000U with the assumption that the color shift would be minimal and not an issue on production projectors (as it turned out), and the really good out of the box color balance was confirmed.
So, I'll say it one more time. The Panasonic PT-AE2000U, is film-like, easy to set up and use, has lots of controls for those that love to tinker and tweak, and produces really good colors and overall picture quality, right out of the box.
It is certainly highly competitive with any of the other under $3000 1080p projectors currently out there (the one unknown is Epson's new Home Cinema 1080UB, likely to be slightly more expensive, and scheduled for review in the next couple of weeks). It is also, probably, the most consumer friendly in terms of setup and use. Image sharpness is a bit softer than most, but you get a completely invisible pixel structure in exchange, which many consider a real plus.
No projector in this price range is as close to perfect as some of the more expensive models, but, think this way: The Panasonic overall, is probably in most ways superior to any projector you could have bought 18 months ago for under $10,000. And, most importanly, it is one that was always a pleasure to watch (even as critical as I tend to be). It keeps coming back to that!