Panasonic PT-AR100U - Review Summary
Time to try to put all the features, performance, flexibility, warranty, and other aspects of the Panasonic PT-AR100U projector into perspective.
3/10/2012 - Art Feierman
Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector - The Bottom Line
It really is quite amazing really. This year Panasonic offers you a very capable, 2800 lumen projector for $999 street price (as of the time of this writing), based on online dealer advertising. Last year the PT-AX200U was $999, but it was 720p resolution, and offered only 2000 lumens. This new Panasonic projector also has improved blacks with 50,000:1 contrast, compared to 6,000:1.
One month people were buying the PT-AX200U, and the next, this PT-AR100U. Now a couple months later, the AR100U's price has come down to where the older projector was.
Compared to the overall similarly priced competition, the PT-AR100U has to be considered one of the best values around, and I'm convinced enough to give it a Hot Product Award, as it offers a lot for the money.
This really is a projector suitable for the family room, bonus room, etc. Finally a projector that can tackle a respectable amount of ambient light. Pair the PT-AR100U with the appropriate screen for your room and lighting. I've been crying for projectors with up to about 3000 lumens for years, specifically for family room type use. This year we finally see a number. Most of those new projectors that are that bright, in order to do well with 3D (which costs about 75% of the brightness). Not so, this 2D only PT-AR100U, it's brightness is there to be unleashed in rooms that would overwhelm most more expensive projectors two to ten times the price, as most are designed primarily for more of a dedicated theater or cave.
Despite the high brightness, calibrated the PT-AR100U produces a comfortable 650 lumens, not too many lumens for a nice 100 or 120 inch screen in more of a dedicated home theater. The thing is, there are lots of projectors that have the brightness to handle a theater, but very few can do what this Panasonic can in a brighter room.
As a projector in a theater, the PT-AR100U works great. It cruises under my theater's lighting conditions. But, brightness isn't the only thing. Overall image quality is very good, skin tones look rather good, a touch of reddish caste, sometimes appears, but every projector has some bias. Some of you might prefer the look and feel of a DLP projector, in which case there are several to choose from, but there's nothing wrong with this projector's overall picture.
The PT-AR100U projector's handling of sports is really good, I'd say excellent, but for the lack of having creative frame interpolation, which many should like on sports, if nothing else. Understand, that's not a feature normally found in this price range.
As I have said, there's plenty of lumens for a nice bright sports image, even on a very large screen. That's the way I like it!
In a good home theater you will be able to have a enough ambient light for socializing when watching sports, without any difficulty, but what about in a family room?
Where you place the projector in the family room will be important to its brightness. If not too far back you'll get to enjoy almost all of the PT-AR100U's 2400 lumens that we were able to measure, with the lens near wide-angle. In the brighter modes there's more than enough brightness to handle modest ambient light levels, or perhaps a bit more, depending on how large a screen. Even with a pretty large screen though, this projector will have less trouble than any others.
If you have (off)-white walls and no way to block all the light entering from windows, then your family room / living room / bonus room normally isn't suitable for watching movies during the day, because most movies have some dark scenes, and those normally wash out. With all the lumens of the PT-AR100U, you'll have a better chance, and for those where the not to much daylight gets in, movies might work, not great on dark scenes, but sufficiently.
Come nightime, though, the PT-AR100U should go great in this type of room for movie viewing. The more than adequate black levels make for a nice showing, for a lower cost projector. There's a huge difference between the blacks in this projector and Panasonic's more expensive PT-AE7000U, but that projector's more than 2.5 times the price. Until you're an afficiano of home theater projectors, these blacks should serve you fine.
The Very Bottom Line on the PT-AR100U projector:
Extremely bright and ideal for the family room type environment, the PT-AR100U offers extensive placement flexibility, especially compared to most of the similarly priced competition. Choose your color modes for your content and tastes (and brightness).
The projector itself, physically looks good - a mid-sized home projector. Its remote control is great, and the menus are well designed. The memory area lets you save settings, as we propose you do on our Calibration page. The projector has a waveform generator for those so inclined to use it. Overall, there are a few downsides, mostly due to the PT-AR100U being so bright. Fan noise is a little louder than most, and lamp life is below average. I recently made the same comment about BenQ's W7000 a favorite $2500 range projector, which is about equally bright, just in a higher quality and price class. Considering you can run this projector in eco-mode where the lamp hours aren't bad, prevents this from being a signficant issue.
About the only thing missing is Creative Frame Interpolation - aka smooth motion, which sadly, is pretty much absent when it comes to projectors in this price range. Lack of CFI is not a big thing, even at best, but it's nice to have the option. The Detail Clarity control let's you enhance sharpness (don't overdo it - noise will also become more noticeable).
The bottom line, is that for general purpose, 2D only, full-HD resolution home entertainment projectors, the PT-AR100U is about as good as it gets these days for under $1000.
Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector: Pros and Cons
Above, image from Red
Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector: Pros
- Brightest affordable 1080p resolution 2D projector specifically designed for home
- Impressively good (watchable) color modes - right out of the box
- Full color controls for those planning to get theirs calibrated, or to use our settings
- Excellent placement flexibility
- Lamp can be changed without unmounting the projector
- Frame Interpolation (not CFI)
- Waveform Monitor for tweaking, etc.
- 2 HDMI inputs
- 2 12 volt screen triggers
- Game mode - only 18 milliseconds of lag time - should make this a strong gaming projector
- Excellent remote
- Light Harmonizer - adjusts projector brightness as room brightness changes
- Color filter in best modes for improved color accuracy
- Easy to use, well laid out menus
- An excellent value propositioin
Image above, from Iron Man 2
Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector: Cons
- A bit noisy, both modes are noisier than most competition, but not unreasonably so for a "family room" projector
- Lacks CFI (smooth motion) - as does all the low priced competition so far
- Shorter than average lamp life
- One year warranty, like most in the price range, but shorter than others (some up to 3 years)
- No support for an anamorphic lens
- Lens loses higher percentage of brightness than most, at full telephoto
- Black levels could be better (even for the price range)
Captain Pike, from the Star Trek movie, just the slightest touch of extra red/salmon color in the skin tone as we discuss elsewhere, yet the captain still looks great up on the screen.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING: PT-AR100U Projector Review