Panasonic PT-AE4000 - Performance
11/6/2009 - Art Feierman
Panasonic PT-AE4000 Brightness
No surprises here. The new PT-AE4000 projector is very similar to last year's RS20 in terms of brightness. In this case, the Panasonic PT-AE4000 - and, therefore also the JVC HD950 - measured just a little less bright than the older model, in some modes, and a little brighter in others. (Bolded modes are the ones we worked with. Ultimately a calibrated THX mode was saved in User 1, and a calibrated "Brightest" mode was saved in User 2.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 Projector - Uncalibrated:
Lumen Output and Color Temp at 100 IRE (mid zoom):
Cinema 1= 411 @ 7180
Cinema 2= 457 @ 7751
Cinema 3= 457 @ 8945
Normal= 789 @ 9520
Dynamic= 1071 @ 9093, 1159 with Contrast set to 8
Color 1= 430 @ 6660
Color 2= 440 @ 6357
Best Mode: After doing our calibration of "best mode" for which Mike chose to use Color 1 (which as a color gamut very close to the REC 709 standard for HDTV), The Panasonic PT-AE4000 measured 430 lumens.
Brightest Mode: As usual Mike attempted a "quick-cal" of the brightest mode, which in this case is Dynamic. In doing so, we don't attempt excellent color, but to take the usually, somewhat inaccurate brightest mode, and make it more watchable.
Doing so dropped Dynamic mode's brightness to 930 lumens, while noticeably improving color. Note please that buy raising the contrast setting to +8 from the default 0, you will get about an extra 60+ lumens. You will end up with some crushed near whites, but it will help when fighting ambient light.
The Effect of zoom lens positioning on brightness: Our standard measurements reported are done with the zoom at its mid-point. Here are relative numbers from the Cinema 1 mode, for different lens positioning From a percentage standpoint, the differences will be the same for any mode, as you change the lens angle:
Zoom out: 1235 (closest to the screen - wide)
Mid-zoom: 1071 (mid-point on the zoom)
Zoom in: 711 (furthest from the screen - tele)
Thus, at the maximum zoom distance, the lumens are 34% lower. At the closest distance (wide angle), they are 15% greater, than with the projector lens at the the mid-point of its zoom range. (The same ratios should apply to any preset mode). The full range from wide angle to telephoto is a drop of 42.5%.
The Effect of Low lamp (eco) mode on brightness:
Low lamp power ("Normal" lamp mode), for Cinema 1: 271 lumens
High lamp power ("High" lamp mode) for Cinema 1: 411 lumens
That works out to a drop of 34% of brightness when running the lamp in Low lamp mode. That same percentage difference should be unchanged, regardless of preset mode.
To you give an idea of how placement and lamp settings can drastically affect your room, consider these two extremes:
Using the uncalibrated Color 1 mode numbers, let's say you mount at the closest distance (ceiling mount, or placing on a tabe), and have the lamp on full power. That would have the PT-AE4000 produce a maximum of "best mode" lumens of 495 lumens. By comparison, if you shelf mount in the rear of your room, with the lens at full telphoto, and lamp power set to eco-mode. That yields an undazzling 182 total lumens.
Considering all that together, between placement and lamp settings the projector goes from 496 to 182 - a drop of 63%.
Another way of looking at it would be longest throw (tele) combined with full lamp power = 283 lumens , vs. shortest throw in low (eco) mode: 326 lumens.
When you consider all of this you realize that in many/most room setups, ceiling mounting (closer to the screen) will give you a significant increase in lumens compared to the typical rear shelf mount which usually has you near the telephoto range of the zoom lens on all of these typical LCD projectors, most of which offer 2:1 zoom lens range.
Not bad, but still "average" Panasonic uses it's patented SmoothScreen technology to make pixel structures a lot less visible - effectively, completely invisible with this 1080p projector, at anything approaching normal seating distance.
Panasonic, like many, if not most, home theater projectors these days, provides not only a standard sharpness control but dynamic sharpness abilities as well. I played with their Detail control at it's default +2 setting, and it adds very little detectable sharpness, but also adds almost no noticeable artifacts.
