Panasonic PT-AE2000U and the Competition
First, because of emails received, I've been asked how the PT-AE2000U compares with Panasonic's own lower resolution (720p), new PT-AX200U. In other words, is it worth twice the price. (The MAP - minimum advertised price of the PT-AX200U is $1299, vs $2699 for the PT-AE2000U).
For those of you not familiar with the PT-AX200U (click for review), it is the brightest of the 720p home theater projectors, easily outputting more than 2000 lumens in brightest mode. This makes it killer for large screens, and for viewing with some lights on. The PT-AX200U can handle far more ambient light than this PT-AE2000U. Even in best modes the lower cost projector has more horsepower. It also has an enhanced gaming mode, for hard core gamers, whether they use X-Box 360, PS3, Wii, or others.
But, that's the end of what the PT-AX200U does better. The PT-AE2000U, has better blacks, and by virtue of that, better shadow detail (once adjusted). We are comparing apples and oranges here. The PT-AE2000U, produces a visibly sharper image, as would be expected by having 2.25 as many pixels! That alone is a big thing. But shadow detail and black levels are a step up. There are those that won't be happy with anything short of an old CRT projector (perfect black levels), but the PT-AE2000U, comes a magnitude closer than the PT-AX200U. Mind you, I found the PT-AX200U to be a great projector for the bucks, but the PT-AE2000U has better picture quality when it comes to movie watching. The differences are significant.
So, unless you have an environment you can't properly darken enough, and need the PT-AX200's extra lumens, or you are a fan of large screens - over 110" diagonal, you will simply enjoy watching the 1080p PT-AE2000U more. For those not highly challenged in budget, gaming, extra large screens, and ambient lighting issues notwithstanding, I'd have to say the PT-AE2000U is worth every penny of the difference. As usual, though it is your exacting requirements that you need to consider. If movies are your primary concern, definitely go 1080p, if you can. If watching a lot of TV/HDTV/Sports on a large screen and minor ambient light are what you care most about, then the PT-AX200U may be the way to go. You should be able to figure it out.
Panasonic PT-AE2000U and the Optoma HD80
The HD80 is a very nice 1080p DLP projector, and when launched it was priced right, as the lowest priced 1080p around. Today, though it has plenty of price competition. The one rather subjective area where DLP's have historically been considered better than LCD projectors is in being "film-like". And the HD80 and it's CEDIA dealer distributed sibling, the HD8000, are both pretty film-like, but, in my opinion, the Panasonic is even more so. Add to that the huge advantage in placement flexibility, plus additional features, and the HD80 while a nice projector, with consistantly good black levels, just isn't going to be as good a choice as the Panasonic for most buyers. The biggest avantage the Optoma has, is after adjustment, it measured about 560 lumens, about 20% more than this pre-production Panasonic. That, and the 2nd year warranty, are its primary strengths. After that, I favor the Panasonic at just about everything.