Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector - Performance
3/11/2012 - Art Feierman
Below, we discuss the Panasonic PT-AR100U projector's brightness in its best and brightest modes, with images showing relative brightness of the modes. We also look at sharpness, image and audible noise levels.
Panasonic PT-AR100U Brightness
This is important: The PT-AR100U is one of those few projectors that isn't as bright with its dynamic iris turned off. This is especially true for Dynamic mode, which is what you want for maximum brightness, so turning off the iris defeats that purpose.
OK, let's look at some numbers.
PT-AR100U Lumen Output and Color Temp with 100 IRE Field (mid zoom):
Cinema 1= 798 @ 7545
Vivid Cinema= 1497 @ 7493
Game= 1472 @ 10001
Normal= 1571 @ 9114
Dynamic= 1914 @ 7586, 1325 with Dynamic Iris Off
Rec. 709= 822 @ 7171
Sports= 1755 @ 7985
Post Calibration: Best Mode = REC 709
Post calibration Best Mode Brightness: 647 lumens
"Quick-Cal" Calibration: Brightest Mode = Dynamic: 1767 lumens
Note, with these settings, the PT-AR100U is just a little better looking than the default which is 1914 lumens (also at mid-point on the zoom). At full wide angle: 2377 lumens
This isn't a D65 (6500K) classic calibration, rather an quick attempt to give the PT-AR100U projector's Dynamic mode slightly better color balance than it started with. Most dynamic type modes, greens and blues tend to be significantly over the top (though not so this Panasonic). Our goal is to just make a dynamic mode more natural, but with the paramater of not giving up too much brightness. The primary adjustment Mike made, simply reduced blue and green slightly compared to red. See the calibration page.
Effect of zoom on lumen output (Dynamic mode):
In all the talk above about lumens, remember that where you place your projector has a lot of impact on brightness. As with most projectors, for any given sized screen, the further back you place the projector, the less bright the image on the screen. This is both an optical design, and a physics thing, so not all lenses behave exactly the same.
In this particular case, there was one unusual aspect. Going from close (wide-angle) to distant placement (telephoto) resulted in a loss of brightness to the tune of more than 50%! That is unusually high, with other projectors sporting lenses similar in range (2:1), more typically around a 40% drop, and some even less.
Effect of zoom on lumen output (Dynamic mode):
Zoom out: 2051
Zoom in: 1347
As a result, this projector may be blindingly bright when, say, ceiling mounted close to the screen, but if you set it at the telephoto end of the zoom, brightness drops to near average. For example, if you were also considering the more expensive Epson 5010, while the Epson isn't as bright overall, if you put both in Dynamic, and place both at the maximum range of the zoom, then at that point, the Epson might even be a touch brighter, even though as you place them closer, the Panasonic PT-AR100U will then exceed the output of the Epson, until there's a very real difference at the short end of the range.
PT-AR100U Eco-Mode vs. Full Power
True, dropping to eco-mode will make the lamp last longer - or so we assume, since Panasonic does not provide the lamp life for full power, only eco-mode at 3000 hours.
Since this is both a very bright, and somewhat noisy (fan noise) projector at full power, many people will choose to run the Panasonic in Eco-mode.
Brightness drops almost exactly 25% going from full to eco. For our testing, we considered Cinema1 mode, but all modes should have the same percentage drop.
Lumen Output (Eco Lamp, Cinema1): 601, vs. Full power (Cinema1): 798
Panasonic PT-AR100U Pre-Calibration Color temp, REC 709 Mode:
As mentioned elsewhere in the review, our "best" mode starts out a little cool. That mode is REC 709 (I know, a strange name, compared to Cinema1, Dynamic, Sports, etc.,) but REC 709 is the name of the standard for color for HDTV, and REC 709 modes are now generally the best found on projectors that offer one (the exception would be a THX mode, and that normally would be very similar).
Color Temp over IRE Range - Pre calibration, best mode - REC 709:
30 IRE 7217
50 IRE 7024
80 IRE 7138
100 IRE 7171
As you can see, fairly consistent, but averaging around 7100K, compared to the ideal 6500K. That's not a very large miss!
