The Art of Home Theater Projectors

Panasonic PT-AR100U Home Theater Projector: A "First Look" Review

I know you’ve been waiting for this quick look at Panasonic’s new super bright home theater and home entertainment projector, the PT-AR100U.

Greetings projector fans, movie fans, sports fans, TV fans, and the world in general.  I’ve had a couple of days now with the Panasonic PT-AR100U.  Not as much time as I would have liked, but that’s my fault.  This weekend I had a tough choice watching a dozen or so hours on the PT-AR100U projector, or heading to Las Vegas with an old friend, to catch a concert.

But, first things first.  Panasonic’s pricing has dropped dramatically since the PT-AR100U was first announced around the fall.  A quick look on the web the street price is obviously right around $999, despite an MSRP of $1999.  Panasonic is definitely getting aggressive, price wise.

Sorry folks, in this case, the PT-AR100U projector lost out.  The band, btw, that Eddie and I saw, was Alan Parson’s Project.  (Yeah, just about none of you have ever heard of them, even though they’ve had some huge hits over the decades.  Hey, even a lot of folks from the 60′s don’t remember Alan Parsons.  More about the trip below!

The Panasonic PT-AR100U isn’t your average home theater, or home entertainment projector.  It is simply the brightest of them all, at least of the ones I’m aware of that are true home projectors, not compromised cross-over projectors.

Mike’s picking up the AR100U in a couple of hours, to measure and calibrate it, but I just want to start out with some impressive tidbits for you, even though I can’t quote measured numbers yet.

OK, here are the Panasonic PT-AR100U projector’s strengths, based on watching:

  1. Major league brightness.  2800 lumens claimed! To find another home theater projector that has significantly more lumens we’re talking 3 chip DLP’s and a price tag at least 10x higher!  Well, if you are looking for one of these, a three chip DLP probably isn’t in your budget (or mine).
  2. Great out of the box color!   I am truly impressed (regular readers know I’m quite often “impressed” and sometimes “very impressed” or “really impressed”, but rarely, every do I put “truly” in front of impressed.)  Even the really bright modes look really good out of the box. True, Cinema 1, and REC 709 are no where near as bright as Vivid Cinema, Standard (even brighter), and of course Dynamic, which is dazzling (and only slightly brighter than Standard).  I mean I can detect yellows as being a touch strong in Dynamic, and a touch more overall “contrasty” look, but not very much.  There’s a far smaller drop in color quality from Standard to Dynamic, than in most other projectors, including the Epson 3010 or 5010 projectors.   I’d have to say, that the Dynamic modes looks better than most LCDTV’s, PERIOD!  See the image from X-men, below, taken, with default settings using dynamic!
  3. And paired with the right screen, and a not too terrible family room or living room, this Panasonic projector just might prove brighter than an LCDTV, and I mean, even at sizes of 100 inches diagonal.  (Yes, black levels will suffer somewhat, but sports – nice!)
    Wow!  I have to see how far I can push this projector – It’s going to be leaving my theater, and going downstairs into our extremely bright great room.  I need to shoot a few pictures for you – I’ll start with my light beige walls, since I have no screen down there, then I’ll break out an 80″ portable matte white screen, just to see.  But, you’d want an appropriate  screen in a family room or living room where there’s tons of ambient light.  Those pics will show up in the full review, in a few more days.
  4. The amenities.   Lots of features, two screen triggers, Panasonic’s waveform analyzer, their auto adjustment for room brightness (Light Harmonizer), dynamic features, like CFI etc.  Lot’s of placement flexibility, good remote, lots of (good) picture modes
  5. And: You get a dynamic iris, for better blacks.  Note:  I’m not prepared yet, for a really good assessment of the black level performance.  The 50,000:1 claim is a really good number, but, this projector is really not an ultra-high contrast projector in the sense of the Epson 5010, or Panasonic’s own flagship, the PT-AE7000 projector.  It may well offer better blacks than say the Epson Home Cinema 8350, a projector with a slightly higher street price, or their more expensive 3D capable 3010, but most likely its blacks are comparable to those Epson’s, and probably not as good as the Acer H9500BD DLP projector.  Remember, I’m watching a really bright projector – which means even really good blacks aren’t as black as a less bright projector on the same screen.  I’ll have it sorted out soon, in the full review of the PT-AR100U projector.

