The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Panasonic PT-AE3000U has arrived!

At last, the PT-AE3000U is in house, and powered up.  First serious viewing tonight will be Monday Night Football, followed by checking out some movie clips before the projector gets calibrated.  Tomorrow is calibration day, and then the review really gets going.  

First an overview.  The PT-AE3000U is the newest 1080p projector from Panasonic, replacing the PT-AE2000U.  The projector just started shipping.  It is a 3LCD design with the latest 3LCD C2Fine panels, is spec’d to be brighter than its predecessor, and has some key features, including frame interpolation, a “pseudo” anamorphic lens mode (no anamorphic lens needed), and so on.  

Not much to report so far, other than that it’s in the works.  So far, I’ve got it plugged in, and have the news on in HD.  It is impressively bright in Dynamic mode.  My best guess is that it can hold its own with the “older” Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, in terms of brightest mode brightness.  Measurements will tell.

I’m looking forward to turning the creative frame interpolation on and off, while watching the football game tonight to see if there is any obvious effect on normal viewing.  (In the side by side demo with the PT-AE2000U, at CEDIA, on material really ideal for showing motion blur, the improvement was definitely very visible, but, will I be able to tell on a deep pass to a wide receiver, or notice a difference in all the super fast moving graphics in Transformers.  Linear motion is easier to detect then a lot of things moving quickly in different directions, changing directions, etc.  

I will post a First Look blog on the PT-AE3000U sometime on Wednesday, to give you a taste of the review to come.  As to the review itself, it will likely publish between Saturday and Monday, and if you are one of my regular readers, you know the later date is usually the more accurate one, when it comes to getting reviews out (some would say that my Saturday – Monday prediction probably means Tuesday.

Hang in there! -art

PS.  I will be doing side by sides, against the InFocus IN83, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB, and the Mitsubishi HC6500.  (Probably one or both of the Sanyo Z3000 and Mitsubishi HC7000 will arrive before this review is finished, and if so, I’ll have them up against the Panasonic as well.  As most of you know, the Epson’s aren’t due to ship until, probably late November, or mid-December, so those review units aren’t expected to arrive for at least 4 weeks.  -a

News And Comments

  • Dave

    Art, when you do the side by side, is it safe to presume for the AE3000U you will compare it to the RS1 as well? I say “safe to assume” because that is still your “reference” pj and the one you use, is it not? I just think that the RS1 and 1080UB would be two that you would absolutely want to compare it to. thanks.

    *************

    Hi Dave,

    Yes, almost certainly, as I have it off my shelf in the main room, and it’s in the testing room. Normally I restrict the RS1 for viewing the same movie segments I watch on a projector being reviewed, in my main room. Side by side (in the “testing room”, is often with whatever is around that is competition, but that has been primarily the Epson and the InFocus IN83, since both companies were kind enough to grant my request to hold on to those units for a long period of time.

    BTW my RS1 has about 1400 or so hours on the lamp, and I’m missing the lost brightness a bit. -a

  • Dave

    Thanks Art. That sounds great. In the past, the 2 side by side elements of your reviews that I have studied the most for my own interpretation, and that have been most helpful in this regard when added to your summary interpretation of all that you have witnessed, are to (a) look at the same exact screen shots of the pjs to determine differences in black level, shadow detail, and overall statically captured picture quality, and (b) to try to assess the brightness of these pjs compared to each other at a specific distance from the screen (in my case, 14.5 feet at 112″ 16×9) for the two most common modes of use (one that is for sports with some ambient light…kind of like “living room” mode, but not “dynamic” on the epsons…, and one that is the purest cinema mode). I try to infer from your brightness statements at what point in the zoom range your measurements are taken to get the “effective” zoom since there is a loss of brightness as you zoom, esp on the really flexible 2:1 range pjs. (FYI, this is one piece of info that would be helpful to have had to your reviews over time, such as, “the pj was located x feet back from a y size screen….then one could say, ok, he was at z percent of zoom range on that pj and if i also know how brightness varies in percentage drop as you fully zoom, I can calculate how his brightness numbers would map to my room, etc. To this day, if I look back across your reviews historically (I use the RS1/RS2 and 1080UB as “my” standards to date) I am unable to ascertain if all of these brightness numbers were done at (i) same distance from screen/size setup or (ii) same position in zoom range (i.e. full wide, etc.) If one knows these things, and knows what you witnessed insofar as degradation of brightness in percentage as you full zoom, then it is easy to calculate what actual brightness difference in a cinema best or lightly ambient room set-up would be yielded between two pjs. Just a thought.

