Panasonic PT-AE4000 - Competitors
How does the Panasonic PT-AE4000 compare to other 1080p home theater projectors on the market? In this section we consider the practical and performance differences, between the PT-AE4000 projector and some of the toughest competition.
12/4/2009 - Art Feierman
PT-AE4000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, Pro 9500UB
Since the PT-AE4000 and the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB are considered the two dominant mid-priced projectors and best selling projectors, a separate comparison article between these two projectors, has been created. You can click for the comparison. The Epson Pro Cinema 9500UB is almost identical to the 8500UB. Relative to the Panasonic, the big difference with the 9500UB vs. 8500UB is support for an anamorphic lens on the 9500UB. That's noteworthy, since the Panasonic does also support an anamorphic lens, and also can emulate having one. The Epson 9500UB, is significantly more expensive however, selling for about $3500 including a spare lamp and a ceiling mount. Still that's about $1000 more, whereas the 8500UB is effectively about the same price as the Panasonic. OK, check out the full comparison article (it's the same link as above).
Panasonic PT-AE4000 vs. Mitsubishi HC6800
Sorry, haven't gotten around to the HC6800 yet. Look for how it compares to the PT-AE4000, in the competitors page of the Mitsubishi review, when it comes out.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 vs. BenQ W6000
As I was working on this page, I also received a W6000 with the new firmware, designed to improve its dynamic iris, making it less intrusive. BenQ was successful.
We have here two projectors that are very different. The BenQ W6000 is the more expensive of the two, with a current MAP price of $2499. That's $500 more than the Panasonic. Unlike Epson, BenQ can't play catch-up though in cost, for its lamp has the same hourly spec (2000 hours at full, 3000 in low power), as the Panasonic PT-AE4000. So, at the time of this writing - Thanksgiving weekend, the BenQ is technically about $500 more than the Panasonic, although I suspect the difference is a little less than that.
This is a fascinating comparison, as the projectors are very different. The BenQ of course is single DLP, while the Panny is 3LCD. The BenQ has extremely good placement flexibility for a DLP projector, but still not as much as the Panasonic. Still, the BenQ does well enough that it will work in most folks' rooms, whether shelf or ceiling mounting (and tabletop too).
The compelling difference is "best" mode brightness where the Panasonic weighs in at 430 lumens against about 1000 for the BenQ. Even with Brilliant Color off, the BenQ still has double the Panasonic PT-AE4000's lumens. Mind you, though in "brightest," the two are roughly comparable.
Now the BenQ has impressive black level performance, but it's not quite up to the Panasonic. Both use dynamic irises.
The Panasonic as you know, is feature laden. The BenQ supporta an anamorphic lens but can't emulate having one, like the Panasonic's Lens Memory option. That said, not many people are going with either, sticking with the traditional 16:9 (HDTV) aspect ratio screens, instead.
The thing is, when I have both in their "best" modes (and even with Brilliant Color off, and lamp on eco - to try to bring the W6000's brightness down), it's still much brighter than the Panasonic. Viewing them both side by side, the BenQ's brightness draws the eye, and in general, the projector will offer more bang.
On the other hand, what happens, say, if we compare the PT-AE4000 in "Brightest" mode, against the BenQ in "Best" mode?
Very interesting. The Panasonic in that contest, still has the better black levels, and is slightly brighter than the BenQ in "best". On the other hand the BenQ definitely exhibits better, more accurate color.
Before you take that to heart, however, remember please that we do a full grayscale calibration for "best"mode, but for "brightest" we do something completely different.
For a "brightest" mode, we want to get the max lumens out to cut through ambient light, while still having respectable color, but not necessarily great color. As such, we didn't try to calibrate the Panasonic's "brightest" mode for great color, and, no doubt had we done so, it would have had fewer lumens. Thus, there is probably a better compromise mode with very good color for the Panasonic, while still maintaining most of the Panasonic's lumens in "brightest" mode. Since we didn't go that route, we ended up with some additional lumens, but color not a match for the BenQ. Most likely, to get color approaching the W6000's, with the Panasonic on Bright, we would end up with a less lumens than the W6000.
With the improved dynamic iris, the BenQ's performance in this area is now perfectly acceptable. The Panasonic iris may be a touch smoother, but not enough difference to matter.
