Panasonic PT-AE3000 - Competitors
How does the Panasonic PT-AE3000 compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market?
This section will consider how the Panasonic PT-AE3000 home theater projector stacks up against much of the competition. Here you will find our impressions of the Panasonic projector as it compares to a mix of projectors that are now being phased out, as well as conjecture on how it will perform compared to some brand new ones that we have not yet received for review. It's that time of the year (Sep. - Dec.) when most new home theater projectors hit the market.
PT-AE3000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB
Last year, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB was my favorite projector under $3000. That projector is on its way out, with a newer Home Cinema 6500 UB starting to ship in December '08. I'll discuss the new one, separately, below.
The Epson is slightly brighter (roughly 15%) in best mode, and significantly brighter in its brightest mode (by almost 50%) giving it an advantage for those wanting larger screens. The Epson was the lower cost king of black level performance, and while the Panasonic claims higher contrast, the Epson still has a slight advantage in this department.
I'll give the Panasonic the advantage in terms of "film-like" imagery when watching movies. The Epson has a bit more "pop and wow" feel to the image, which is the trade-off. Thus, a slightly more natural picture from the Panasonic, and one with a bit more dazzle for the Epson. The two are extremely close in terms of sharpness, with an insignificant advantage to the Epson. Epson also wins the warranty battle.
Both have almost identical placement flexibility, however the Panasonic has that pseudo anamorphic lens emulation, which will allow hard core movie fans the option of going with a 2.35:1 screen. In addition, the Panasonic supports third party anamorphic lenses, if you can afford one.
The Panasonic is truly loaded with features compared to the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB. Zoom and focus are motorized compared to manual on the Epson. The Epson does not support an anamorphic lens. Their more expensive Pro version does.
Lastly, the Panasonic PT-AE3000U has 96/120fps frame interpolation which reduces motion blur. A nice touch, but, from my initial take, the improvement when there are fast moving scenes, is minimal.
Tough call between these two, as the Epson is in closeout mode, and nets out to a few hundred less dollars.
Panasonic PT-AE3000 vs. Mitsubishi HC5500 HC6500 and HC7000
The PT-AE3000U is a step up compared to the less expensive HC5500. The Mitsubishi has an advantage in brightness, but is no match at all, in terms of black levels. It also has very limited placement flexibility compared to the Panasonic. Unless you need the extra lumens, or are on a tight budget, the HC5500 is a tough sell compared to the PT-AE3000. Both have natural looking images, but the Mitsubishi has a sharper image.
Next are the HC6500 and HC7000. This is an interesting situation, as the Mitsubishis are not sold online, and even the HC6500 commands a higher price, despite being what I'll call a middle of the line projector. The HC7000 is more expensive still (we are receiving our review unit next week), but is the direct competition for the Panny.
Like the Panasonic, these two Mitsubishi projectors have motorized zoom and focus, and they even have motorized lens shift. (They do have less zoom range - only 1.6:1 vs. 2:1, but 1.6:1 is more than enough to make the Mitsubishis work in almost everyone's room). The HC6500 is no match for the PT-AE3000U in terms of black levels, it's a step down in this regard, although the Mitsubishi is still better than the older PT-AE2000U.
The HC7000 compared to the Panasonic should prove to be a very interesting battle in terms of pure performance. The HC7000 claims even higher contrast, so it may have even better black levels. The HC7000 also supports 96fps/120fps frame rates. While the Panasonic actually interpolates frames to make motion smoother, the HC7000 simply repeats rate for smoothness, but perhaps not as smoothly. We will do a side-by-side, when the HC7000 arrives, to get to the bottom of this. Is this difference a big deal? I don't think so, but time will tell. Most likely the HC7000 will have to rationalize its higher price, by virtue of a sharper image, and more lumens, while the Panasonic will have the advantage with their pseudo anamorphic emulation's save functions. The Mitsubishi has the same zoom function and aspect ratio ability, but, as I understand it, you have to adjust the zoom manually, while the Panasonic can save settings so it's a two or three click operation to toggle back and forth. Of course that only comes into play if you decide to go with a 2.35:1 screen.
Bottom line, the Panasonic, except for sharpness and brightness, has the advantage over the HC5500 and the HC6500. The HC7000, on the other hand, should prove to be a formidable competitor, despite being more expensive. Stay tuned for the review.
Panasonic PT-AE3000 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z3000
Once again it's guess time, as I haven't received my PLV-Z3000 review projector yet. The Sanyo PLV-Z3000, I expect, will be close in price, but possibly more. (That would be surprising since Sanyo normally slugs it out with Panasonic, and never likes to be more expensive, but Sanyo has the lower priced PLV-Z700, so with two projectors in the lineup, the Z3000 may well end up being more expensive than the Panasonic). That's another "we shall see". Remember, it often takes a couple of months for prices to settle, in terms of semi-permanent rebates.
Ok, let's forget price. The Sanyo will have the sharpness advantage, I'm basing that on the fact that even the less expensive PLV-Z700 is sharper. When it comes to brightness, the Sanyo's are never particularly bright. It should be close, but I'd predict that if there is a winner, it will be the Panasonic by a very small amount.
Both Panasonic and Sanyo have the 96/120fps abilities, and both have creative frame interpolation. Since the Sanyo has a manual zoom (I believe), it can't match the anamorphic lens emulation, at least it would require getting up to adjust the lens.
