Panasonic PT-AE8000 - Review Summary
Time to try to put all the features, performance, flexibility, warranty, and other aspects of Panasonic's PT-AE8000 projector.
10/21/2012 - Art Feierman
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector - The Bottom Line
No question about it, the PT-AE8000 (PT-AT6000 in the EU) deserves, and receives our Hot Product Award. Great in a dedicated home theater room, but also every bit at home in less desireable, brighter rooms. You may not be able to appreciate, for example, every last ounce of the PT-AE8000's black level performance on dark scenes as well as in a theater room. No matter, it's as bright as any other home projector you will be able to find for your living room, bonus room, family room, etc.
Below: Victoria Secret Fashion Show - taken using Bright TV mode, low ambient light.
Its placement flexibility is pretty much unbeatable. One could point out that the Epson competition has a 2.1:1 zoom lens instead of Panasonic's 2.0:1, and a touch more lens shfit. When you consider though, the Epson can't really be paired with a Cinemascope 2.35:1 shaped "widescren", but the Panasonic with its Lens Memory feature, can make that a reality.
Let's summarize, here, key aspects of the PT-AE8000U projector that are talked about in length, in the individual topics on the previous pages.
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Brightness:
The PT-AE8000 is a proverbial light canon. Measuring by our conservative method, the Panasonic produced 1898 lumens with the zoom lens at mid-point. At full wide-angle (closest to the screen), an impressive 2178 lumens were counted.
Mike did our typical "quick-cal" not a real calibration, but an attempt to look at the brightest (Dynamic) mode and adjust it to improve color, but without giving up more than a little brightness. Sometimes color can improve significantly if still not as accurate as the "best" mode. Well, bottom line, after Mike's Quick-cal, the Panasonic measured 1637 lumens. And it looks really good doing it!
3D brightness is about as good as it gets for an under $10,000 projector! I can fill my 124" diagonal, 2.35:1 Studiotek 130 when watching 3D, and have reasonable brightness. No one will accuse it of being "very bright", and not as bright as I'd like, not as bright as I like to watch 2D. Still, the PT-AE8000 does well enough to enjoy even darker movies like Alice, Tron, and Avatar, at that size.
At 100" diagonal, the PT-AE8000 in 3D is pleasantly bright enough, with the medium setting for the glasses selected.
3D performance, beyond the brightness, is excellent, and any crosstalk, minimal. As was demonstrated to me by Panasonic, there are some real refinements in the 3D. One form of parallex is being dealt with effectively, that I don't think most others have been addressed. If you set the glasses control for Medium, the image is pretty clean in terms of crosstalk, etc. Dark is better still. I think you can have a nicely lit 100" size image with the Dark setting, for those of you who consider eliminating essentially all crosstalk a priority over more brightness.
The PT-AE8000 Projector's Picture Quality
Panasonic offers up some really good looking preset modes, both "best" and fairly bright modes. Even their brightest - Dynamic, looks a good bit better than many competitors.
Finding respectable skin tones is no effort with several modes to choose from.
Calibrate the projector and you can have even more accuracy. Mike says it calibrates easily, and the end result when it comes to color, is excellent. There's an underlying tiny extra red in skin tones after Mike's calibrations, but that's to my eye. I'm saying that the skin tones look great, but if you need to find any shift, that's it.
The image below, from Howl's Moving Castle (very cool flick)
Another real strength of the Panasonic PT-AE8000 is its low noise levels. It is quieter at full power than any of the other 3LCD projectors and all but maybe a Mitsubishi DLP or two, but most projectors are louder, and several by 2-6 decibels. In Eco mode, the projector is quiet enough that you need not give that issue any thought at all, even if you are really demanding in this regard.
Menus are well designed, type small, some things aren't located exactly where I think they should be included, but, that's more important to a reviewer looking for features than it is for an owner, who will quickly learn where everything is.
Back to 3D for a second. I just wanted to say, it's probably the best I've seen, when you consider both picture and the brightness. The glasses are very comfortable and light. And the glasses work well over my own glasses.
The Very Bottom Line on the PT-AE8000 projector:
There are always trade-offs, but mostly, I think many will find that the combination of performance, placement flexibility, picture, and for 3D fans, the brightness of 3D, the AE8000 can hold its own with just about any of the projectors near its price. There are more new projectors for us to review, but, of course, that's always the case.