    ***************

    Hi Dave,

    Brightness is not one of the things that really can be determined from the side by sides. For them to work at all, the two projectors have to be very close in brightness, although one can never get two of them to the exact brightness.

    That’s why I’ve been doing a lot of side-by-sides using the InFocus IN83 as the reference. That’s to it’s combination of being one of the brightest projectors around, plus a manual iris, I can dial it down to match the brightness of any other projector, making the images more useful for comparing things like black levels and shadow detail.

    For the purposes of photography – the side by sides – I typically shoot with both projectors filling about 40 to 50″ diagonal of a 106″ Carada Brilliant White screen.

    I don’t worry about distance, or actual zoom ratio, as my primary is getting the brightness the same on the two projectors, thus I may even decide at the last minute, before shooting, to move the projector being compared to the IN83, either closer or further back, and adjust the zoom to maintain the picture size, because by varying the zoom range, I can also vary slightly the on screen brightness for a better match-up, but even being off by 1/4 f stop is rather dramatic on the photos.

    Hope that helps! -art

  • Ryan

    What projector would you go with between the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080UB Projector and the PT-AE3000U? Or do you have another one you would recommend under $3,000.

    Thanks!

    *****************

    Ask me a again in a few more days, or just hang in for the review. I can tell you now that if you need lumens, the Epson is still significantly brighter in brightest mode, but they are similar in “best”.

    The rest you’ll have to wait for. I expect to have the UB and the AE3000U running side by side at some point this evening. -a

  • Dave

    Thank Art, the process you use for side by sides to examine pq and shadow and blacks insofar as trying to normalize for brightness makes a ton of sense. And, in a way even increases my confidence in your reviews knowing that. That is terrific insight. Clearly, though, the points I was trying to make are relevant insofar as having the requisite information to deduce in a specific readers setup, how the brightness of one pj might rank vs. another. I think where you took it was that I was looking for a side by side on brightness, and that is not the case. The side by side for pq comparison and other assessment appears to be done very rigorously and thoroughly in your reviews, and I appreciate that. Point I was making was that in addition to, or outside of, that normalization of brightness that must be done to determine shadow detail, black levels, etc., it would be nice to know at what distance from a screen of a certain size your “measured” lumens figures are taken at (and of course, with the specific lamp mode you are on..which you do already). Thanks again. Dave

  • Guy Wescott

    Art,

    Where is the First Look Blog you promised??? You are killing me. Didn’t Business School teach you to under promise and over perform??? ;-)

    Kidding aside, I need to make a decision on installing and keeping either the PT-AE3000U or the Epson Home Cinema 1080UB and I need to make it today…

    Keeping in mind that sports are just important as movies to us, I’m leaning toward the Pani. I eagerly await your thoughts.

    ********************

    Of course they taught me that in business school, of course they also taught me that you want to build demand before you release a product (such as my review). Just two more balancing forces in the universe, to deal with. Hang in there, probably late tonight – got a football game to watch, and will probably be writing it during…

    Hey, the projector was only calibrated yesterday, give a guy a break. I won’t be getting into the lens features, but will comment on brightness and black levels, along with some other stuff. -art

    You do a fantastic job!!

    Thanks!