The BenQ has that DLP look with rich colors especially the darker ones. It also has the noticeably sharper looking image. The Panasonic is more of the "invisible" projector - subdued, neither adding, nor taking away significantly from the original content.
Between the Panasonic and BenQ, special features notwithstanding, I find the BenQ to be the more fun projector in terms of picture, but the Panasonic still has a significant advantage in black levels. Very tough call for many. I've got a screen large enough that the Panny can't cut it in "best" mode, so, since I do demand a great picture for most movie watching, I'd have to choose the BenQ W6000, but than mine is a 128" Firehawk G3 - a high contrast gray surfaced screen.
If, however, any of the additional capabilities of the PT-AE4000 really appeal to you, and brightness is not your problem, then almost certainly the Panny would be your choice.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z3000
The Sanyo PLV-Z3000 is entering its second year. Pricing seems a little higher than the Panasonic but there's also more price variation, so consider the two projectors to be about the same price. I am not aware of Sanyo reducing their MAP price, so technically it is still more expensive.
When I compared the Z3000 last year to the PT-AE3000 I commented that the Panasonic has a very slight advantage in terms of black levels. Obviously that margin has just increased, and becomes a more important difference.
We also couldn't get color quite as good as we would have liked, in calibrating the PLV-Z3000 in part due to simpler (coarser) color controls than most other projectors have, including their less expensive PLV-Z700. The Sanyo does have a slight shift to yellow green. The small Panasonic shift to red is probably a touch less, and personally, the less objectionable of the two. Still both have good color, we're talking small shifts here, there's more variation in the colors in your source material.
Brightness is interesting. The Sanyo has a no-frills "best" mode, Pure Cinema. Not many lumens (235 lumens measured), far dimmer than the PT-AE4000's Color 1 or Cinema 1. Most people though, will use the Creative Cinema which does have the dynamic iris, and dynamic image enhancement functions (and is more like most other 3LCD projectors' "best" modes). Creative measured out to 373 lumens, brighter than last year's Panasonic but below this PT-AE4000's 430 measured lumens.
In "brightest" mode, the Sanyo produced 1046 lumens which is brighter, but not dramatically so than the Panasonic's 943 lumens. All in all, consider the two projectors to be roughly equal in brightness with the slight edge in "best" mode to the Panasonic in "bes"t mode, and the Sanyo in "brightest".
In terms of basic sharpness, a slight advantage goes to the Panasonic. I had reported last year that the Panasonic had a slight advantage, and the PT-AE4000 is every bit as good as the PT-AE3000, (and even has an extra dynamic feature to enhance the crispness of the image).
Panasonic PT-AE4000 vs. Planar PD8150
The Planar is a premium single chip DLP projector with the best black levels we've seen on a single chip projector so far (under $10,000). That said, its black level performance is probably a tad shy of the Panasonic's but they should be very close overall, the PT-AE4000 doing better on most scenes, but on some the PD8150 may best it slightly. A slight win for the Panasonic
Sharpness - definitely a win for the Planar.
A significant win in terms of warranty, also goes to Planar.
When it comes to brightness, the two projectors are as typically different in brightness performance as a single chip DLP and a three chip LCD normally are.
The Panasonic clobbers the Planar in "brightest" mode, with about 930 lumens vs. just 606 lumens.
But, when it comes to "best" mode, the advantage is relatively smaller but for the Planar PD8150 which measured 468 to 430 for the Panasonic. Since this year's Panasonic is within 10% of the "best" mode brightness of the Planar, in best, a big overall win goes to the PT-AE4000.
That said the Planar will have real appeal to folks primarily interested in movie watching, and not seeking lots of lumens for dealing with ambient light.
All considered I would say that if you set up the two side by side, and put on a good movie, the Planar will have the richer look, more "pop and wow", sharper image, better skin tones, roughly comparable black levels (advantage Panasonic), and overall just appear to have a superior picture.
Well, what do you expect - The Planar is a good four times the price!
PT-AE4000 vs. InFocus IN83 and SP8602
Well, if you can still find an IN83 (now discontinued), you will get a brighter projector with superior color, and seriously inferior black levels. The IN83 was several times the price, and when it comes to color accuracy, and skin tones, it's about the best I've seen. The Panasonic, while very good at color, is, in the grand scheme of things, no match.
