Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector - Physical Tour
On this page we take the grand tour of the Panasonic PT-AE8000. Some of these images below, and some commentary, are from last year's review of the PT-AE7000. There are no physical differences to report between the two generations projectors. That's not to say that firmware hasn't improved performance of some physical features such as inputs or Lens Memory.
10/20/2012 - Art Feierman
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Projector - Appearance
As always let's start at the front!
The PT-AE8000 is a medium sized home theater projector. The dark gray finish works well in rooms with dark ceilings. The lens is located to the right (if facing the PT-AE8000). The projector weighs a little less than 20 pounds, and can be operated when ceiling mounted, on table top, or on a rear shelf, in most rooms, thanks to truly excellent placement flexibility. When you also consider the lens shift feature, this Panasonic may have the most flexible placement abilities of any projector without interchangeable lenses. That means it will almost certainly work in whatever kind of setup you have.
The 2:1 zoom lens provides lots of front to back placement, and the lens shift has plenty of range as well. Details on that below.
Also found on the front of the AE8000 is a joystick for controlling lens shift. The joystick is a bit course and tricky to get exactly where you want it, but at the worse that might add another minute to your getting the setup perfect.
Heat vents out the front, making the PT-AE8000 suitable for rear shelf mounting. If the projector's on a tabletop, things get a bit warm sitting a couple feet in front, and slightly to the side.
There's an infra-red sensor on the front, as well. Below are two screw thread adjustable front feet.
Moving to the right side of the projector, you'll find the Panasonic's control panel near the front. The top of the PT-AE8000 is empty but for three indicator lights: Power, Temp and Lamp, and the Panasonic name.
The inputs and other connectors are on the back.
PT-AE8000 Control Panel
The Panasonic control panel, at the front right side, is compact, and is laid out very nicely. Buttons are easy to "find" and feel good.
At the top left of the panel is the power switch (once for on, twice for off), and to its right, is the Input Select button which brings up your input choices.
The PT-AE8000's navigation controls are right below, the four arrows in a round formation with the Enter button in the center.
Slightly below to the outsides are the Menu and Return button (called back or escape on some other projectors).
Finally, at the bottom of the panel are two buttons each to control the motorized focus and zoom.
PT-AE8000 Projector - Input/Output
Located on the back, is a healthy selection of inputs and connectors.
Starting from the left, are three HDMI 1.4a inputs (consider HDMI 1.4a necessary for Blu-ray 3D). I've always asked manufacturers for a third connector, for those who don't want to rely on AV receivers or external switch boxes to handle the load. Today, having 3 HDMI sources is common among users (ex: cable/satellite, Blu-ray/DVD, game machine). Kudos to Panasonic for that 3rd one. Three is pretty rare, except on more expensive projectors with expensive external processor boxes.
Moving to the right, next comes a pair of HD15 connectors. The top one is your standard analog computer input, and below it, a Serial port for command and control.
Next over is component video (with three color coded RCA connectors).
S-video (DIN connector) and composite video (yellow RCA jack) come next.
Then come two small jacks for screen trigger, and for 3D shutter out, (for an external, and optional IR transmitter should you need more coverage for the 3D glasses, such as in a large room).
That's all for the back, folks, except of course, for the power receptacle, Kensington lock slot, and master power switch.
For the time being, our menus photos of the PT-AE8000 are not edited yet. Below find the PT-AE7000's menus, which are essentially identical.
First is the all important Picture Mode, almost all the controls affecting picture quality are found:
Below are the all the color controls for adjusting the grayscale balance, as well as control for CFI (Frame Creation), dynamic sharpening (Detail Clarity), and the full CMS (color management system).
Here's a sub-menu from Picture, showing the extensive, and sophisticated gamma control options:
Lens Memory controls let you save settings for one button operation to go from an anamorphic widescreen (ie. 2.35:1), to displaying conventional HDTV (16:9). A great feature for the hard core movie fans that want to elimate letter boxing when movie watching (but get letterboxing with HDTV), by using Lens Memory and a "Cinemascope" shaped screen:
Below, the main 3D menu, with the appropriate options, which include converting 2D to 3D, selecting the type of 3D format (or auto), and more.
