Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector - First Close Look Impressions
Panasonic's PT-AE8000 projector replaces last year's '7000 version. As is fairly typical, this is an evolutionary year for Panasonic. The PT-AE8000 gets a number of very nice improvements, but still "looks and cooks" like the PT-AE7000 that preceded it. I still don't know the pricing, but I think it's safe to say "less than $3000", and if I had to guess, the online price will almost certainly be more than $2500. Well, guessing is just that. We'll find out soon enough how well I did.
Of particularly good news is a slight increase in brightness, and improved 3D. Let's take a look at what Panasonic is bringing to the table for 2012-2013 in terms of this PT-AE8000, their new flagship home theater projector.
9/4/2012 - Art Feierman
The Panasonic PT-AE8000 is formally announced at CEDIA, however, an essentially identical PT-AT6000 was shown at IFA last week. I had the good fortune to get a briefing and a close look at the PT-AE8000 in my own home theater about two weeks before CEDIA. Panasonic's visit was excellent! Learned a lot, and was impressed by some of the improvements!
Naturally, the deal was, I can get a look, and play with the PT-AE8000, as long as I kept my mouth shut until the formal CEDIA show announcement. OK, it's that time.
Brighter still! The older 7000 claimed 2000 lumens, quite a bit for a home theater projector. For this year, the PT-AE8000, however, claims 2400 lumens. Now the good question is where are those extra lumens coming from? The answer - half of them are thanks to a higher wattage lamp, going from 200 to 220 watts. That would get us to 2200 lumens, but not 2400. Other minor refinements may make that last 10% increase in brightness possible, but I will wait until I can point our meters at the projector to find out if Panasonic really got a full 20% boost from a 10% lamp, or from a 10% lamp and some other technology. I should note that this sort of thing is common. We also recently looked at the Epson 3020, replacing their 3010. Epson "found" a 100 lumen increase with the new 3020, but without any associated change to lamp. Well, that's part of why we measure projectors - to keep the manufacturers honest.
Once again Panasonic has loaded their flagship projector with plenty of features.
Key feature: 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, will enjoy immensely since I have a 2.35:1 screen. Now to do this Panasonic (who popularized this feature combines zoom and digital shift, plus refocusing to get the job done. Implementations from companies like Sony and JVC go one step further, with motorized lens shift, instead of using digital shift. Either gets the job done.
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Specs and Features
- Brightness: 2200 lumens
- Contrast: 500,000:1
- 480hz LCD panels for that extra brightness and other benefits
- 2 pair of 3D glasses included (active shutter glasses)
- Lots of color modes, including new modes for 3D
- 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
- Two year Parts and Labor warranty
- 19.2 pounds
Panasonic PT-AE8000 - Picture Quality - Impressions
Better. I didn't get to do a side by side with the Epson I had in the room at the time, but black levels look to be better than the PT-AE7000. Panasonic has also upped their contrast spec to a dazzling 500,000:1, but as I always say, when dynamic irises are involved, everyone has their own way of measuring contrast. Still, the older PT-AE7000 had some of the better blacks around. This newer projector may move them up a bit from just making my definition of "ultra high contrast" to one of the better contenders in that exclusive group.
New for this year - separate modes for 2D and 3D, so that means - more modes. As set up, the Panasonic looked great on a variety of content, but the only content I really got to work with that I normally use, was Hugo, in 3D. I'll reserve final judgement for my full review. The old AE7000 was a very natural, excellent picture in 2D, I certainly expect no less when I really get to put it through its paces!
Panasonic PT-AE8000 3D Performance and Brightness
Let's talk brightness. As I said, we have 2400 lumens claimed this year up from 2000. Technically that ties the PT-AE8000 with Epson's 5020 and 6020 projectors, which are also 3LCD designs. In the "if I had to bet" world, though, when I do get to measure, my money would have to bet the Epson, to be (insignificantly) brighter, only due to having a 230 watt lamp, not 220 watts like the Panasonic. That said, even if the Epson measures brighter when we review these projectors, that less than 5% difference in lamp wattage, should barely be enough to notice any difference in brightness even viewing side by side.. In other words, these two competitors are probably going to be about a tie, in terms of brightness, this year. That's a plus for Panasonic, who, historically in this almost annual battle, tends to be a bit less bright. A tie would be a most impressive gain for Panasonic.
In my theater, I got to watch a variety of content that the Panasonic team brought, but, of course, I wanted to see some of my favorite content as well. For 3D, that meant breaking out Hugo! Hugo is formatted as 16:9. Filling my screen (really about 98" diagonal) for that aspect ratio (124" diagonal for 2.35:1), Hugo looked just fine in terms of brightness.
Now mind you, that's important. 3D, which eats up roughly 3/4's of available brightness, is a challenge (due to brightness) for almost all home theater (and definitely your local cineplex) environments. Fortunately, this Panasonic is one of just 2-3 3D capable home theater projectors under $10,000 that's even bright enough to look "bright enough" on a 100" screen. If you are going much larger, you are going to run out of lumens rather quickly. I've yet to have a 3D projector under $10,000 that I've considered actually "bright" showing 3D in my theater at the full 2.35:1 124" diagonal of my screen.
One new capability of the PT-AE8000 improves the accuracy and depth of 3D. While DLP projectors are essentially crosstalk free (if designed properly), this Panasonic is also extremely clean, and perhaps, at least in 3D geometry, probably superior. I do believe that the PT-AE8000 has definitely improved 3D viewing since last year's projector!
PT-AE8000 Home Theater Projector - Bottom Line:
More conjecture in the full review, but basically:
The PT-AE8000, while really designed for a dedicated home theater environment, does have the lumens to also be one of the best in a family room environment as well.
This Panasonic is loaded with features - virtually unmatched. And the best placement flexibility of any. The primary competition (that is also 3D capable) likely to be the new DLP Sharp XV-Z30000 (more money, not near as bright), plus forthcoming Epson projectors (similarly priced and similarly bright), and the replacements for current projectors including the Sony VPL-HW30ES, JVC DLA-X30, etc.
That's not to say that some of these projectors won't be better at different things, but once again, it seems Panasonic will be offering one of the best choices - and values in the price range.
No question this PT-AE8000 is going to be a major league contender in the $2000 - $3500 class.
Can't wait until the review projector arrives! -art