Sharpness is very good, though not exceptional. Rather typical for a good three panel or chip device. Want a crisper look, you can take up the detail enhancement, or you can stick with the more natural, unenhanced. The detail enhancement does enhance, but can't be pushed as far as Sony's impressive Reality Creation which seems more adaptive, but again, that projector's almost 1/3 more in price, based on the two manufacturer's MAP (minimum advertised price) pricing.
As a 2D and 3D capable projector, it's as good a value as any of this year's crop of home theater projectors that we've reviewed. For example, I am truly impressed with the Sony VPL-HW50ES, and while I would likely spend the extra theoretical $500 for the Sony, I've got an ideal room. I certainly would lean toward choosing this Panasonic, for more of a good family room type setup. There's other tough competition.
Our next review is the Epson Home Cinema 5020, which this year is slightly lower priced than the PT-AE8000. My last photo session with this Panasonic PT-AE8000 was doing side by sides with that Epson. Look to the image quality page for side-by-sides with both the older Epson HC5010, and the just arrived HC5020, it's replacement.
When it comes to the picture, this Panasonic seems to be pretty natural. Some projectors have a bit more "pop" than others, in terms of picture dynamics (rather than brightness). I've always felt that the Panasonic's leaned towards the natural - less spectacular look. DLP projectors, for example, are still known for lots of "pop", most notably on darker scenes. Faces and such seem more dynamic, without being over the top. This Panasonic PT-AE8000 may not scream "pop", but with all those lumens under the hood, don't worry, it will out dazzle any of those in its brighter modes, where it's usually about twice as bright!
Black levels and shadow detail are the only areas that really came up short. Although the gamma Mike selected measures well, we're definitely losing a bit more dark shadow detail than some other projectors including last year's Epsons, and this year's Sony. It's not that serious, but it's not quite up to the best, not that most people would notice. Black levels as well, do come up short compared to both of those competing projectors. It could well be that much of that missing darkest detail might be recovered by creating a custom gamma that perhaps works better in the darker ranges.
The PT-AE8000's black level performance has to be considered at least good for a projector at its price, and that's far better than almost any under $2000 projectors. Yes you can have better black levels than this Panasonic, but these levels should certainly satisfy most folks. Decide what's most important, among the various projectors' trade-offs. No projector is best at everything, or best for everyone. (Ok, that's pretty obvious!)
Unlike a lot of other projectors, the PT-AE8000 will almost certainly work in any setup you have. The PT-AE8000 has some really fine looking color modes out of the back for your movie viewing and also your sports and other HDTV content. This projector is also most suitable for gaming, including those games demanding displays with low lag times.
This Panasonic PT-AE8000 projector is definitely worth serious consideration if it is in your budget. It's certainly not likely to disappoint.
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector: Pros and Cons
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector: Pros
- A very bright "brightest" mode, - A light canon with over 2000 usable lumens, six hundred calibrated
- Very clean 3D, three brightness settings
- 3D glasses exceptionally light, very comfortable
- Truly outstanding placement flexibility
- Lens Memory - for using widescreens without an anamorphic lens (a real plus for some)
- CFI - smooth motion, one of the smoothest/best, many may even use for movie viewing, who would not engage most others for same
- Calibrates very nicely, though not the absolute most natural color
- 3 HDMI 1.4a (Blu-ray 3D compatible) inputs
- 480hz panels for faster response time, including gaming
- Nice remote control
- CFI and Dynamic iris both function in 3D!
- Works with 3rd party glasses, as well as some brands like Epson and some Optoma
- Excellent Lamp Life (4000/5000 hours)
- Very quiet operation, even at full power
- Extensive, and well laid out menus
- Dark finish, which is ideal for most home theaters
- Waveform monitor and split screen adjustments for the enthusiast/tweaker
- An excellent value - it simply does more of most things, for less than most of the competition
Image above, from Hugo
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector: Cons
- Short warranty - 2 year Parts/labor, but only 2000 hours maximum on the warranty. Definitely less warranty than most competitors
- Lamp brightness control hard to find on menu
- Good black levels for the price range (for 2D/3D projectors) but still could be improved significantly, to be fully competitive
- Not quite as sharp as some
- Detail enhancement not as effective as some
Above, Captain Pike, from the Star Trek movie
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