Panasonic PT-AE900u Projector Overview
9/20/05 -Art Feierman
A note on Panasonic PT-AE900u projector pricing - 5/06:
Throughout this review we refer to the Panasonic PT-AE900u home theater projector as a projector that sells for over $2000. Even our March 06 update still indicates that the price is in the $2000 range. To assist those of you on a budget, here's the "latest" info relating to street pricing:
Dealers are still typically offering the Panasonic PT-AE900u for around $1995 to $2095. However there are huge rebates currently in place. Buy your PTAE900u in May, for example, and the rebate is a check for $400, plus a Blockbuster rental card valued at $300 additional (actually it gives you a credit for 40 movie or game rentals). If you net out the cash, and even figure the Blockbuster card as being worth only half of the $300 Blockbuster rates it at, and you still have a $550 savings making the pricing of the Panasonic PT-AE900u very attractive at $1500 or even less. -ed.
In an effort to help you decide if the PT-AE900u is the best choice for you, there is an update article (3/06) PT-AE900u - Who should buy , which looks at whether this projector will work in your room, and how Panasonic stacks up against other current competitors. We recommend, reading this review before visiting that document, which we hope will help you clarify your choice.
Two things became immediately apparent upon hooking up and turning on Panasonic's newest home theater projector, the PT-AE900u: First, it is almost identical in appearance to the PT-AE700u projector it replaces, and second, upon turning it on and viewing it, that it produces one spectacular image for a projector that should sell initially for around $2200 online (when it starts shipping October 1st.). The PT-AE900u will almost certainly sell for under $2000 within a few months. The basic specs: Brightness: 1100 lumens in full power mode, 5500:1 contrast ratio. 3 LCD panels, 1280x720 resolution. The PT-AE900u has a 2:1 zoom lens for placement flexibility, and offers lens shift.
I have no choice but to award the Panasonic PTAE900u a Hot Product Award, for as I said, the picture is downright impressive on both DVD and Hi-Def sources, especially considering the starting street price under $2500. This may be the first 720p resolution 3 chip LCD home theater projector to seriously challenge the long held supremecy of the (somewhat more expensive) single chip 720p DLP projectors. However, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start with the physical tour of the Panasonic projector.
From the front, the PT-AE900u projector sports the same 2:1 range zoom lens that the AE700u offers. This allows a wide placement range, and even makes it practical to shelf mount the Panasonic projector in the back of your room. You will note that the projector offers a front exhaust on the left (blowing air out on an angle. (Projectors with rear exhaust typically aren't practical on a shelf - due to overheating.). Next to the lens is the joystick which controls the optical lens shift. This allows both horizontal and vertical lens shift, providing a correct, rectangular image without having to use keystone correction (which degrades the image). There is also an infra-red sensor in the center for the remote (and another in the back). Down below, the projector has two adjustable feet (left and right) both are just screw thread adjustable, which is just fine.
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The top of this Panasonic home theater projector, is almost identical to the older PT-AE700u. The only noteworthy change is that on the control panel, the enter button is now in the middle of the four arrow keys (where it belongs). From left to right, there is a large power button (press once to turn on, twice to turn off). Next is the Input (source) button allowing you to toggle between the six different sources. Then comes the menu button, and following that the four navigational arrow keys with the Enter button in the middle.
Just above the Input and Menu buttons are three indicator lights - one for standby/on (red/green), a lamp light and a temperature warning light. And that takes care of the top.
The back houses the power receptical, the "hard" power switch (which has the projector on idle, so it can be turned on by the top power switch or the remote. The remote will be covered in the Performance - Other section - except for noting that it is a learning remote so it can control other devices.
Looking at the back panel, I'll start from the left, once again. First is an RS-232 port which will allow the projector to be controlled by a computer or room control system. Right next to it is the digital HDMI connector, and then, a standard computer input (HD15 connector). The Panasonic PT-AE900u has two sets of component inputs (red, green, blue with RCA connectors), separated by the S-video and composite video jacks.
That's it for the back panel. One complaint only - the three connectors for each component input are very close together, which could be a "tight fit" problem with many of today's high quality (thick) cables. Also, the S-video connector is right on top of Component 1's red input. OK, it will be a nuisance for some, but probably (hopefully) everyone will be able to squeeze their their connectors in. There is so much room on the back panel, it really is a shame to place the connectors so close.
That said, it's time to look at what really counts - and that is the image quality of Panasonic's PT-AE900u widescreen home theater projector.
PT-AE900u: Who should buy