Positioning the On Screen Display menu:
Onscreen Display, Lamp Power, and many other features are controlled by this Options menu:
You can control other Panasonic HDMI devices, using Viera-Link, from this Panasonic's remote control;
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Remote Control
Panasonic remotes seem to look a lot a like from year to year, cosmetically, but Panasonic provides more basic features in some years, less in others. The PT-AE8000's remote is smaller but, by no means tiny. It's approximately 6 inches long, has good weight and is pretty well balanced. Nice sized buttons, plenty of space. Not a whole lot of individual controls (less than 20 buttons - some remotes have 30+). Mostly that means you don't have one touch access to features like Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, and instead go through the menus.
That's hardly a issue. Myself, I like good menus, and find having two dozen direct controls on a remote, to be more of a distraction, making it harder to find what I'm looking for on the remote.
In the case of the PT-AE8000 remote, yes it has those basic features, and a few more. (BTW, note that the power button is once for on, twice for off - as is typical).
Also of note, there's the Lens button at the top right. That lets you set focus and zoom. Below it, is the Memory Load button which lets you switch back and forth between aspect ratios for that wide screen, if you went that route.
Remotes should at minimum have a Source Button (direct sources, is nice though), one to select different Picture and User modes, Power (of course), and full navigation controls (Menu, arrows, Enter, etc.) Everything else, I figure, normally is fine on menus. In this Panasonic's case, on the remote (2nd row) are both Picture Mode (select Cinema, Dynamic...), and Picture Adjust. Picture Adjust is Panasonic's alternative to a lot of buttons. Each time you hit the up or down arrows, it scrolls you though each of those adjustments, such as Brightness...right and left arrow keys let you adjust each.
The third row has Viera Link (which talks to other Panasonic products), and Panasonic's very cool Waveform Generator (discussed on the first page).
Also the 3D button is on that third row.
Below that are the usual navigation controls, and further down a Sub-Menu button. The bottom row, has only Input Select (sources), and a programmable function key!
The PT-AE8000 remote control is nicely backlit with a yellowish-white light. It's neither dim, nor excessively bright.
It's small, good weight, well balanced. The backlight comes on with the touch of any button.
Bottom line: The Panasonic remote is a very good one. Good range, good backlight, key buttons, a couple of cool features, and small enough to be well balanced as you use it. And nothing, really, not to like! By my take a very nice remote with no real flaws!
Panasonic PT-AE8000 Lens Throw
As previously noted, the PT-AE8000 has a manual 2:1 zoom lens. That makes the placement range almost as good as it gets.
For a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen the front of the PT-AE8000 can be as close as 9.9 feet, or as far back as 19.8 feet.
The thing is, some folks are buying 2.35:1 or 2.40:1 (anamorphic or "Cinemascope") shaped screens. Those result in different distances, and also effectively reduce the placement range of the projector, significantly (by about 50%).
That's because to use such a screen for both wide screen content, and 16:9, you have to change the zoom setting. That costs about half of the range. Basically you lose the closest distance, i.e., you can't place the projector as far back.
Keep that in mind, as it may well mean for some, that you can't get the projector far enough back to place on a back wall (without using an extremely large screen for the room).
But, also remember, there isn't another projector anywhere near the price with a Lens Memory feature and this type of performance.
Because of all the different specs, in the next section we provide a link to a Panasonic chart that shows both distance and lens shift ranges for each screen size and use.
PT-AE8000 Lens Shift
The PT-AE8000 has manual lens shift. The joystick control (been around in Panasonic HT projectors for about a decade), is hidden to the right of the lens by an easy snap off door. The PT-AE8000's range on lens shift is rather excellent. Not the most we see, but definitely better than most projectors equipped with lens shift.
The projector can be placed above the top of the screen, below the bottom of the screen, and anywhere in between.
What is interesting, is that there are three sets of numbers relating to lens shift, instead of one. That's because you have three possible choices when viewing:
Viewing 16:9 content on an anamorphic screen,
Viewing 2.35 (or 2.4) to 1 content on an anamorphic screen.
As a result we're not going to attempt to list all the distances and anamorphic as we usually do, instead here's a link to a Panasonic chart that shows all the options in terms of distance to screen size, and lens shift:
Anamorphic Lens - Wide Screen
The PT-AE8000 not only supports an anamorphic lens, but more importantly to many folks, is their Lens Memory feature discussed on the first page, and above. Although technically not as good as using an anamorphic lens (in most ways), their Lens Memory allows similar results for a couple thousand dollars less! That is to say, it lets you work well with a 2.35:1 (or 2.4:1) aspect ratio screen, (as does an anamorphic lens), but without the lens expense. That results in a larger image area when watching "Cinemascope" (widescreen) movies (which is most of them, except for animation).