Panasonic PT-AE2000U Home Theater Projector Review: Overview
11-19-2007 - Art Feierman
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.
Editor's note: The PT-AE2000U originally received for this review was a pre-production sample, and as is typical, some "issues" were noted. I followed up with a request for a full production unit, expecting those issues to be resolved, and it turns out, they were. Click on the Update link above or at the top or bottom of each page of this review, to read my comments after working with the 2nd PT-AE2000U - a full production version of the projector.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Projector Highlights:
- 1080p native resolution
- Significantly brighter than its somewhat dim predecessor, the PT-AE1000U
- Film-like qualities, most impressive for a LCD based home projector
- Good out of the box color
- Bright enough for screens up to 125" (room conditions allowing)
- Extremely flexible in terms of placement in your room, thanks to zoom lens with wide 2:1 range, and lots of lens shift control
- Initial pricing $2699, with free year warranty promo thru 12/31/07
- Excellent price performance
What we have here, is a second generation 1080p home cinema projector. The PT-AE2000U looks like, and for the most part "cooks like", the PT-AE1000U it replaces. That said, while there aren't any earthshaking changes, the new PT-AE2000U is a better projector today, than the PT-AE1000U was when it was released a year ago. Most notably, the earlier version was underpowered compared to the competition, whereas the new PT-AE2000U is at least average in terms of brightness. Contrast has roughly doubled, to a claimed 16,000:1. That yields a significant gain in black level and shadow detail performance, to go along with the brightness improvement.
So, what we have here, is an LCD based 1080p projector with good film-like performance, invisible pixel structure (no screen door effect - period), and tremendous placement flexibiity. Out of the box performance is very good, needing only a quick click or three to make it really excellent.
All of that combines to make the PT-AE2000U worthy of our Hot Product Award. A couple of notes, however, before getting started.
Review continues below this advertisement.
Unlike last year, when the PT-AE1000U was the least expensive 1080p projector when first shipped, this time around, the PT-AE2000U is in the middle of the pack - in terms of price, among the 1080p LCD projectors. The new Sanyo PLV-Z2000 which I also really liked, is several hundred dollars less, and has a longer warranty. The Epson competition is priced about the same, while the Mitsubishi HC6000 is definitely more expensive.
Uh-oh! Not again! Last year, the PT-AE1000U reviewed was a pre-production model sent directly from Japan. That pre-production projector had some serious problems, most notably very uneven color across the screen (something, it seems that is fairly common on pre-production projectors). As a result, the PT-AE1000U initially did not receive an award. Less than a month later, we got in a full production version, and it was significantly improved, and we awarded the AE1000U, our Hot Product Award in December 2006.
It almost seems to be an instant replay. The PT-AE2000U I received this time, was again a pre-production unit (the top cover wasn't even fully secured.) This time it came to me indirectly - from Japan, to another reviewer, then to me.
And, once again, there is a definite problem with color unevenness. I should also mention, based on experience, pre-production units almost consistently tend to be a bit less bright than full production projectors. As a result, I have asked for a full production version (which should arrive within two weeks or so of posting this). Unlike last time, however, even with the color unevenness (which is definitely not as bad as last year's), and with the likely lower brightness than a production projector, the PT-AE2000U puts an image on the screen fully worthy of our award. In other words, it does a great job even with the minor flaws that should be attributed to this unit being pre-production.
The color imbalance, however, makes grayscale calibration a problem. Settings that make the center of the screen just right, are too warm (red) or two cool (blue), in different parts of the screen. This has been showing up in many of the photos found in the review. I have rejected about half of the images that I usually use. I will reshoot those when I get the production unit in, and I will add them to the existing review, along with some additional commentary about the production version of the PTAE2000U. This problem also calls in question the actual temperature measurements, and grayscale settings I am publishing on the General Performance page (they will be updated with the new unit).
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Projector: Basic Specs
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Brightness: 1200 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 2:1
Lens shift: Vertical and horizontal (manual)
Lamp life: 2000 hours at full power
Warranty: 1 Year Parts and Labor standard
Click here for more complete PT-AE2000U specifications and brochure.
Review continues below this advertisement.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Home Theater Projector: Physical Tour
The PT-AE2000U is finished in a dark gray, and is basically a moderately large rectangular box. From a styling standpoint, it certainly won't win any awards. Fortunately the vast majority of us hardly care at all, what the projector itself looks like, only how good the projected image is. Facing the front of the PT-AE2000U, the large lens is center mounted. Also on the front to the right of the lens, is a barely visible infra-red sensor for the Panasonic projector's remote control.
That lens is motorized, for both focus and zoom, always a nice touch. (It's great to be able to stand a foot from the screen when focusing, so that you can be sure you have it as sharp as possible). It offers a 2:1 zoom ratio, which for a 100" diagonal, 16:9 screen, allows the front of the projector to be as close as 9 foot 10 inches or as far back as 19 feet, 8 inches.
Moving to the top of the PTAE2000U, you won't find the traditional control panel, but there are two rotary dial controls, one each, for horizontal and vertical lens shift. More on the lens shift in the General Performance section. Also, along the front edge of the top, are three indicator lights - the usual power/standby, temperature, and lamp indicators.
There is a control panel, and like with the older PT-AE1000U, it is on the left side (if looking from the back), hidden behind a spring release door. Other than being hidden from normal view, it is typical of control panels on most projectors: Power and Menu buttons, the traditional four arrow keys in a diamond layout, with a center Enter button. Then, further to the right, Input Select, and below it the Return key. On the far right, are the controls for the motorized zoom and focus.
That takes us to the back of the PT-AE2000U. Here things are a little different than the PT-AE1000U, as the new Panasonic has added a 3rd HDMI input, which for those lacking an AV receiver with switching (or an HTPC), can be a real plus - one for satellite/cable, one for a hi-def DVD player, (or maybe two, if the Blu-ray, HD-DVD war doesn't end), and perhaps a computer with an HDMI output.
PT-AE200U Input Panel: Oops! Sorry, a little out of focus!
After the three HDMI's, there's still the usual complement of other inputs, including two component video inputs, one standard (analog) computer input, and the usual composite video and S-video inputs. Lastly, an RS-232 for command and control, by a room controller, computer, etc.
Time to consider the Panasonic's Image Quality, in the next section.