Summarizing the Panasonic PT-AE1000U and positioning it against the competition is a bit of a challenge. The Panasonic has many strengths, and couple of weaknesses that impact its overall value to different users. To further complicate this, the review unit I received (pre-production) did have a major problem which may have impacted other areas less obvious.
Fortunately, another PT-AE1000U projector will be arriving before mid-December (less than 2 weeks) at which time I will update all aspects of the review that are affected. For those of you who have not read the whole review, there is significant unevenness in the colors from the left side (favoring blue) to the right side (favoring red), of the screen. It is easily noticable on a white screen, but rarely detectable during normal viewing (unless you already knew about it and were looking for it.) Panasonic believes this to be a defective projector - likely damaged in shipment. This same problem may also mean that the projector's brightness measurements aren't accurate (though I carefully took the measurements in the center of the screen which appeared most neutral).
Let's start with the good. First, Panasonic's PT-AE1000U has one immediate and obvious strength in the quest for value - it is definitely the least expensive 1080p projector, either shipping or announced. With it's MAP at $3999, dealers will be selling it for that price or less.
The excellent "out of the box" performance in terms of picture quality, especially color accuracy, is another huge plus for the PT-AE1000U.
By comparison the Mitsubishi is $4495 MAP and has been selling for very close to that price. Overall, that puts the Panasonic about $500 below the closest competition, and almost $2000 below the lowest cost 1080p DLP projectors.
The wide range (2:1) zoom provides the maximum of placement flexibility, especially combined with a tremendous amount of vertical and horizontal lens shift. I'm sure someone has a room with limitations that will prevent the Panasonic from being a viable choice, but there can't be too many such people out there. And if the Panasonic doesn't work in your room, you are almost certainly going to have a tough time finding any 1080p projector that will.
And pixels are invisible - you'll have to get two to three feet away and look closely to spot them.
And one of the things I liked most about the Panasonic, is how good it looked out of the box . The PT-AE1000U is definitely going to be a favorite of those who are not hobbiests, but just want to buy an affordable high resolution projector, and watch their movies, TV, HDTV, etc.
The Panasonic is also very quiet, more than quiet enough, even in full lamp power mode.
On the downside, the Panasonic is typical of 1080p projectors (and LCD models) in that it is very average in brightness. Unless you choose a Very high gain screen, you are going to want to stay at 110" or smaller (with a 1.0 gain screen, I'd say 106" maximum). On the bright side - no pun intended - it really looked great on my 106" screen with 1.4 gain. Fortunately, there are plenty of screens out there to choose from, so if you really desire large, and it works in your room, you do have options.
Again, though because of brightness, this is a better projector for those primarily interested in movie watching, rather than partial lights on TV and sport viewing. Keep in mind though, for a significantly brighter 1080p projector, you are going to need to go to a DLP model (and they aren't blindingly brighter), and those right now start close to $6000, so almost $2000 more.
Sharpness is the other real downside issue. The same Smooth Screen technology that makes pixels totally invisible, also adds a touch of softness. Sure, it's still sharper than 720p projectors, but you are spending a lot more money for the higher resolution.
So, take into consideration your screen size and seating distance. Certainly, if you are sitting 14-15 feet back from a 100" screen, you will have no issue with sharpness. Nor will you if you don't have 20-20 eyesight (with or without correction). We are not talking about a blurred image, just a bit of softness. Believe me, it's stil sharp enough, so that when you go from a standard DVD to an HD-DVD or Blu-Ray, you are immediately impressed by the significant improvement in image sharpness.
Also remember, with lower resolution sources such as standard DVD's or regular non-HD TV, or for that matter, HDTV broadcast at 720p (instead of 1080i), all 1080p projectors will not be at their sharpest, and therefore the Panasonic should be barely any different than a 1080p projector that is inherently a bit sharper. Another reviewer was expecially impressed with how great it looked on standard DVD's compared to other 1080p projectors, where softness of the image was no longer any issue at all.
How about the competition? Let's consider! Keep in mind, that so far, this is the 2nd 1080p projector review we've published, and we have been using a third 1080p for the last week as well. Although they are not in for review yet, I can make some comments about how the PT-AE1000U compares a couple of other 1080ps that we hope to review over the next 60 days. So, here goes: