Panasonic PT-AE7000 vs. Epson Home Cinema 5010 Projector Comparison - The Bottom Line
11/25/2011 - Art Feierman
The Bottom Line - PT-AE7000 vs. HC5010
Overall Picture Quality, Performance 2D, 3D
With color performance being more about your calibration or settings, than differences between these two projectors.
Gandalf: PT-AE7000 first, Home Cinema 5010 2nd:
No question about it. when considering 2D, the Epson has to be my choice. It offers a huge boost in "best" mode brightness, comparable color, and it easily wins when it comes to black level performance, and more subtly regarding shadow detail.
The extra black level performance, all by itself, gives the Epson more pop on darker scenes. If everything else is simply equal, that rates a real win for the Home Cinema 5010 when running in 2D.
Conversely, Epson's decision not to activate the dynamic iris, as well as CFI and Super-Resolution (all dynamic features), gives the Panasonic the advantage in 3D, although if you want best color, and a small screen the Epson may well be your choice with its 630 measured lumens, for 3D (pre-glasses, etc.)
Overall Picture Quality:
Bottom Line 2D Winner: Epson Home Cinema 5010 Projector:
Seems like it's for all the usual reasons I've liked previous Epson UB projectors - brightness, backs, warranty, pop!
Here's an image taken with Legends of Flight running in 2D. You can see the blacker blacks on the Epson (right). Below a similar image is taken showing the 3D differences favoring the Panasonic.
Bottom Line 3D Winner: Panasonic PT-AE7000
More modes but really, it's about the dynamic features - iris and CFI that the Panasonic offers, and the Epson has turned off in 3D.
Note: When push comes to shove, given a choice of great blacks in 2D and decent blacks in 3D, vs. very good blacks in 2D and very good blacks in 3D, I'll take the advantage in 2D, since 3D is never going to be especially bright to begin with.
Below, black level difference in 3D. You can see the higher blacks (and redish tint) of the Epson on the right in this overexposed image showing the rendering of a wing. The 3D glasses take care of that red, but the blacks are obviously brighter.
Warranty and Cost of Operation
Two primary factors relate to Cost of Operation:
1. Projector warranty and reliability
The Epson has 2 years parts and labor with a 2 year, 2nd day replacement program, and no limit in hours of use on the projector. The replacement program sends you one, 2nd day, so your time without a projector if there's a warranty issue is a few days at most.
The Panasonic is running a promotion for a 2nd year parts and labor warranty when you register your purchase, But, Panasonic limits the standard warranty, and the combination of both, to a maximum of 2000 hours on the projector. If you are a heavy user, who uses the projector as a TV, then 20 hours a week, is nothing, and you'll run out of warranty long before the secon year is up. No replacement program for the PT-AE7000, so if there is a warranty problem, you'll be without your projector while you ship it to service, and wait for it to be repaired and returned, which can be A week, two weeks or longer, depending on how far away you are from service, and shipping times.
Warranty: Big Win for Epson
As to reliability, historically both have good reps, although Epson I would say has the better reputation for reliability.
Epson also is particularly well known for great support, especially since they seem to take their customer's word when they complain about a problem, and promptly ship out another projector.
2. Cost of lamp and lamp life
Lamp life this year is the same, but the Epson lamp seems to be $299 and the Panasonic is $399.
Winner: Epson - with the same rating for lamp life, the Epson's lower replacement cost gives it the advantage. Also, being brighter in 2D, will have some Epson folk watching in Eco mode (where it's as bright as the Panasonic at full), therefore getting more hours out of the lamp, as well.
Lamp Life and Cost: Small Win for Epson (If you go through a lamp, even every 2 years (40 hours a week), that's an extra $50 a year. Not much in the grand scheme of things.
Cost of Operation: Winner with slight advantage: Epson
This has to be qualified by the Lens Memory feature. That in its own right is a plus for the PT-AE7000, but, that advantage goes away, if you, like most stick with a typical 16:9 screen. Here, we look at other aspects of placement flexibility:
Zoom ratio: A slight edge for Epson, with it's traditional 2.1:1 vs. the Panasonic's 2.0:1 zoom. Basically the Epson can be placed anywhere the Panasonic can, but can be a little closer or further away from the screen if needed.
Lens Shift: Both offer vertical and horizontal. As has been the case in the past, the Epson offers slightly more lens shift range.
General Features: PT-AE7000 vs. Home Cinema 5010
CFI - Creative Frame Interpolation
I've always considered Panasonic's CFI to be one of the best out there. I've seen smoother, on some Runco projectors, etc., but the PT-AE7000's is smooth, and is one of the best if you insist on running CFI on film based movies. I don't, as I don't like the "soap opera" effect at all on film based movies, but I do like CFI for sports.
Epson's CFI is also smooth in it's Low setting, but I have to give the Panasonic the edge. For sports, between the various settings the two projectors offer, let'c call CFI a draw. Thus, overall, a slight advantage for the PT-AE7000 in terms of Creative Frame Interpolation.
Epson offers a number of predefined gamma's and an easy method to customize your own, based on visual adjustment or by the numbers.
Color Management System:
Both have good ones, no advantage we can see.
There are more features to discuss and we will attempt to add a few more. We conclude with our final take on which projector best meets the needs of different people. It's all about trade-offs, for, as you see, neither projector is really superior, overall.
For 2D in general, I have to pick the Epson Home Cinema 5010 [ if you would like WirelessHD, the 5010e], as the better choice for most folks who are primarily or completely into 2D. For $300 less than the Panasonic, you get a somewhat brighter projector, with better black levels and more pop on those darker scenes, and a better warranty.
For 3D in general, the advantage goes to the Panasonic. The Epson's lack of a dynamic iris function, CFI and Super-resolution - the primary dynamic features, gives the Panasonic better blacks, and if you want it, smooth motion. I also noted that in 3D the Panasonic sharpening seems to be working, while Epson's Super-Resolution doesn't. That results in a touch sharper 3D image for the Panasonic.
You, however, have to match to your situation, and tastes. Obviously, in general, the Epson Home Cinema 5010 has a brightness advantage that can translate into a larger screen. And don't sell it's warranty and support advantage short. It's 3D is at least as bright as the PT-AE7000 but it comes up short in blacks and 3D CFI. Since blacks are less critical there (already a bit dark), and CFI is questionable
The Panasonic PT-AE7000 has the convenience of motorized zoom and focus, (a nice touch), although in most cases these projectors get mounted, in which case, you aren't zooming or focusing (unless you are using an anamorphic screen and Lens Memory).
Finally, for a few of you:
Those two key special features I discussed earlier - Lens Memory, vs. Split Screen, can determine your decision, all by themselves. I say that because, while we can talk out which projector is truly better, they are both very good ones, and more similar than different.
This probably won't be a surpise to many of our regular readers: The combination of price and performance that I favor consistantly, leads me to pick the Epson Home Cinema 5010 over the PT-AE7000 as my personal favorite of the two, and my favorite among the 2D/3D projectors I've reviewed under $3500.
That said, choose wisely. While many folks, including some other reviewers will agree with my assessment, no doubt there will be plenty of folks (and other reviewers) who will find the Panasonic to be the better fit.