Home Theater Projector Review:
PT-AX200U LCD Projector:
Summary, Pros, Cons
Yes, the PT-AX200U picks up our Hot Product Award. There are several reasons why, but in a nutshell, the PT-AX200U is the brightest projector, yet in its best mode it produces an excellent, film-like image, with acceptable black levels and very good shadow detail. As an added bonus, it has a Game mode that is truly optimized for gamers, whether they are using a PS3, X-Box 360, Wii, or other game machines.
The PT-AX200U seems to suffer not a single serious weakness, but is not perfect. Panasonic trades off that LCD feel of extra sharpness in exchange for invisible pixels (no screen door effect) and slight image softness. I just finished watching about 8 hours of college football (sadly, Penn State lost to Ohio State) on the PT-AX200U in my home theater, and despite normally viewing on a 1080p projector (my JVC RS1), the Panasonic still looked reasonably sharp, despite my large screen, and close seating distance. (128" diagonal, 11.5 feet back). And I tend to be very concerned about sharpness.
Panasonic PT-AX200U and the Competition
Nothing comes close in brightness, with the exception of the Epson Home Cinema 400, which comes somewhat close in brightest mode, but is definitely dimmer in best mode. The Epson is sharper, but has a slightly hard image in my opinion, as the Panasonic is more film-like.
Sony's AW15, another LCD projector, has blacker blacks, but is one of the dimmest projectors around, and best used with screens of 100" or less, whereas the Panasonic is at home with screens from 92" to 130+ inch diagonal.
The popular DLP projectors, most notably the Mitsubishi HC1500 and Optoma HD70, have a slight edge in black levels overall, and more in scenes with lots of very dark, and very bright, but do no better in bringing out shadow details. Add to that, the Panasonic rivals them in terms of producing a natural, film-like picture quality. Then of course, there's the big differences, which are that the Panasonic is significantly brighter, and has drastically better placement flexibility.
BenQ's W500, a lower cost LCD projector, is certainly no match, with crushed blacks and far lower lumen output, although it has a very slight edge in perceived sharpness. Acer's PH530, recently reviewed, is the lowest cost projector around, but hardly compares with the Panasonic.
It comes down to this. The Panasonic is solid, across the board with no glaring weaknesses. It works great, and will wow you and your friends. Those that find the softness to be too soft, are probably on their way to getting a 1080p projector sooner rather than later. Unless that softness bothers you (you probably won't be able to tell, unless you could demo the PT-AX200U with the competition, side by side), the Panasonic holds its own in most areas, and excels in brightness and placement.
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Panasonic PT-AX200U projector, Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Panasonic PT-AX200U Projector: Pros
- Brightest home theater projector around, over 2000 lumens at brightest
- Very bright in best movie mode, as well
- Very good at revealing shadow details
- Significantly lower starting price ($1299) than its predecessor, the PT-AX100U
- Vertical and Horizontal lens shift for placement flexibility
- 2:1 zoom lens for great placement flexibility
- Film-like picture quality and excellent skin tone handling
- No screendoor effect or visible pixels, thanks to Smooth Screen technology
- Great little remote control
- Good documentation overall
- Eight user savable memory settings
- Gaming mode truly optimized for today's games and game machines
- Multiple movie modes, multiple modes for TV, HDTV, and Sports
- Light Harmonizer will adjust projector image based on room lighting
- Two HDMI inputs
- Overall good color management
- Only minor adjustments needed to produce excellent color accuracy
- Excellent Price/Performance and Value
Panasonic PT-AX200U Projector: Cons
- A slightly soft image (sharpness)
- Needs minor color adjustments, out of the box
- Black levels could be a bit better
- Warranty is only 1 year parts and labor
- Although quieter than average, not as quiet as the quietest LCD projectors in its class
Panasonic PT-AX200U Projector: Typical Capabilities
- About average noise levels (or a little quieter) than most 720p projectors
- Menu layout
- Physical styling (or lack thereof - it's a white box, with only small concessions to styling)
- Lamp life, in full power mode (2000 hours)
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Panasonic PT-AX200U Summary:
Perfectionists may choose another projector in the general price range, especially those focused heavily on black level performance, but for the rest of us, the PT-AX200U, is going to be a serious contender. Of course, a number of competitors cost less, with 720p projectors these days, starting under $700 street price, and with several under $1000. Still, unless your budget is tight enough that you are uncomfortable with the PT-AX200U's price, it will be hard to pass on.
Few will object to having the brightest projector in its class. Picture quality is overall, very good, and "unobtrusive". Movies, general HDTV (and TV), and sports programming (especially HDTV), all are a pleasure to watch.
I have no doubt that I will end up recommending the PT-AX200U to more people than any other 720p projector, even though, I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist. The Panasonic PT-AX200U home theater projector, may be a bit of a compromise in a few areas, but it excels in others, and the bottom line is an excellent price performance proposition.
Translating that into English, the PT-AX200U is a great deal.