Home Theater Projector Review: Panasonic PT-AE2000U LCD Projector: Summary, Pros, Cons
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.
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I had this pre-production PT-AE2000U for a week, and about 30 hours of viewing and measuring... Definitely a bit less time than I normally spend with home theater projectors I review. Still, that includes at least 15 hours of movie viewing and probably 10 hours of HDTV/TV (it's college football season).
The Panasonic PT-AE2000U is simply a notably better product than it's predecessor. Whereas I felt the PT-AE1000U came up short in a number of areas, notably brightness and sharpness, it was a good projector. By comparison the PT-AE2000U is a significantly better projector, and, I would say, easily worth the extra $400 - $500 it commands as dealers are closing out their inventory of the PT-AE1000Us. If you've got the extra bucks, buy the AE2000U.
You will be able to buy a better 1080p projector, but not for the same money. There is nothing really, for example that the Panasonic can do, that the JVC RS1 can't do as well or better, and the JVC excels, by comparison in black levels, shadow detail and brightness in best modes. Yet, after living with the JVC for about 7 months, I could easily learn to live with the PT-AE2000U, and thoroughly enjoy just about everything I choose to watch. Then again, the JVC is twice the price. And that is a lot of extra money for most people.
Unlike its predecssor, this new Panasonic is at least average in brightness. Since pre-production projectors like this one, typically aren't as bright as regular production projectors, I'm expecting the production version to have anywhere from another 30 to 75 lumens, in Cinema 1 mode. We'll see how good my prediction is.
The Panasonic PT-AE2000U creates a truly excellent viewing experience, on both movies (especially hi-def.) That said, HDTV viewing was most impressive as well. You really must see Planet Earth, and DiscoveryHD channel content, not to mention HD football).
Panasonic PT-AE2000U and the Competition
First, because of emails received, I've been asked how the PT-AE2000U compares with Panasonic's own lower resolution (720p), new PT-AX200U. In other words, is it worth twice the price. (The MAP - minimum advertised price of the PT-AX200U is $1299, vs $2699 for the PT-AE2000U).
For those of you not familiar with the PT-AX200U (click for review), it is the brightest of the 720p home theater projectors, easily outputting more than 2000 lumens in brightest mode. This makes it killer for large screens, and for viewing with some lights on. The PT-AX200U can handle far more ambient light than this PT-AE2000U. Even in best modes the lower cost projector has more horsepower. It also has an enhanced gaming mode, for hard core gamers, whether they use X-Box 360, PS3, Wii, or others.
But, that's the end of what the PT-AX200U does better. The PT-AE2000U, has better blacks, and by virtue of that, better shadow detail (once adjusted). We are comparing apples and oranges here. The PT-AE2000U, produces a visibly sharper image, as would be expected by having 2.25 as many pixels! That alone is a big thing. But shadow detail and black levels are a step up. There are those that won't be happy with anything short of an old CRT projector (perfect black levels), but the PT-AE2000U, comes a magnitude closer than the PT-AX200U. Mind you, I found the PT-AX200U to be a great projector for the bucks, but the PT-AE2000U has better picture quality when it comes to movie watching. The differences are significant.
So, unless you have an environment you can't properly darken enough, and need the PT-AX200's extra lumens, or you are a fan of large screens - over 110" diagonal, you will simply enjoy watching the 1080p PT-AE2000U more. For those not highly challenged in budget, gaming, extra large screens, and ambient lighting issues notwithstanding, I'd have to say the PT-AE2000U is worth every penny of the difference. As usual, though it is your exacting requirements that you need to consider. If movies are your primary concern, definitely go 1080p, if you can. If watching a lot of TV/HDTV/Sports on a large screen and minor ambient light are what you care most about, then the PT-AX200U may be the way to go. You should be able to figure it out.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U and the Optoma HD80
The HD80 is a very nice 1080p DLP projector, and when launched it was priced right, as the lowest priced 1080p around. Today, though it has plenty of price competition. The one rather subjective area where DLP's have historically been considered better than LCD projectors is in being "film-like". And the HD80 and it's CEDIA dealer distributed sibling, the HD8000, are both pretty film-like, but, in my opinion, the Panasonic is even more so. Add to that the huge advantage in placement flexibility, plus additional features, and the HD80 while a nice projector, with consistantly good black levels, just isn't going to be as good a choice as the Panasonic for most buyers. The biggest avantage the Optoma has, is after adjustment, it measured about 560 lumens, about 20% more than this pre-production Panasonic. That, and the 2nd year warranty, are its primary strengths. After that, I favor the Panasonic at just about everything.