  • Scott

    Will you be able to comment on the 2.35 zoom memory feature and its ranges? By ranges, I mean if the zoom feature will work with a constant height screen if the projector is mounted at the screen height or a little higher ( ceiling mount)

    Comments on another site from viewers, questioned whether the zoom memory feature will work if the projector is mounted at any height above the screen due to the minimal motorized adjustment for vertical position.

    Thanks.

    ****************

    Hi Scott,

    Yes I plan to fully report on what I’m so far calling “Pseudo” anamorphic features. Including the memory save functions which I think really make it viable.

  • VJ

    people are asking about comparing the Panasonic to the JVC RS1, a very well know reviewer who used a Wiliam Phelps calibrated RS1 already compared the two and the Panasonic is Better; and it has better black levels which is amazing because the JVC already has great black levels.
    All companies will have to re-price their over prices products as a result of this new Panasonic 3000.

    *******************

    We shall see! I’ll be doing a side by side, later tonight. However, I have had both going at different times, this week in my theater, and my initial thoughts are that the RS1 still offers blacker blacks. I would tend to think that the AE3000U is closer to the Epson 1080 UB, which has excellent blacks, but not up to the RS1′s.

    Stay tuned. -art

  • VJ

    I also talked to 3 authorized dealers who carry the Epson UB and they all saw the panasonic and all of them said the Panasonic is a much better projector. and all of them sell the Epson for a higher price than the panasonic. We didn’t talk about black levels specifically but just overall picture quality.
    A lot of people have said the Epson UB is a poor man’s RS1; very very close in overall quality.

    *******************

    Hi VJ,

    That the PT-AE3000U may be better overall than the old 1080 UB, would not surprise me, in fact I expect that to be the case (give or take the usual trade-offs), but I’ll reserve judgement for a day or two, until I have run them both side by side on the same materiel. I’ll also, as part of the review, publish at least one side by side photo that will show black level differences, whatever they turn out to be. The PT-AE3000U also has a host of new features, such as the frame interpolation, the pseudo anamorphic lens abilities, and so on.

    The Epson, however, is still the less expensive projector – at least after rebates. Assuming you value a lamp at $350, and the $300 mail in rebate, the UB nets to $2149 vs. $2499. Whether that difference is enough to justify the Epson, for those looking for max performance, or whether the difference in performance is enough to justify the Panasonic for those on a really tight budget, remains to be seen.

    As to dealers, and I love them – they pay the bills here, with their advertising on our site, remember they all have their own agendas. (If they didn’t, no one would need independent reviews.)

    Let’s say you are a dealer of both. Let’s say you have only a 2 week supply of 1080 UB’s, and have committed to 100 PT-AE3000U’s as part of your initial purchase. You know those Epson’s will move out, so which do you push?

    Another dealer though, might negotiate a huge deal and take a couple hundred Epson UB’s from Epson, and they would, instead, be pushing the Epson…

    It is simply the nature of sales. Take two virtually identical projectors at a dealership, assume they both have about the same gross profit, but one gives a $100 spif to the sales people, and the other has no spif. Guess which one gets pushed as the better projector?

    Etc.

    So, I don’t really worry about what dealers are pushing. I do believe, so far, that the PT-AE3000U is a great projector. I can tell you, that we completed measurements and calibration. The Epson is still significantly brighter in its brightest mode (at least 25%), which will be important to many. Overall, though, the Panny looks to be the better projector. Even if the Epson could beat the Panny at black levels – which I’m not suggesting, but will know tonight, the two will be extremely close in that regard, close enough, that I don’t think black level performance will be a deciding factor for buyers. That allows other aspects to be more important – including brightness, special features, sharpness (never a Panasonic strength – due to SmoothScreen technology – which has its advantages. That said, the Epson is strictly average in sharpness), and so on. Stay tuned. I won’t be commenting further in response to blogs, as I will post a First Look blog on the Panny, late tonight or by about 2pm tomorrow (Pacific time). Hang in there! -art