Summary: Pros, Con's and Typical Capabilities.
No projector to date, can match the combination of image quality and features at the price of Panasonic's new PT-AE900u widescreen home theater projector provides! While there is competition out there close to the price (and with comparable image quality- notably the DLP powered BenQ PE7700, and also the notably more expensive Optoma H77 (which has lens shift) the Panasonic brings more flexibility to the table, with variable lens shift, a 2:1 ratio zoom for placement flexibility and a learning remote. While the debate will go on as to whether this fine LCD powered home theater projector can match the "film-like" quality that DLP projectors are noted for, the Panasonic demonstrates that LCD home theater projectors are now in the same league as DLP projectors.
You simply can't go wrong with this Panasonic Home Theater projector considering the price and flexibility!
- Great image quality overall, sharp lens, rich colors, dynamic, and excellent on dark scenes
- 2:1 zoom lens for easy mounting, tabletop placement or back of the room shelf mounting
- Vertical Lens shift (horizontal too, but limited if you are using the vertical shift).
- Good learning remote
- Very quiet
- Multiple pre-set modes allows easy switching of picture balance from movies to TV, to HDTV, etc.
- 3 user savable settings
- The price is right!
- Excellent reworked menus
- Lot's of user accessable control of color, image handling
- Two component inputs and one HDMI
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- Short 1 year lamp warranty in a world where most projectors offer 2 or three years
- Only a power cord provided. Start ordering up good cables (and this projector will make good use of the extra spent on premium cables).
- As long as there's lens shift it would be great for those ceiling mounting - or placing on low tables, if the lens shift would allow the lens to be 30 degrees above the top (or below the bottom) of the screen. As it is, the projector works mostly between the top and bottom of the screen (ok, just a little beyond that). It won't allow someone with a high ceiling to keep from needing a long mounting poll.
- More relating to the lens shift. When it is fully utilized the image does bow a bit at the top of the screen (when on a table) the opposite, when ceiling mounted.
- Adjustable feet
- Lamp life
Conclusion: The older Panasonic PT-AE700u, was an impressive projector, features very similar to the new AE900u, but the picture was not quite as good. Although true contrast was probably close, it lacked the boost to 5500:1 with technology. But the real weakness until the last few months was a tendency to have some barely visible vertical bands show up on some types of scenes. (They seem to have fixed that). If you have a dark room, with dark walls, you will really be able to see the improvement in the AE900u projector. If you can't fully darken your room, and have off white walls, the differences will be slight.
More to the point, this Panasonic projector is as good as most of the lower cost DLP projectors of the same 720p resolution, at least those using the HD2, and HD2+ DLP chips. The far more expensive (the least is about $4000 street at the time of this writing) Darkchip3 based DLP home theater projectors still have the edge in picture quality, although not necessarily in features or price performance.
And that's what this projector is all about. A truly impressive image at a not much over $2000 price point (online). I'd go as far to say that you couldn't find a better image 2-3 years ago on a projector under $10,000!
Got $2K and change? (as of 9/05) Buy one. And you will be the owner of one serious home theater projector. It will dazzle you, and blow away your friends. Movies, football, it just looks great! I would be incredibly surprised if you are dissapointed, I certainly haven't been. And I'm going to watch it some more tonight (just to make sure - seeing is believing), before I have to ship it out tomorrow to the next reviewer!
Also, see the related article: Panasonic PT-AE900u - Who Should Buy? for more current information (3/06) which looks at whether this Panasonic will work in your environment, and how it compares to the competition in terms of price, features, etc.