My first real take on the PT-AR100:

For those looking to forgo 3D, and just need a really bright projector – for almost any remotely suitable room, or for someone who just can’t live without a 160″ diagonal matte white screen, this Panasonic is probably the ticket.  It should easily outmuscle those other $1000 – $2000 home entertainment projectors, with only the Epson Home Cinema 3010 being bright enough to discuss as even “close” in brightness.

Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector - looks great, even in Dynamic mode (brightest).

At first I had the disturbing impression that the really bright modes are also a very high in typical image noise.  I normally expect to see more mosquito and other basic noise on DLP projectors than 3 LCD or LCoS.  In reality, I noticed a lot of noise  in Normal and Dynamic, but it turned out to be the default settings of the Detail Clarity control which was set for 3.  It provides an over-sharpened image, and in doing so, it magnifies the noise.

Can’t wait until Mike hands it back calibrated, and to do the whole photo shoot, and some side by side viewing.  In this case against the Epson 5010, as it’s the only projector I have here right now, bright enough to do a side by side with the AR100U projector.

For you gamers – we haven’t tested lag times yet, but that will be done in time for the full review.  Either Pete or Scott, my two gaming – projector bloggers, will get the projector to really run though its paces as a serious gaming projector.  Keep in mind Panasonic has been heavily focused on doing great gaming, on the predecessors to the PT-AR100U, such as the PT-AX200U, which this projector replaces.  Considering there’s even a Game mode, I expect lag times to be respectable.

That’s it, folks (well, mostly).  Below, a bit on the trip to vegas, and how my friend Eddie, will soon be considering replacing his old projector with a new one, with the PT-AR100U being on his short list.

Finishing up on the Vegas trip (and a home theater decision), my wine guy:  Eddie – Eddie Osterland, I should note, is one of the world’s foremost wine experts (first american to become a Master Sommelier), so you better believe there was some great food and wine on the trip.  If you head to Las Vegas, check out this Thai restaurant: Lotus of Siam – awesome and a world class wine list to die for (per Eddie).  Yummy!  (note, it’s in a run down large strip shopping center, and lacks the ambiance, of a fancy restaurant, but the food and wine, more than offsets.  Eddie says it’s a legendary restaurant among wine and food aficionados.

Eddie, is a home theater projector owner too – sold him his first a decade ago.  He’s got an old Sony and also a Panasonic, but time to upgrade.  He’s going to be replacing soon (I mention all this, because we watched a bit of Hugo in 3D, on the Epson 5010, and some 2D content on the PT-AR100U.  Eddies new place is loft like, lots of light, he’ll have to decide, which will serve him best – since he needs some real horsepower.  He can go 3D and really good brightness (Epson), or he can go for even more lumens and also save some bucks (if he forgoes 3D) with the Panasonic PT-AR100U.  Eddie knows about the importance of good blacks, but he also knows when you need lots of lumens, often blacks don’t come into play.  Ultimately we’ll see what he finally decides upon in a couple of months, and let you know.

Thanks folks!  -art

PS.  The full PT-AR100U projector review should be up on the website this weekend (sooner or later)!

 

News And Comments

  • Jonathan

    Art, do you know if the AR100U has the same LCD panels as the Epson 5010? If they do any guess as to why it isn’t 240hz or more?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Jonathan, I don’t believe they are the same, though I never checked. The AR100 is 2D only, no CFI, etc. while faster panels are better, my guess is using lower cost panels makes sense, or the Panny likely would be more expensive. -art

  • Ken

    I’m really looking forward to see this projector in action, the Panasonic projectors are something else compared to Epson and Benq, the black level is very impressive on the previous models and i guess this is much improved.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Ken, not sure which projector you are referring to. If the pt-ar100u, black levels are reasonably good for the 999 price, but no match for the Epson 5010 or BenQ W7000, although comparable to the Epson 8350 or 3010. Please clarify, thanks

  • Ben St. Pierre

    I’m looking forward to seeing how this will stack up against the Epson 8350! The recent price drop to $999 makes it a lot more appealing.

