Panasonic PT-AE7000 Projector - First Close Look Impressions
Here are my first thoughts after having Panasonic's PT-AE7000 - their first 3D home theater projector, for the last few days. Mike's calibrated it, and I've already logged at least 20 hours of viewing the PT-AE7000, so far.
Our normal photo shoot of images for the full PT-AE7000 review, is already more than half way done and processed. Look for the full review of this new flagship home theater projector from Panasonic, to publish on 11/9/11, probably very late at night. I'm therefore going to keep this short.
Also, as of my publishing this, the PT-AE7000 has remained in my theater room. Tonight (after this publishes) it will move to the testing room for some side by side comparisons. We'll take a look at how it compares brightness wise, with the the recently reviewed Epson Home Cinema 3010 projector (though this Panasonic is definitely higher performance/picture quality, and twice the price, both are bright home theater projectors for both 3D and capable of handling ambient light (in 2D) pretty well. It will also go up against the Epson 8700UB (end of life) which has been our reference for best black levels in the under $3500 price class, to see how close they are in black level performance.
I'd love to side by side against my JVC but I'd never be able to get the bright Panasonic to be dim enough to have a viable side by side, even with lamp on eco, etc. Images and comments from the side-by-side sessions will appear in the full review. I've got the Epson Home Cinema 5010 arriving just as we publish this, so we'll be doing plenty of comparisons with that directly competing Epson, when its review publishes a week later.
11/7/2011 - Art Feierman
Projector Reviews has written about The Panasonic PT-AE7000, several times in our blogs. Previously I have had the opportunity to see and write about the Panasonic PT-AE7000, at its initial showing to the press in the US, back in July of this year, and then got more looks at the CEDIA show in Sept.
Finally, the PT-AE7000 projector is here, where I can view it in room conditions I am well familiar with, and with content that I use repeatedly to compare most projectors, instead of relatively brief looks, in strange rooms on strange content, where it's hard to draw any truly wise conclusions.
What we have here, is the first 3D capable 3LCD based projector to arrive for review, that offers high performance contrast and black levels fine enough to be what we consider to be an "ultra high contrast" projector - which is to say, black level performance that dramatically exceeds that of most projectors under $2000. So far the PT-AE7000 projector is the lowest cost "ultra high contrast" projector to arrive, that's fully 3D capable.
This Panasonic Projector is loaded with features!
The Panasonic PT-AE7000 which is officially $3499 MSRP, has a street price (assuming MAP) of $2999. Consider that the Panasonic projector it is replacing, the PT-AE4000, has been just under $2000 street price, and compare features and benefits, and you realize that though more money, this new Panasonic is at least as good a value, it does so much more, and much of it, it does better!
For those who are not yet familiar with this new Panasonic top of the line home theater projector, here are your basic specs:
Panasonic PT-AE7000 Specs and Features
- Brightness: 2000 lumens
- Contrast: 300,000:1
- 480hz LCD panels for that extra brightness and other benefits
- 2 pair of 3D glasses included (active shutter glasses)
- 7 total color modes, all can be selected for 3D viewing
- Waveform generator
- 2:1 zoom lens with power zoom and focus
- Lens shift
- Lens memory feature for use with 2.35:1 "Cinemascope" shaped wide screens
- One year Parts and Labor warranty
- Now shipping
- 19.2 pounds
Panasonic PT-AE7000 - Picture Quality Impressions
Pre-calibration, the PT-AE7000 Most of the modes were definitely too cool (thin on red), except for D-Cinema, and REC 709. Both of those had good balance, and looked pretty good, though the D-Cinema has a much higher gamma, and therefore darker look to the mid-ranges and overall.
Mike liked the REC709 best, and used that as his basis for calibrating the projector to 6500K.
Post calibration looked great, if a touch subdued. Previous Panasonic projectors - in my opinion, are particularly good at doing "natural" as opposed to having some extra "pop and wow" factor. That is, it's easy to watch, and not over the top, at all.
Black level performance is very good, as was the PT-AE4000. I don't have the old Panny here, but despite a boost in contrast claim, the PT-AE7000 seems to be about the same in terms of blacks. I'll be more definitive on that after the side-by-side aspects of the review.