PT-AR100U, Post Calibration, Best Mode (REC 709)
Calibrated color temps, 20 – 100 IRE:
Color Temp over IRE Range (Post calibration):
20 IRE 6626
30 IRE 6465
40 IRE 6393
50 IRE 6360
60 IRE 6326
70 IRE 6420
80 IRE 6570
90 IRE 6607
100 IRE 6471
Average gamma= 2.18
Those are some very nice looking calibration numbers. True the spread is about 300K but that's still pretty good. Exceptional tightness might be all the IRE ranges being within 150K. That doesn't happen often. All considered:
Panasonic PT-AR100U Sharpness
Very nice. The PT-AR100U focuses very nicely. The result is a sharp image as you can see from the first close up comparison below (PS3 screen). No issues at all. While one can argue that single chip DLP projectors technically have the big advantage of not having to converge three separate color beams, and thus are typically sharper, but in this case, I don't think that holds up.
The reason is that first, Panasonic has done a very good job in overall sharpness and convergence, so it starts out pretty sharp. But the other reason is the competition. Most of those low cost DLP projectors simply haven't invested in optics as clear as the Panasonic's, or at least that's my take.
The end result, some of those others are visibly a bit soft looking for DLP projectors.
Top left: Panasonic PT-AR100U , Top Center - Optoma HD8300, Top right - Runco LS-5.
2nd row left: Panasonic PT-AE7000, center: Optoma HD33 (lower cost single chip DLP), Right: JVC DLA-HD250 (LCoS)
Detail Clarity Control:
The Detail Clarity control of the AR100 projector adds apparent sharpness or crispness to the image. Increasing the control settings also makes the overall image look harder, and makes image noise a bit more visible. This seems to be a dynamic control, as with all such controls, you tend to trade off some naturalness for other benefits. These image give you a decent idea of how much the control impacts the picture. You can read the Detail Clarity setting in the bottom center of each image.
Panasonic PT-AR100U: Bottom Line Sharpness
Good sharpness and clarity: Bottom line, sharpness of the PT-AR100U should please almost everyone, for a projector in this class and price. If you can find one visibly, signiicantly sharper for under $1000, good for you, but I'd be surprised. At the most, I wouldn't think any other projector under $1000 is enough sharper, to really make any difference.
Pretty clean through the lens, and almost no ambient escaping from the vents. No light leakage issues. I should note, when projecting a black image, I can make out (fully darkened room) a dust blob.
Whoa! My first impression of this PT-AR100U home entertainment projector was: Where did all that image noise come from? I mean it was almost shocking. No worries though, as it turns out, when I powered up, the projector was in Dynamic mode. I think I then switched to Normal (or one other mode) and was again dazzled by too much image noise. I mean more than a DLP projector and those are almost always slightly worse than projectors using 3LCD.
Well, as it turns out, the problem was one of those pesky special features of the PT-AR100 projector. The PT-AR100U has a feature called Digital Clarity. And in those first two modes, it was set for one of the higher settings. (This was not a brand new AR100U when it arrived). I assumed it had been reset to defaults, but haven't looked to make sure what the Detail Enhancement defaults to in the brighter modes.
Well, turns out that control is a powerful dynamic feature for "sharpening" the projected image. It does make everything look super sharp when set to 3, but, at the same time, that also magnifies the visible noise levels.
Bottom line, turn off that feature or keep it to its lowest setting, and image noise is back where one would expect it to be, barely, if ever noticeable, unless you are looking for it.
Noisy! Not surprising, all the exceptionally bright home projectors tend to be these days, when running at full power. Panasonic, like some others, chicken out, and don't provide an audio noise rating for lamp at full power, but they do claim 29 db in eco mode.
How does that translate? Well, the quietest projectors around can break below 20 db in their eco-modes. Most average projectors try to be under 30 db at full and in the low 20's in eco. Other bright projectors though tend to be in the low 30's at full power, and you can count the two closest priced Epson projectors, the Acer H9500BD, and for that matter, most of the under $1000 DLP projectors. If the new Epson 5010 (2400 lumens claimed) is noticeably quieter than the Panasonic, when both are at full power, I'd be surprised. On the other hand, that same Epson, and several other projectors similar in noise at full power, are likely still a bit quieter than the PT-AR100U in eco. 29 db in Eco-mode is not a spec to be proud of in your basic home entertainment projector.
On the "bright" side, this is, (again), a family room, bonus room type projector first. More family oriented environments tend to be noisier, than a dedicated theater, so most of you won't think twice about the fan noise, at least in eco-mode, where this Panasonic is still brighter than just about all the competition at full power.