That said, the IN83's black levels are NOT impressive, not even if it was a $2500 projector. I love the IN83, and I'd buy it over the Panasonic if they were the last two projectors on earth, but I would never consider the IN83 without pairing it with a serious High Contrast gray surface, as the black levels need all the help they can get.
As to the SP8602, the original engineering sample was so limited that I couldn't even calibrate it. Yet, it looked really good, razor sharp, etc. And it has a dynamic iris, unlike the IN83. From my quick look, it's probably very close to the PT-AE4000 in black levels. Certainly they are in the same class. Generally, the Panasonic is as least as good as the new DLP's sporting dynamic irises. That said, I don't expect there to be enough black level performance difference between the two for that to be a decision factor.
I have great hopes that the SP8602 will be one of the best projectors out there, and am pretty certain it will be, overall, a full step up over the PT-AE4000. It will be more at home competing with the JVC RS15 and RS25 (mostly the 25), the Sony VW85, Planar PD8150, etc.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 vs. Panasonic PT-AE3000
Ahh, this is easy. The PT-AE4000 costs less, and is slighty improved over the AE3000. In my opinion the single greatest improvement is in "best mode" brightness. Unless you need that boost, though, I can't see anyone trading up from a PT-AE3000 to the PT-AE4000, from a value standpoint. Yes, you would also get slightly better blacks, but if that's what you are after, I'd say wait, or go to a different projector that has better blacks still (JVC - pick one, or an Epson UB...)
Panasonic PT-AE4000 vs. JVC DLA-RS25, DLA-RS15 older models
Forgetting the Lens Memory aspects, this is a case of very good projector vs. great projector, and amazing projector.
Consider the PT-AE4000 a poor mans JVC DLA-RS10, RS15 projector. It can't match the black performance of the RS10, even with it's dynamic iris.
They both have 2:1 zooms, lens shift (the Panny has more), both lenses are motorized (although the PT-AE4000's lens shift is manual.
Colors, Panasonic while most impressive is definitely not a match for the RS20/RS25. I would suspect the same is true compared to the RS15, but to a lesser degree. Haven't reviewed that one yet, but the older RS10 didn't have quite as sophisticated a color management system as the RS20, so you can't dial in quite as well.
It's a case of two grand vs $4000 or more, and $8,000 for the RS25.
And of couse, all the JVC's (the old RS2 excepted) are at least 50% brighter in "best" mode, while being only about 90% as bright in "brightest" mode.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 vs. Sony VPL-HW15
Hmm, a very tough call. My first thought on the subject, is that specific features notwithstanding, I like the Sony better than the Panasonic, but probably not by $800 more.
That said, brightness is going to be an important determining factor. Starting with brightness. The Sony has about a 100 lumen advantage (538 to 430) in "best" mode. That may be a key factor for many who are primarily movie people, or who want a largish screen.
The Sony though, can't match the "brightest" mode, with a not really bad, but way too cool Dynamiic mode (9000K color temp), that's real thin on reds. The HW15 can do about 840 lumens pushed to the limit, and the picture with that setup is no match for the Panasonic's Dynamic mode with 930 lumens calibrated. Worse for Sony, to get very good color out of a "brightest" mode, we never were able to get more than about 670 lumens. The Sony, in other words isn't going to be high on the list for anyone who wants to watch sports or TV / HDTV with the room intentionally not fully darkened. (I know I don't like watching sports with friends with my room fully darkened!
The PT-AE4000 has CFI, the Sony saves CFI for their more expensive VW85 which we hope to review soon (12/09).
I will give the color accuracy, or rather specifically, skin tone handling advantage to the Sony. it's Sony's thing, and they do have really good skin tones. I don't think any of the 3LCD competition can quite match the Sony in regards to skin tones, although all of them do very respectable jobs.
The PT-AE4000 has a slight advantage in placement flexibility with a longer range zoom lens, and more lens shift. Sharpness is very close but the advantage goes to Sony.
Let's just say the Sony is a touch more refined. The Panasonic more feature laden, but once you've determined that they can both work in your room, I'd say next consider the lumens issue. I think, beyond the dollar difference, it will be the determining factor for most, so what you watch, and how, will help you decide.