I pushed it up and tried settings 3,4 and 5 (out of 7). Three I found usable, with a bit more crispness to the image, but a slightly noticeable jump in "noise". 4 and 5 settings respectively increase the crispness of the image, but also start adding a fair amount of noise (artifacts).
From a practicle standpoint, I would suggest using either 2 or 3. I found 4 to be a little two noisy. To put this in perspective, using the 4 setting, seemed to be a touch more noisy than when I used the Epson UB projector with their two settings at 1 and 2 (Super-resolution), respectively. Thus, 4, you'll probably like for sports, but many will avoid using that much for movies.
For your consideration, our usual close up images
Top left: Panasonic PT-AE4000, Top Left Center - JVC DLA-RS25, Top Right Center - Planar PD8150, Top right - Mitsubishi HC7000
2nd row left: Epson Home Cinema 6500UB, left center: Sanyo PLV-Z3000, right center: Optoma HD8000, right: InFocus IN83
Note, starting with this review, now that my DTS test disc died, for this sharpness demo, we will be using a closeup of the PS3 system screen, showing the Video icon
Below: Close up of a computer monitor, from Space Cowboys (Blu-ray), left to right PT-AE4000, Sony VPL-HW15, Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, and second row:
JVC DLA-RS25 and Mitsubishi HC3800. The PT-AE4000 holds its own against most, but not a few of the sharpest DLP projectors. In
Panasonic PT-AE4000: Bottom Line Sharpness
Very typical in sharpness, overall. As I said, just average sharpness. You can definitely get a sharper appearing image from a number of DLP projectors (including the lower cost Mitsubishi HC3800. Of the 3LCD projectors the more expensive Mitsubishi HC7000, and similarly priced Sanyo PLV-Z3000 are a touch sharper. The Epson Home Cinema 8100 and 8500UB are, on the other hand, very similar to the PT-AE4000. You can use the dynamic sharpness related control to add more twinkle in someone's eye, etc. to create a slightly sharper looking image, but most of these other projectors can also do the same, and some of those start out a little sharper to begin with.
So far, we refer to all 1080p projectors as either average, or "sharper still".
All that said, when watching movie content (film based) there won't be a great, obvious difference (at normal viewing distances) between the Panasonic and most of the "sharper still projectors. It's when you switch to pure digital content (like all that eye candy on Discovery HD, or a good HDTV sporting event, where the difference appears greater.
I do like the Panasonic's dynamic controls, and would recommend using them at least a little, for your digital content. Play with the settings, figure out what you like. I find such controls, on the PT-AE4000, the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, JVC RS20/25, and other projectors to be of definite benefit, at least some of the time. I found my older JVC RS1 to be softer than I like. JVC's detail enhancement settings added to the RS20 and RS25, by comparison definitely come in handy for my sports viewing, in particular.
Not an issue the Panasonic is about as good as it gets. No significant light coming out of the lens and hitting the screen and around it, and no light of note coming out of the sides or venting.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 Image Noise
Nothing new here. For the 3rd generation, JVC has continued with higher end Silicon Optix for their image processing. They are still using the Silicon Optix Reon-VX (the lastest version no doubt). The Reon-VX is found in a number of excellent projectors. I'm not aware of any notable flaws in image processing. Mosquito noise is just visible, in normal amounts, without the Noise Reduction engaged. I don't see a need to implement it, but that is personal taste. Performance on motion artifacts is very good. As you can imagine, the PT-AE4000 easily passes all the other related related tests on the HQV test disc, as that widely used test disc is put out by Silicon Optix.
The PT-AE4000 does offer a contrast enhancement feature, as well as the sharpness enhancement control. As would be expected, these increase noise, the higher the settings you dial in.
PT-AE4000 Audible Noise
Panasonic claims 22db noise level in low lamp mode, and that is extremely quiet although not the quietest (17 db). Figure another 4-6 db for full lamp power, which still makes it 5-7 db quieter than the noisier projectors (mostly DLP projectors). No one should have any issue with the PT-AE4000U when it comes to fan noise, not even with lamp on standard. Overall, I should note, it is just slightly quieter than it's most direct competition, the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB. They are close enough, though, that if you can live with one, you can live with the other, and few of us would have any problem with the full power noise levels of either.