Panasonic PT-AE2000U: 1080p Home Theater Projector Review - Image Quality
Check out how the Panasonic PT-AE2000U fared in our comparison report.
Most impressive, even considering the issues with the pre-production PT-AE2000U, in terms of color unevenness across the screen. Note, that while there is definitely a problem with this unit, it's not as bad as the pre-production PT-AE1000U last year. Still, the deviation has taken its toll in terms of the images I shot, and I will reshoot a number of them when the production PT-AE2000U arrives.
The Panasonic PT-AE2000U Home Theater Projector: Skin Tones
From a standpoint of watching the PT-AE2000U, I found the out of the box performance to, overall, be very respectable in terms of accurate skin tones. The image was a little cool (shift a bit toward blue - and to a slight extent, green).
After doing the best adjustment I could (considering that different parts of the screen were different in color balance), I was able to get some good overall images, but the tendency on some of these, is a definite shift to red in the skin tones.
Our first two images are from Lord of the Rings - Return of the King, from a standard (SD) DVD.
Not bad at all, although Arwen's flesh tones immediately above definitely bring out that slight shift toward red, especially on the left side of her face, compared to the right. Moving to hi-def, from various Blu-ray discs, here are a number of images.
First up are two images from Aeon Flux. Please note in the second one (night shot), the red tint rather visible in the left side of the screen (and slightly, elsewhere), in buildings that are otherwise supposed to be neutral gray.
James Bond, in the new Casino Royale looks good under any lighting. Here are a sequence of four different shots of Bond, the first outdoors in sunlight, the second in an airport (under florescent lights), the third, a very dark indoor scene, and the last one outdoors again, but in the shade on a sunny day. As you can see, overall, the Panasonic PT-AE2000U does a really good job, and it helps you understand how significant different lighting environments can impact the skin tones. All and all, they all look rather natural, considering the lighting:
Moving to House of the Flying Daggers, a Blu-ray DVD with extraordinary color, here are two good images:
Forgetting the unevenness of color/red shift for a second, the handling of the black and white opening in Phantom of the Opera, is reasonably good:
Also from Phantom, is this image below:
There were three viable modes for watching TV/HDTV/Sports. Normal mode is the primary and does an excellent job. Dynamic, is by far the brightest, but as expected, color accuracy is sacrificed for sheer horsepower. Cinema 3 also seems to have about the correct grayscale balance, but is darker and has a higher gamma, (mid-tones tend to be darker). I doubt that most people will use Cinema 3.
Consider these HDTV images:
From music videos on M HD (MTV's hi-def music video channel - a favorite of mine): Bon Jovi (with Sugarland), and Pete Townsend of the Who, on stage at night at the Isle of Wight. Of course stage lighting plays havoc on natural skin tones, but under the circumstances both look good:
The Bottom Line: Overall, I am most pleased with the PT-AE2000U's skin tone performance, after minor grayscale adjustments. The Panasonic projector produces a "film-like" quality, consistently. A full production version can only be better! Overall, I'll give the PT-AE2000U projector a very slight edge over the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 that I recently reviewed, pending seeing a production AE2000U. I would definitely pick the Panasonic over the Optoma HD80 and HD8000 in this category.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Projector: Black Levels and Shadow Detail
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Black Levels
With the huge increase in claimed contrast, to 16,000:1 (sightly better than the claimed 15,000:1 on both the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 and the JVC DLA-RS1 ,which I own), I expected great things. In truth, I didn't expect it to match the JVC, which does high contrast naturally, without relying on dynamic irises and lamps as do all the best LCD home theater projectors.
This seriously overexposed and closeup of Gondor at night, provides a look at how the Panasonic handles very dark areas. Note what detail you can make out on the right of the mountains, and below them. Also, notice the colors and shadow detail in the buildings.
And without a doubt, black levels have improved from the older PT-AE1000U, but still fall quite a bit short of the JVC, still the reigning champ (until I can get my hands on the brand new JVC RS2, and new Sony VW60). Still, like the Sanyo PLV-Z2000, the Panasonic does a very good job, with the Panasonic having a slight, but visible advantage in black levels in most scenes. I would have liked to run the Panasonic opposite the Sanyo or the Optoma HD80/HD8000 side by side, but it was not to be. Still between images, my notes, and my viewing impressions, I would say that the Sanyo and Panasonic with their dynamic irises behaved similarly, with the blacks just a bit darker on the Panasonic. Compared to the Optoma, a DLP projector, I would say, that on the right type of scenes (no really bright areas, the Panasonic at least equals the Optoma), on mixed scenes with lots of bright and dark, the DLP has a definite advantage. I would also give the Mitsubishi HC6000 the advantage overall, in terms of black levels, compared to the Panasonic.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Shadow Details
Considering shadow detail, off the top, the Panasonic, while very good, is at best, the equal to the Sanyo, which is not a bad place to be. Overall, be it due to gamma, or other issues, the Sanyo reveals more shadow detail in very dark areas. Of course, like most issues, this can be affected by user settings. Using Cinema 1 mode, I found that the darkest areas that should reveal detail, were just too dark. After raising the Panasonic's Low Gamma and Mid Gamma, each to +1, I found it helped. Still, as you will see in the satellite image below, the dark areas are still very dark.