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PT-AE2000U or the Sanyo PLV-Z2000
These are both excellent projectors, and priced right. They are similar in a great many ways. One difference is brightness. Best mode against best mode (Pure Cinema - Sanyo, vs. Cinema 1 - Panasonic), The full production Sanyo PLV-Z2000 still was about 50 lumens less bright than the Panasonic, but, in fairness, the Sanyo comes with a very competent, Brilliant Cinema mode, which the Panasonic has no equivalent. Of course a similar mode could be created, but, Sanyo's Briliant Cinema is just so user friendly, with not much cost in pure picture quality. After that, though, the Sanyo has no really bright modes. Vivid (which was almost hideous to watch) still was only around 600 lumens. So, overall, Panasonic wins the horsepower battle. And that will be the deciding factor, and the biggest difference for most. If you are going with no more than a 110" screen and have good room lighting control, the Sanyo is a serious contender. But it has little power to spare.
(Ed. note: In the image above from Aeon Flux, you can see the red shift problem on the left and lower areas. As mentioned a full production unit should not suffer this problem.)
Other than that, of course, Sanyo wins in terms of warranty. The Panasonic though, overall, is my choice of the two. I'd say it is definitely worth the $400 to $500 more (current difference - 11/07), but let me say this. If you are not buying a larger screen 110" or larger, the Sanyo is a great way to save money, if the budget is tight. One other thing, the Panasonic will support an anamorphic lens, the Sanyo won't. However few actually go that route (aspect ratio of 2.35:1, no letterboxing, on Cinemascope movies).
The overall viewing experience difference betweeen these two projectors, properly set up, is very similar. Even side by side, in best modes, they should be very comparable. So, I'll reiterate. If there is some performance aspect you need, such as lots of lumens for TV watching (Panasonic), or a larger screen, or you are thinking Sanyo because the budget is tight, figure the price/performance value proposition of these two is about a tie.
PT-AE2000U versus the Epson Home Cinema 1080
Sorry, not even going to touch this comparison. True, they are both the same price, true, they are both LCD projectors with similar placement flexibility, and true, the Epson has the better warranty.
But, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 is on the way out, with the replacement model due to ship in the next two weeks. Like the move from the PT-AE1000U, to the PT-AE2000U, the new Epson - the Home Cinema 1080UB (ultra black), should prove to be a substantial improvement over their older model. As such, if Epson hasn't cleared out all the Home Cinema 1080's you can likely expect a significant price drop on them, perhaps below the price of the Sanyo. With unknowns like that - I'll reserve judgement, until I review the new Epson Home Cinema UB in three weeks.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U and the Mitsubishi HC6000
Hmmm, The HC6000 is the most expensive of the 1080 LCD projectors. Those of you who read my review of it, know I was most impressed. The HC6000 took black levels and shadow detail to a level above the older model and the other first generation LCD 1080p projectors. The viewing experience is extremely good.
From a brightness standpoint, these two are about as close to a tie as possible. The HC6000 in best mode measured 449 lumens less than 50 lumens more than the pre-production PT-AE2000U. The Panasonic has more lumens in it's brightest mode, but then, it's brightest is uglier looking that the Mitsubishi. Overall, let's call them pick in brightness.
When it comes to black levels, I have to give the nod to the HC6000. I was extremely impressed with the HC6000 in this regard, when I first fired it up, and all the way through the review. While the Panasonic is no slouch, the Mitsubishi, gave me the feel of producing "inky" or "jet" blacks. The Panasonic never gave me the feeling it could match the HC6000, although I guaranty you it's a close thing. Both have plenty of placement flexibility, but the Panasonic has more (that' s OK, as both should work in just about any room).