  • Ed

    This is off-topic vis-a-vis the PT-AR100U, but your mention of Hugo in 3D prompts this question.

    Blu-ray.com’s Hugo 3D review describes “this (3D) transfer stumbles throughout – Crosstalk is not only present, but severe – It’s constant and distracting, heavy and disappointing”. Makes me wonder if you found this in Hugo as well?

    Hugo 3D is one of the movies that’s tempting me to upgrade to an Epson 5010 or Panny 7000.

    Have you seen 3D blu-rays with bad crosstalk regardless of projector/hardware? Or put another way, have you found crosstalk more of a blu-ray encoding issue or more player/display/glasses issue?

    Thanks.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Ahh, I’m no movie reviewer Ed, but… I can’t really argue with the Blu-ray.com review, regarding crosstalk, but some folks are more bothered by crosstalk than others.
      I’ve now watched the 3D version in my theater 3 full times (I love the movie, the “steampunk”, Scorsese’s incredible directing, and the treatment of 3D as something for grownups, not just kids.) I notice the crosstalk when looking for it, but for me (I’m not that sensitive, so I normally stay out of the debate. (I see the rainbow effect, on the other hand, while many others barely do, or don’t at all.) It’s so early on, I’m not even sure that I’m much less sensitive to crosstalk than the average person.

      IN the case of Hugo, I don’t care. To me, the movie is stunning in 3D. Let me put it another way, with many 3D projectors, there’s a brightness control on the projector – generally referred to for the 3D glasses. usually 3 or 4 modes from bright to “low” (was going to say dim). No matter what the content, the brightest setting usually has plenty of crosstalk (in this case a projector issue, not a blu-ray transfer issue). I don’t watch above “medium”, sacrificing some needed brightness. I would say that running any of those projectors in the brightest glasses mode offers a good deal more crosstalk than that Hugo disc.

      To answer your last question. It can be the media or the projector, or both. Occasionally on the forums I’ll read one guy saying “that projector’s got a lot of crosstalk” and the next guy says, no way, it’s the movie you are watching… and vice versa… I don’t care about whatever level the disc has, I’ll rank Hugo now as the favorite 3D content I own, that’s a movie, and probably overall, despite Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D, Hubble 3D, and a bunch of non-movie 3D I now own (maybe 60 hours of non movies, plus more than a dozen movies.

      In other words, effects or not, this a great movie, and I barely can see how folks fully immersed in the movie, even notice the crosstalk.

      With the great variation in comments relating to the Hugo review, perhaps, in some cases, the issue is a combination of the movie transfer, and whatever crosstalk the display has? Well, get some popcorn, the disc, and enjoy. -art

  • http://ArtFeierman-Ineedyourhelp.... The Fair Lady

    Please email me with information on the following:

    What is the best LCD projector for the money? Our budget $1,000 to $1,500 because we are a non-profit organization. I need one that will:
    Operate 10 hours a day for 10 days. Show educational animal videos and PowerPoint presentations(rabbits and chickens) to young children and their parents.
    Is easy to clean because the barn can be dusty.
    Can hold up to swamp coolers.
    Has high output due to bright Lights
    The spare bulbs are inexpensive.

    Please, please help me. It’s important that I have the right LCD projector to begin this project. If you have more questions, please email me.

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Fair Lady!
      I can’t be sure. Swamp coolers? Maybe… first time anyone asked. Not sure about humidity specs, but the manufacturer data sheets might say.

      the 10 hours a day, really shouldn’t be a problem for any

      I tend to favor LCD projectors for most biz/education uses, but they do have one disadvantage: dust can get into their “lightpath” Thus what are called “dust blobs” (very scientific), can show up. That’s a factory cleaning type of thing. DLP’s have “sealed light paths” not as perfect as they would have you believe, but still far more dust and dirt resistant.