Panasonic PT-AE7000 3D Performance and Brightness
Let's talk brightness first, for a moment, because the world is being plagued by underpowered projectors when they are doing 3D. Sadly, most of the 3D capable projectors between $3000 and $10,000 could be described as moderately to seriously underpowered for 3D usage. Watchable? Certainly, ideal, far from it. But, most of those projectors claim 900 - to about 1500 lumens. This Panasonic claims a full 2000 lumen, and measures just about that. It is much brighter than the Optoma HD8300 which I have here for comparison, and the Sony VPL-HW30ES, another fine 3D capable projector that we recently reviewed (and sells for less than $1000 more). It is about as bright as that lower cost, lower performance Epson 3010, and should be almost as bright as the direct competiton from Epson, the Home Cinema 5010 - close enough to not really matter.
What that really means is with this Panasonic projector you have 3D performance that you can watch, and enjoy without you or some folks you watch with, feeling it's way too dim. That is: Unlike most, to date, it does 3D well enough/bright enough for regular 3D viewing, not just "fooling around with 3D".
So, how bright and good is the 3D? I've watch most 3D (including some of Tron, Flight, Tahiti, Narnia (the newest), and HDTV content including sports and concerts, with the Glasses brightness (a menu item in the projector's menu), to Medium. That seemed to be the best combination of clean 3D (artifact wise), and brightness. Projecting a full 100" diagonal 16:9 image Studiotek 130 (gain 1.3), Medium still left, me wanting more brightness, but I found High setting to do the trick. On that sized, normal screen, it's hardly "Bright"! but it's also not "Dim". Plenty of brightness if you go with a smaller screen, or one with higher gain.
I'm not sure what glasses mode Panasonic was using the last time I had seen the projector under their control, but I suspect either Medium, or Dark, because my recollection was that it was really clean on 3D at CEDIA, definitely better than the Light setting provides.
Bottom line: Medium probably the best compromise of the 3 settings, but Light (while definitely not as clean) still was a lot of fun with the extra brightness, despite minor artifacts.
Let me put it this way, small or high gain screens notwithstanding, this Panasonic goes further to meeting my demands for 3D brightness, than the all more expensive JVC, Sony, Mitsubishi, and the Optoma HD8300. Basically, so far, only the the lower cost, more family room friendly 3D capable projectors like the Optoma HD33 and Epson HC3010 are even comparable, in terms of brightness, of the 3D projector to arrive so far.
Lens Memory: This feature carries forward. It allows you to buy a 2.35:1 or 2.4:1 cinemascope type screen, and have the projector adjust correctly for movies vs. HDTV content. Cool feature, enjoying it immensely since I have a 2.35:1 screen.
Bottom Line: A lot more conjecture in the full review, but basically:
The PT-AE7000, while really designed for a dedicated home theater environment, is about as comfortable in the family room / bonus room type environments as most new family entertainment projectors to hit. You just get a much better picture, and more features!
3D (at medium) is about as good as I've seen, artifact wise, though as I've said before, some of the artifacts that bother others, I barely notice. But, if you are like me, you'll use the Light mode, when you want more lumens, and suffer some minor artifacts. AT it's best this Panny seems as clean as any of the other 3D projectors we've reviewed so far.
This Panasonic is loaded with features. And the best placement flexibility of any. The primary 3D capable competition likely to be the forthcoming Epson (similarly priced and bright), and the Sony VPL-HW30ES, and Sharp XV-Z17000, JVC DLA-RS45 - all but the Epson are at least $500 more, and all far less bright.
That's not to say that some of these projectors won't be better at some things. For example, at least two of those just mentioned should have better blacks - but all have at least very good blacks. Most mentioned also have longer warranties, etc.
But don't kid yourselves, my take so far, is that this PT-AE7000 is top contender in our $2000 - $3500 class. I'm not sure anything else I'm aware of selling for under $3500 (other than the Epson 5010 if it performs as claimed) can give the PT-AE7000 a run for the money.
Stay tuned - full review with images, comparisons, on Nov. 11 (late). -art