The Mitsubishi, like the Panasonic without adjustment crushes blacks just a bit, and a real calibration should improve both, so no advantage there.
If you like toys, the Panasonic has great built in tools, for fiddling with the projector's image. It will appeal to those who love to tweak. For those who just want to get it set up, and enjoy, though, these two are comparable. I'd love to have them both at the same time, but failing that, my guess is that, if they were both the same price, I'd probably take the HC6000. Spending an extra $1000 for the Mitsubishi, though is going to be hard to rationalize for many.
More comments on the PLV-Z2000 Home Theater Projector
I said this in the recent Sanyo review:
"If the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 were 30-40% brighter, and if considering its lowest in class pricing, the PLV-Z2000 might well be the hands-down, best projector value on the market, in the 1080p resolution class."
Well, the Panasonic does seem to fit that "if only" description above, although it only looks to be 25-30% brighter. And it is only a few hundred more...
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Panasonic PT-AE2000U projector, Pros, Cons, andTypical Capabilities
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Projector: Pros
- Very film-like
- Good at revealing shadow details
- Good out of the box performance, with only minor adjustments needed
- Vertical and Horizontal lens shift with exceptional range for placement flexibility
- Really good remote control (learning remote, can control other devices)
- 2:1 zoom lens for great placement flexibility
- Supports HDMI 1.3, with Deep Color, and supports 1080p/24 (plays at 48fps) content
- Good remote control
- User savable settings
- Multiple movie modes, multiple modes for TV, HDTV, and Sports
- Three HDMI inputs (yea!)
- Bright enough to handle larger screens (up to perhaps 125" diagonal), depending on your room situation
- Excellent color management system
- Has support for a 3rd party Anamorphic lens for those wanting true Cinemascope aspect ratio 2.35:1
- Very quiet projector
- Excellent Price/Performance and Value $2699 US.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Projector: Cons
- Pre-production unit has uneven color across the screen (this will be updated when a replacement arrives in 12/07)
- Dynamic mode is bright, and reasonable to watch, but needs a little tweaking to make it more natural.
- Black levels could be a bit better (but they are good!)
- Gamma in the low end range, tends to be too dark, crushing blacks a little, adjustable
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Average Brightness
- Documentation - none provided, but expect it similar to the older model's documentation, which was respectable, but could have used more explaination of a number of features
- Lamp life
- Out of the box color accuracy - this is not as good as the PT-AE1000U last year, but, the production version should be better - will be reviewed
Panasonic PT-AE2000U Summary: The Bottom Line
All considered, Panasonic may well be the best overall value out there.
We'll know far more after the production unit arrives, and also the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB. (Hopefully they'll be here at the same time!)
Of all the 1080p projectors reviewed to date, my opinion right now, is that if you need to keep your projector's budget under $3000, the Panasonic looks to be the best overall projector out there.
Panasonic has done just about everything they needed to do, to make the PT-AE2000U, a much better projector than the older PT-AE1000U.
There is some stiff competition. Certainly the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 offers a comparable projector for less, for those that aren't buying larger screens over 110", as it isn't as bright, and the Mitsubishi for a chunk more money, has a slight advantage in black levels, and it will appeal to those less price constrained.
For more than an extra $1000 there's the new Sony VW60 (likely not as bright), and for twice the price, the top rated JVC, and it's new replacement, the RS2, shipping in a couple of weeks. While there are better projectors out there, none cost as little as the PT-AE2000U.
This time around, the Panasonic, though, has established its price/performance credibility, nothing to date can beat it, dollar for dollar.
Perhaps more importantly, we have reached a level of quality in these new lower cost 1080p projectors, that promise to blow away their owners, and their owners' friends, for years to come. Those seeking the maximum in performance may be willing to spend twice or more, but the vast majority out there will just love projectors like this Panasonic PT-AE2000U.
When you consider all these projectors with excellent price performance, and sub-$3000 pricing, I see the $2699 Panasonic as the one likely to have the widest appeal, and will predict that it proves to be the top seller in the 1080p class for 2008.
We shall see!