      With that said, best if that DLP projector has a dust filter, (few do, because of that sealed light path).

      I normally don’t track that, and don’t have time to research filter/no filter, but I have emailed my product manager contacts at 4 companies. Hope to have the replies in the next few days. -art

  • Tim Jones

    Art,

    How would this projector work with a grey screen?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Tim, Sorry for the delay, overlooked your question. No problem with a gray screen. If anything that will lower your black levels, always a good thing on lower priced projectors. You have lumens to spare for most situations, so a slightly less bright image – but one that also helps by rejecting some side ambient light. If it makes sense in your room, definitely go for it. No real downside except it’s a touch less bright… -art

  • Andrew

    Art, I’m looking to get my first projector and this is on my short list along w/ Benq W6000 and Epson 8350. I’ve seen the 8350 in action probably a year ago and thought it was awesome. I’m more of an audiophile than videophile and am in no way a projector purist. It is for a family room that will not be bright but dim most times and light will mostly be natural, indirect light. It will be my used as my main TV and I watch sports a lot, movies from time to time. I will start out projecting onto a wall at first, probably a 100-106″ image. I was eying a SI Black Diamond screen later on one I was able to save up. My room in very large (40×20′ loft) w/ large windows on the one side, half of which I block out for lighting purposes. I don’t care about 3D. My viewing distance will be about 12-15′. The cost of each seems to be a relative wash, w/ the Benq being about $10-150 more. I know the Panny got 2012 best in class w/ Benq as a 2D runner-up, but I didn’t see many direct coparisons. Which could you recommend for me?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Andrew,

      If you really believe you won’t become more of a projector enthusiast/purist (hard for us audiophiles), then your life is simpler.

      For 2D only, the Epson’s key strength would be warranty and support. The 8350 is getting a bit “long in the tooth”.
      Between the W6000 and PT-AR100U projectors though, first thing to ask yourself: Are you rainbow sensitive? If you don’t know, you might want to play it safe and stick with an LCD projector instead of the DLP powered W6000.

      The W6000 is the more purist of the two. While not as bright, it’s still one of the brighter out there. It definitely delivers better blacks, but that really won’t matter at all until you have that Black Diamond… More to the point, the W6000 has that DLP look and feel. It’s not a critical thing, but many of us just sort of like the way DLP’s look, to me, it’s mostly on darker scenes – in terms of color saturation, but whatever, there are many loyalists.

      So, that said, I’m one of them… but, I also love black levels, which the W6000 is very good at. On the other hand it’s been almost 5 years and 3 newer projectors since I last bought a DLP, because I’m rainbow sensitive. The W6000′s very good, in that regard, but not as good as the far more expensive Sharp XV-Z30000 I just reviewed.

      My final best guess… start with the PT-AR100U, but after you get that good screen, my bet is within a year or two, you’ll be wishing for something higher end, be it 2D or 3D (I love great 3D content), it’s the audiophile in you. At that point, I’ll bet you will be shopping for great black levels, and other performance improvements… Best of luck. And, how about returning here with some good personal feedback about your decision, and how it is working out. Best if you do that at least 2 weeks after you are up and running. Enjoy!

  • Andrew

    OK. I’ve re-evaluated everything, I should be able to get the SI screen out of the gate. Which gain would be best w/ an 8350? I say 8350 because local Best Buy has display model on sale for $899 and lowest I found AR100U was $1250 online. My room is currently moderately filled w/ ambient side sunlight. I am able to close the shades on the two remaining windows but I would rather be able to have natural light than fluorecant overhead. In you SI review of the 1.4 you mentioned shortcomings on natural side light. Should the 0.8 gain screen be better? Or is there another screen I should look at all together?

    • http://www.projectorreviews.com/members/lisasonfeier/ Lisa Feierman

      Hi Andrew. A couple things. Today’s BD surface has been improved (and is much better on horizontal per SI) – which is why I’m going to get an SI 1.4 for my living room if the wife will allow me (motorized). If you haven’t pulled the trigger… I’d probably say grab an 8350. pocket the other $350, and put that towards your next projector… -art