Panasonic PT-AE3000 - Physical Tour
11/4/2008 - Art Feierman
When it comes to touring the physical layout of the PT-AE3000, it's pretty much a redo of the PT-AE2000U projector. There are very few differences between them. Overall, the projector is a larger, flat finished, dark gray, rectangular box. It won't win any design awards, but then, in a dark room, you won't be looking at the projector itself. True, it's cool to have a sexy looking projector - like the new Mitsubishi HC6500 and HC7000, but what really counts for most of us, is what ends up on the screen! One cosmetic change is to a silver trim ring around the lens. The older Panasonic's had gray trim. Here's what we found:
From the front, the PT-AE3000 has a centered 2:1 motorized zoom lens, which is almost completely recessed (except for the lens ring). Also in the front is an infra-red sensor for the remote control. Below are two screw thread adjustable front feet.
Moving to the top of the Panasonic PT-AE3000U, all you will find are two recessed, manual lens throw adjustment "wheels", one for vertical and one horizontal. Details on lens shift range will be found in the Lens shift section below.
Looking from the rear of the PT-AE3000, there is a spring released door on the left side, which reveals, when open, the control panel of the PT-AE3000U. The control panel is a very standard affair.
The projector vents hot air out the vents in the front, and takes in air from the vents in the rear.
That takes us to the back of the Panasonic projector, where you will find all the computer's inputs and outputs.
Open the door on the side of the PT-AE3000U to access the Control Panel and here's what you will find:
There is a large power button (once for on, twice for off). Below it, is the Menu button. To the right is the usual menu navigation, in a round layout (up, down left right arrows), with a center Enter button. To the right of the navigation area, is an Input Select button, and below it, the Return button (moves the menu back up one level toward the main menu). Finally, there are two buttons to the right for focus adjust, and two below it for zoom in, zoom out. Separate from the control panel, in the lower back corner, is a "hard" power switch, which must be on, for the projector to be powered up by the remote control (or the control panel itself).
Essentially all the basic power, source and menu navigation controls are found on the control panel, as well as the controls for the power zoom and focus.
Kudos, once again, for the PT-AE3000 having three HDMI inputs instead of the usual two. Most people won't care, but some with more HDMI sources than their AV receiver or HTPC can support, need extra HDMI inputs, and the Panasonic's three, should do the job, whereas most offer only two HDMI inputs.
In addition to the HDMI 1.3 inputs there is a computer input to the immediate right. That is followed by a pair of color coded (separate R, G, B, RCA jacks) Component Video inputs. Then, of course, the usual S-Video and Composite video inputs (one each). Finally, there is an RS-232 port for controlling the projector from a computer or room control system. There is also a Kensington Lock slot, the rear infra-red sensor for the PT-AE3000U remote control, and the power cord receptacle.
Panasonic has continued with the same, successful, very good menus that have worked well in their previous home theater projectors. There are minor changes, and of course settings and controls for new features. I like that Panasonic puts just about everything on their main picture menu and the advanced menu found inside that menu. On the downside, the menu size is very large, which blocks a good chunk of the entire screen, making it a little tough to see the effects of what you are adjusting. You can, however select different positioning for the menu. (I normally like putting menus in the lower left corner.)
At the time of this posting, I have all the menu images shot and resized, but, in an effort to get the review up quickly, the menu section will be finished and up in the next 48 hours.
Panasonic has given up on the learning remote that they provided with previous models, and gone back to a very nice, basic remote control. Range seems good, but not great. The backlight is nice and bright. The keys well spaced. I did find that I would often hit the aspect ratio button when going for the Menu (and not looking), but I suppose that an owner, will, with practice, not have that problem for long, if at all.
The image of the remote control and a description of layout and functions will be added shortly.
The PT-AE3000 can be placed as close as 9.9 feet, or as far back as 19.8 feet from a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen (as measured from the front of the lens). This provides about as much placement range as is found in any home theater projector. If you plan on a different sized screen, you can use these numbers to figure out the appropriate distances. A 90" screen would have distances 90% of those listed above for a 100" screen, and so on.
Note, that if you are planning to go 2.35:1 screen and use the anamorphic lens "emulation" (or "pseudo anamorphic lens") features, because it involves zooming the lens, to set that up properly you will no longer have the same placement flexibility. Rather, you won't have all that same placement flexibility if you plan to watch more than just Cinemascope movies. You'll definitely be limited to a narrower zoom ratio if you still also want to watch HDTV or regular TV. According to Panasonic, if you go with a 100" 2.35:1 screen (for both cinemascope and HDTV), then the closest you can place the projector - measured from the front of the lens - is 10.4 feet, and the furthest from the projector screen would be 15.8 feet. That's a lot less depth, so some who want to shelf mount in the rear, may not be able to place the projector far enough back for a rear shelf, if their room is fairly deep.
Keep in mind, a 100 inch diagonal 2.35:1 screen is about five inches wider than a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen, and about ten inches shorter in height.
When it comes to lens shift, the Panasonic PT-AE3000 home theater projector has manual vertical and horizontal lens shift. This makes for excellent placement flexibility. According to the (less than completely clear manual), the projector can be placed anywhere (for a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen) from a half screen height (screen height is approximately 49 inches), above the top, or below the bottom of the screen as measured from the center of the lens. That translates into about 24.5 inches above the screen surface top, or the same amount below the bottom of the screen surface. That's about as good as it gets. Panasonic does not publish any numbers for working with a 100" 2.35:1 screen. I'll try to figure that one out later, and add to this review.
People with high ceilings will really like all that lens shift, as the projector will not have to hang down as far as it would if it had less vertical lens shift range.
There is also 40% left to right horizontal range (more than almost anyone needs). Remember, using horizontal lens shift limits the maximum amount of vertical lens shift.
Yes, the PT-AE3000 will support anamorphic lens and sled. With this projector, though, you can opt for the same 2.35:1 Cinemascope type screen that you would buy if you got an anamorphic lens, but by using, instead, the Panasonic's "pseudo" anamorphic lens emulation that I have been discussing. Saves thousands of dollars, but isn't quite as good of a solution, from a pure performance standpoint. Either way, though, and those primarily interested in movies, end up without those pesky letterboxes at the top and the bottom of most movies.