Panasonic PT-AE1000U vs Mitsubishi HC5000
This is certainly the closest contest. Both are LCD projectors, both have flexible zoom lenses and lens shift, and the Mitsubishi is about the next least expensive, currently selling for about $500 more. The Mitsubishi offers a 1.6:1 zoom so doesn't quite match the placement flexiblity of the PT-AE1000U's 2:1 zoom. That might or might not be an issue for you, in your room. (One of the first things to check is whether you can place a particular projector in your room).
The real strengths of the Mitsubishi are a sharper image, and a two year warranty. (It also measures slightly brighter, but considering the problem with this Panasonic unit, I'm not going to factor that in.). The Mitsubishi does a really good job out of the box in terms of color, but I definitely have to say that the PT-AE1000U is even better.
Also in the Panasonic's favor, is that it's dynamic iris seems to be far less visible. Translated, the PT-AE1000U seems to produce blacker blacks, yet, changes to bright scenes are virtually seamless, whereas, with the HC5000, the dynamic iris opening can sometimes be spotted. (This difference between models is subtle.) Of course the pixels are completely invisible with the Panasonic, and you can start to make them out on the Mitsubishi if you sit very close (say less than 10 feet from a 100" screen.)
Lastly I give the Panasonic the edge in shadow detail. The Mitsubishi is very good, the Panasonic is just better!
Personally, I am somewhat obsessive regarding image sharpness, because I like to sit very close to a very large screen. As a result, I prefer the HC5000 and consider the extra cost to be worth it.
In summary, if the slight softness of the Panasonic is not an issue for you, you get to save a handful of $100 bills, and end up with an excellent overall projector. If, however, you, like me, demand the maximum sharpness, you'll be pleased with what you get by spending those $100s.
Panasonic PT-AE1000U vs. BenQ W10000
The W10000 review has already begun, so I have seen enough to speak confidently of the differences.
The biggest differences:
The single chip 1080p BenQ is a couple thousand dollars more as of this writing, although with discounting, maybe as little as $1500. The BenQ is also definitely sharper. The Panasonic's pixels are essentially invisible, but the BenQ is "close enough" I can't spot them filling a 128" screen at 11 feet back, even on titles and credits.
The PT-AE1000U, has the edge in placement flexibility, but the BenQ is no slouch. It offers a 1.35:1 zoom lens, which, while no match for the Panasonic, has the appropriate throw range to work for most users, and it has lens shift as well!
Another big difference is brightness. In this area, it's not close. While I haven't done measurements yet on the W10000, I would guess that in best mode it is probably 50% brighter, maybe more. I am able to fill my 128" Firehawk with the BenQ set best mode to full power on the lamp, and the iris partially opened. By comparison, the Panasonic was only comfortable to about 100" diagonal with that screen. This is no surprise, traditionally the DLP's have been brighter in best mode.
verall, I would say that the BenQ (placement aside) is simply the better overall projector, but since it sells for almost 50% more, I would hope so.
Panasonic PT-AE1000U vs Sony VW50
I've only seen the VW50 at trade shows, in fully darkened theater rooms, and a lot of high end equipment behind the Sony. It looked good to great under such circumstances, so the best I can do is give you some general observations:
The Sony is also many hundreds of dollars more expensive. It has limited placement flexibility with a relatively short throw zoom lens. The Sony never seemed very sharp to me. This is not surprising since it is an LCOS projector (Sony calls it SXRD), and they have traditionally produced the softest images. My hunch tells me that the Panasonic is the sharper of the two, but that's only my best guess.
Another critical area is brightness, and while the Panasonic PT-AE1000U is hardly a light canon, the Sony is well known for being not very bright, and rarely recommended for screens over 100" diagonal.
Both the Sony and the Panasonic rely on "AI" techniques to enhance black levels. The Panasonic does it particularly well. I can't venture a guess if the Sony can compete.
Short of getting the Sony in here for review, my money is on the Panasonic.