Panasonic LB10 Series - Image Quality
Projector Performance – Data and Video
My new laptop is a widescreen Dell. I intentionally purchased it because the format is becoming so popular, and it poses challenges for many projectors. In running the projector through its paces first I set my laptop to feed the LB10NTU a 4:3 aspect ratio XGA signal (1024x768). The LB10 locked right in, and gave me a very crisp image with small type being razor sharp. Contrast looked very good, not surprising with Panasonic claiming 500:1 contrast for this projector – most LCD projectors shipping today offer 400, with many still 300:1, or 350:1, but more and more 500:1 contrast models are shipping and in larger projectors we are even seeing some 700:1 or higher (Sanyo in particular). The best home theater LCD projectors are getting up to 1300:1.
These Panasonic Projectors offer 3 different image settings, Dynamic, Standard and Natural, and there is significant differences between them. Natural, as you probably could guess is ideal for video, although if you are dealing with ambient light standard might work well. Dynamic goes even further, but fleshtones will not look natural. Best save Dynamic for presentations and spreadsheets. Here are images of the two extremes - with dynamic (obviously) on the left.
Please note, high contrast just isn’t that big a deal for normal Powerpoint presentations or even work documents like spreadsheets, etc. For home theater video quality, higher contrast is the “holy grail”, which is why DLP projectors (not LCD) are more popular with the home theater crowd. None the less, 500:1 will serve you nicely if you want to bring it home and feed it DVD’s, cable or HDTV.
Brightness on the LB10NTU was plenty for any conference room, even with lots of florescent lights. I viewed the LB10NTU, on both my 81” diagonal and my 140” diagonal screens. (my screens are 16:9 so the effective sizes were effectively 112” and 768” diagonals respectively. On the smaller screen, in my office, with all the recessed lighting on, the LB10 was downright brilliant! On the large screen, with lots of light coming in from the windows, the Panasonic was definitely washing out noticeably, but still did a respectable job with my test Powerpoint presentation, and just fine on my standard spreadsheet, and color spreadsheet tests. In the evening when I can darken the big room, the Pansonic did just great filling the big screen with moderate lighting. Rarely will you find a screen that large in a room without decent lighting control, so this little projector will serve you more than adequately even in a hotel ballroom or small auditorium. And that’s an impressive claim for something this small.
Evenness of Illumination
According to the literature, the LB10 series claims 90% evenness of illumination – about as high a claim as one sees – most LCD projectors claim 85 – 90%. (Most DLP’s claim 80-85, but its no secret that LCD projectors as a group do MUCH better than DLP’s in this area. Back to the Panasonic. When projecting a solid blue screen, you can definitely see some roll-off in the corners, so the 90% claim is almost certainly pushing it, still when I run my Powerpoint presentation, the rolloff just isn’t noticeable, so don’t worry about it!
Next, I fed the LB10NTU projector WXGA – in the case of my laptop, 1280x800 resolution. With the auto setup, the Panasonic locked right in (I have encountered several projectors that can’t display that resolution at all. In projecting this widescreen source, the image is, of course, collapsed, so that a round object appears too tall. It also means that “compression technology” is used to remap the data to fit. In this case, and when feeding the projector SXGA+ (1400x1050) Panasonic’s compression technology performs well (not the best I’ve ever seen on XGA+ but good enough that 8 and 9 point spreadsheet is fully readable (but not pretty). (Default size on Excel is 10 point.) On the Powerpoint test, 24 point and larger text degradation would go unnoticed by viewers – even in the front row. So the Panasonic passes with flying colors. Back to my widescreen source – I normally would not recommend doing this with a powerpoint presentation, the inherent squishing of everything just wouldn’t look right, but that would be true of ANY 4:3 projector that can lock onto a “wide” source.
I was also able to get the projector into 16:9 mode (letterbox at top and bottom) with the wide source. This too worked, but compression was still in play, since my Dell’s 1280x800 is significantly higher than the 16:9’s 1024x576, and is still a different ratio. Generally I would not recommend this combination, it has nothing to do with the Panasonic, but rather, why give up usable screen area, and use more compression than needed?
Lastly, I ran the projector with UXGA (1600x1200). As with almost any XGA projector, you are pushing your luck – forget spreadsheets. But you can pull of Powerpoint, just keep that text large!
Compression Technology and resolution on the LB10SVU and LB10SU.
I was able to briefly obtain the LB10SVU, the least expensive projector in the series. Sporting 1600 lumens and SVGA resolution (800x600), I only tested it with native 800x600, and also XGA resolution. As expected it was razor sharp in native SVGA. Compression technology proved to be very good with XGA. Not the best I’ve seen, but definitely very good. On the other hand, I fed the “SVU” SXGA+ (1400x1050), and while it had no trouble locking it in, believe me, you don’t want to look at small type on spreadsheets.
Of course, anyone planning to use SXGA+ or UXGA sources has no business with SVGA projectors to begin with. If you are even remotely thinking about it, for example I would recommend going for the 1600 lumen XGA LB10VU, for basically the same price as the 2000 lumen LB10SU. Believe me, you will miss the true XGA resolution far, far more than you will the loss of 400 lumens. I’m a huge fan of avoiding SVGA projectors to begin with (except for schools and buyers with the absolute minimum budgets.) Today about 40% of projectors sold are still SVGA (a number that hasn’t changed significantly in several years, but unfortunately, probably more than half of those people had no business buying SVGA projectors.
First, all models support HDTV from 480i thru 1080i, so they are fully ready for the future, which will feature HDTV prominently.
No surprises feeding it S-video or composite from my DVD player, (typical business or home video), but I wanted to see what it was capable of, so I switched to component video from my DVD player and popped in a DVD – Lord of the Rings: Fellowship.
Colors were great (I selected the Natural mode), with rich greens, and very good fleshtones. (the Standard mode wasn’t bad, but Dynamic was way over the top, nothing looked matural.) You might want Dynamic if you are watching sports and the room isn’t dark enough, but otherwise stick to the other settings.
Bottom line, no annoying artifacts or other problems, and overall a very satisfactory experience for a small business LCD projector. If you really plan to double your projector for Very serious Home Theater, though, you may want to look at some DLP models, but this little projector will still impress your friends on movies or the NBA playoffs.
AI “Artificial Intelligence"
I wrote more extensively about this feature on a recent review of Panasonic’s L500U Home Theater projector. The primary benefits come in video mode, and since the LB10 series does fine in video, for basic video work, it’s less beneficial here. What a lot of it does, is adjust the image – on the fly, in terms of color brightness and contrast, to adjust to individual frames of the video. It does so in an attempt to stretch the apparent dynamic range and overall look of the video. It works fairly well, and would definitely be useful when showing videos in rooms that are a bit bright.