Panasonic PT-AE3000 vs. BenQ W5000
Here we have two wildly different projectors. Let's keep it simple. The BenQ is bright, and can handle larger screens. It's razor sharp, too, as I like to describe it, particularly when watching HDTV or Blu-ray, with digital source material. All those lumens give it a rich, dynamic image, whereas the Panasonic is a touch softer, and perhaps a touch more natural.
The Panasonic has the placement flexibilty that the BenQ lacks, although the BenQ does have lens shift too. Faster frame rates, frame interpolation, the anamorphic feature are all advantages for the Panasonic. The two are similarly priced, with the BenQ a bit less expensive at this time.
Panasonic PT-AE3000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB
More guessing time. This Epson builds on the Home Cinema 1080 UB, and based on specs, should have even better black levels than the older model, which, in a side by side, still slightly bested the Panasonic. The Epson should have a small advantage in brightness in its best mode, but a significant one in brightest mode.
The Epson Home Cinema 6500 UB also has the creative frame interpolation for 96/120fps support. The Epson does not support an anamorphic lens, as it saves that feature for its more expensive, but almost identical Pro Cinema 7500 UB sibling. The Epson has the warranty advantage with a 2 year overnight replacement program warranty.
I'm really looking forward to shooting out these two projectors. I don't believe the final price for the Epson is in, but I would suspect right around $3000, or a little less, so I'm predicting that the Home Cinema 6500 UB will be a bit more expensive.
Panasonic PT-AE3000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 6100
These aren't direct competitors in terms of performance, as the Home Cinema 6100 is Epson's entry level 1080p projector, and will start out at only $1999. It should be a step down from the Panasonic in terms of black levels, but there may be a surprise here. As I noted in the review, despite the higher contrast spec of 60,000:1 vs. 30,000:1 favoring the Panasonic, the Epson still beat it out just lightly in black levels. The Home Cinema 6100, by comparison, only claims 18,000:1, but I expect it will easily beat out the older Panasonic, and may be close to the PT-AE3000U. We shall see.
The Epson is also supposed to be 200 lumens brighter than the old Home Cinema 1080 UB, so it will likely be even brighter still compared to the Panasonic, though still not dramatically so in best mode. This Epson doesn't do 96/120fps or support an anamorphic lens.
Generally, I see some overlap, but the Epson will have appeal as a very good low cost model, with very good performance, and the Panasonic to be more expensive, even better performance, and some of those special features.
PT-AE3000 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z700
The story with the PLV-Z700 compared to the Panasonic is similar to the Epson Home Cinema 6100. In this case, though, the Panasonic has a brightness advantage. I expect, however, to see the Sanyo stake out the position of least expensive projector, although right now it's also officially $1995, five hundred less than the Panasonic.
The Sanyo is sharp, but it is an entry level 1080p, and its black levels are more on par with the older Panasonic than the significantly improved PT-AE3000U. Feature wise, they are similar in placement flexibility, but the Sanyo, like the Epson lacks all those new features, including 96/120fps frame rates.
More so than the Epson, price will be a key determining factor between the Sanyo PLV-Z700 and the PT-AE3000U.
PT-AE3000 vs. InFocus IN83 and IN82
The InFocus IN82 is an older projector, and a classic DLP projector. It's sharp, has limited placement flexibility (no lens shift, 1.2:1 zoom), is larger, but more importantly is is a step up in brightness. Its black levels though, are no match for the PT-AE3000U, and it lacks the frame interpolation and 96/120fps frame rate, as well as the anamorphic features.
Of greater interest is the IN83, which is about twice the price of the Panasonic, but a step up from the IN82. The InFocus has a superb image, with the best skin tones around, but its black levels are not a match for the Panasonic. Still, it is a great projector that, thanks to lots of lumens (more than double the Panasonic), can handle larger screens effortlessly, that the Panasonic could not begin to tackle.
PT-AE3000 vs. JVC DLA-RS1x, DLA-RS10 and DLA-RS20
Ahh! I own the older version of the DLA-RS1x - the RS1. When released, it was picked by most reviewers as the best projector under $10,000, thanks to breakthrough black level performance, and almost perfect out of the box colors. The newer RS1x has more color control than the RS1.
The RS1x has almost identical placement flexibility as the Panasonic. Despite the higher claim by the Panasonic for contrast, the RS1x is still a cut above in black levels. You can see the side by side comparison on the Image page. The RS1x can muster up a lot more lumens in best mode, but has slightly less in brightest.
The Panasonic may have all those new features, that the RS1x lacks, but the JVC may well still be the favorite for the purists and enthusiasts.
Then there's the DLA-RS2, with even better contrast and black levels, than the RS1x, but less lumens. In fact it is only slightly brighter than the PT-AE3000U, and is a notch down in brightness when comparing brightest modes. The RS2 is about twice the price of the Panasonic.
JVC just announced the DLA-RS10 and DLA-RS20. These are similar to the RS1x and RS2 respectively but with some differences, and higher still claimed contrast. The RS20 looked sensational at CEDIA, but is also much more expensive than the Panasonic. Actually all the JVCs are more expensive than the PT-AE3000U.
I plan a blog shortly on the newer JVC's and an RS20 should be arriving shortly for review.