Epson Home Cinema 3010 vs. Panasonic PT-AE7000, Rumored Epson Home Cinema 5010
Both projectors, the PT-AE7000 and Epson's Home Cinema 5010, are direct competitors, but, who should be spurging for those, or "settling" for the Home Cinema 3010? The more expensive Epson and the Panasonic are pretty similar in most ways. The Panasonic has some fancy setup features, and is motorized, which allows their lens memory capability, which is a plus for some. But beyond that, it's more similar than different. So, let's assume that if you have the budget, and want the Panasonic lens memory and a 2.35:1 screen, you'll pick that one, but otherwise, lets compare the 3010 with the 5010.
The Home Cinema 5010 is supposed to be 200 lumens brighter, almost 10%. That's always a plus, but a pretty small one. The biggest difference is in picture performance, and that built on two primary things: much better black level performance, and a pair of pre-calibrated THX modes. Additionally, for your sports and perhaps other HDTV viewing, the Home Cinema also offers CFI - smooth motion.
With the much better blacks, the Home Cinema 5010, although just great in a family room setup, really appreciates a dedicated, light controlled environment to show off it's purported exceptional blacks.
Basically shoppers of the Home Cinema 3010 and 5010 have the same basic decisions as previous generations of of Epson shoppers. The 8350 compares to the 8700UB in the same ways the 3010 compares to the 5010.
Viewsonic Pro8200 vs. Epson Home Cinema 3010
The Viewsonic is more of a "cross-over" projector. It's got a healthy amount of brightness, but still can't match the Epson. Nor does it have 3D, or particularly good black level performance. What the Viewsonic mostly brings to the party is good color, a much lower price, and 2D performance to match. The Epson offers much more but will cost you more.
Panasonic PT-AE4000 and Epson Home Cinema 8700UB compared to the Epson Home Cinema 3010
With both of these two "classic" projectors going away, the question becomes - "do I grab one of them" before they are all gone. The first thing to remember, is that they are both being replaced, but with projectors selling for about $3000, not priced right around $2000. These end of life projectors are definitely at their best in theaters and dedicated rooms, as they can't match the brightness of the HC3010. The real reason though are those two have superior black level performance. The Epson may be the slightly better of the two, but they are closer to each other, than either is to the 3010.
If you are an enthusiast, want great blacks, good brightness, the Epson Home Cinema 8700UB is going to be hard to beat, for the price, against new competition. The Panaonic is similar, but has its own strengths, such as motorized lens memory. The key point, is that these have been the two lowest cost/best projectors to sport some really impressive blacks, and I'm not sure that anything new much under $3,000 can match them in regard to blacks.