First up is this night building scene from Aeon Flux, on Blu-ray DVD. The first image is the Panasonic PT-AE2000U. The one below it, the Sanyo Z2000. Clicking on each brings up a closely cropped view of the upper left hand corner.
Below are side by side images shot last month of the Sanyo (right) and Optoma HD80 / HD8000 on the left. Both are somewhat over exposed so that you can compare shadow. While the sizes aren't the same, below that you can compare with the panasonic. Have fun!
Below is a good image of Clint Eastwood, from an extremely dark scene from Space Cowboys. In a room illuminated by only a single table lamp, this truly is a dark scene. Sorry, the Panasonic image (first) is not as overexposed as the other two. I will replace this image when the production PT-AE2000U arrives.
So, first is the Panasonic, 2nd, the Sanyo, and lastly, the InFocus IN82 (a much more expensive DLP projector - over $5000.)
In reality, the Panasonic, as I stated earlier, has a slight advantage in terms of "blacker blacks", but the Sanyo does reveal more detail
The InFocus IN82 below, is similar in exposure to the Panasonic PT-AE2000U, and not as bright as the Sanyo image.
Below, from Space Cowboys, and is an overexposed image of the re-entry scene. Click on the left thumbnail image. Look for subtle detail in the right side of the earth. The image on the left is the Panasonic, and on the right, the Optoma HD8000. Look to the dark areas on the right for differences in details.
Below, the left image is the Panasonic, the right one is the less expensive Sanyo.
The one below is from the Epson Home Cinema 1080.
Review continues below this advertisement.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U home theater projector: Sharpness
Interestingly, while I never got that "razor sharp" feel to the Panasonic, it certainly delivered a clear image, especially when it comes to small type. Last year's PT-AE1000U, using Panasonic's Smooth Screen technology, definitely felt and looked a little soft. Not so the PT-AE2000U, which definitely looks sharper.
The first thumbnail when clicked shows you the closeup of the Panasonic. On the line below three more thumbnail images, which when clicked on, will give you enlarged closeups of (from left to right) the Sanyo, the Optoma HD8000 in the middle and the Mitsubishi HC6000 on the right. That Mitsubishi is the one projector of the group, that does have that "razor sharp" feel, however, the Panasonic is slightly softer than the other three. Remember, though, how small the area of the screen is, that you are looking at. At normal seating distances, the differences are very slight.
Our last sharpness image is a close-up of this computer monitor from Space Cowboys on Blu-ray. You can click for larger images to compare the readability,
Click on the left thumbnail for a large, cropped version of the original frame on the PT-AE2000U, and the middle for the Sanyo projector. On the right, the Epson Home Cinema 1080.
Bottom line: The Panasonic has improved since last year. This new PT-AE2000U, definitely comes across as sharper than the less than average in sharpness, PT-AE1000U it replaces. Like with my JVC RS1, you can find a sharper projector, but it does what it takes to be fully acceptable, to me, and I'm particularly critical of overall sharpness, as I like to sit relatively close to a large, screen, and also, I have corrected eyesight of 20/15, better than most. So, kudos to Panasonic for improving performance in this area.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Projector Overall Picture Quality
Winner! Despite the imperfections with the color evenness, I found watching the Panasonic to be consistantly most pleasing. In this regard, it is much like the Sanyo PLV-Z2000. Both are film-like and produce very good color after minor grayscale adjustments.
Here are a wide range of assorted images for your consideration. Again, please note, that I found the default gamma in Cinema 1 mode to be a light high (dark), and recommend a slight increase in the settings for medium and low (or at least medium).
We seem to have made great strides in overall picture quality since last year. This new crop of lower cost 1080p projectors, including the Panasonic, the Sanyo, and the Mitsubishi, all are definitely superior to the first crop last year. Not night and day, but, better. Better, and a bit less expensive.
Review continues below this advertisement.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U - HDTV Sources
Since this new Panasonic offers a step up in brightness from the older model, it now has the horsepower to do HDTV, sports, etc. on medium sized screens, with some ambient light around. I spent Saturday watching a couple of college football games, with modest room lighting, and the projector looked just fine at 110" diagonal in normal mode, and was quite happy at about 125" diagonal in Dynamic mode, on my Firehawk screen. (Of course Dynamic mode isn't as natural looking, but the crew that came over to watch, ultimately preferred the extra room light and Dynamic over the Normal mode).
Here are a number of varied HDTV images, with the first one repeated 3 times, all with the same camera exposure, first is Dynamic mode, then Normal mode (ideal), and finally Cinema 3, which has the right color temp, but is probably best saved for HDTV movies, as it is darker. Again, all are at the same exposure so you can appreciate the difference in brightness. Note also, that Cinema 3 and Cinema 1, though different color temperatures are about the same brightness.
Pretty significant differences in brightness, as you can see.
A couple more football images, in Normal mode (these you can click on to enlarge):
And finally here's one from Boston Legal:
OK, remember, I will add images and replace a few in early December, once the full production PT-AE2000U arrives.
Next up, General Performance, - everything from Menus and Remote Control, to Brightness, Measurements and Adjustments, and Screen recommendations.