Panasonic PT-AE7000 Projector Overview
The Panasonic PT-AE7000 is Panasonic's first 3D capable projector. It's about the same brightness in "best" calibrated mode as its 2D only predecessor, the PT-AE4000, but seems to be significantly brighter when looking for maximum brightness.
Thanks to the brighter picture, addition of 3D capabilities, and other features, the street price for the new (10/11) PT-AE7000U, is about $1000 higher than the older model. No matter, this is a great projector value for an ultra-high contrast home theater projector.
The thing is, the Panasonic PT-AE7000's predecessors have, for years, typically been either the best selling home theater projector, or right up by the top, and I'm going back almost a decade.
This PT-AE7000U, however, is the first significantly new projector from Panny in three years, as the PT-AE4000, which has had a 2 year run, follows the virtually identical PT-AE3000 which shipped in 2008. As a result of Panasonic's successful track record, expectations over here have been very high, and the long wait for a review unit, has been downright annoying, but what can a poor reviewer do?
Well, that wait is all over now. Here's the first, really new Panasonic projector in four years, sporting new LCD panels, more brightness, impressive 3D abilities, and more, with this projector. Note that there is also a second brand new Panasonic home projector as well, the lower cost, living room/ family room projector, the PT-AR100U, which we'll review in the next month or two as they become available.
The Panasonic PT-AE7000 is very feature laden, especially for an under $3000 (MSRP is $3499) 1080p home theater projector (with or without 3D). Below, in the Special Features section, we'll discuss many of these Panasonic features and their impact.
What is the competition for this Panasonic projector? Consider first that this is a very strong entry as a 2D projector as well as being 3D. If you are 2D only, no interest and no curiousity about 3D, then the PT-AE7000, may not be as great a value as the $1000 less PT-AE4000 that's being discontinued as I write this. Still, for that extra money you do get a number of extras. After all, in many ways the PT-AE7000 is similar to the older model, certainly in general design (but less the 3D). For 2D only folks, a couple of other $2000ish projectors that are 2D only could also be considered competitors. But I'm big on 3D. Little League Baseball Championships in 3D is down right uncanny. Hey, football's pretty good in 3D, boxing, even better, but baseball, might even be the best of the traditional sports. You can't beat the X-games, though for great 3D imagery.
The real competition are the 2D/3D projectors, and that means the major players besides the PT-AE7000U are the Sony VPL-HW30ES, the forthcoming (later this month) Epson Home Cinema 5010, the Optoma HD8300, Sharp XV-Z17000... There are others too, but most of them are a full price step up from the Panasonic. For example, the top two of JVC's 3D capable models are at $7999 and $11,999. Even their lowest priced one, suitably equipped for 3D, is probably more than $1000 extra. As is usual, the Panasonic is priced well below those JVC entries.
The PT-AE7000 easily deserves our Hot Product Award. We can quibble about this or that - but the combination of performance and price looks better than any of the more expensive LCoS and DLP 3D capable projectors I've just mentioned. That doesn't mean one of those others isn't a better choice for your situation, but the aggressive pricing probably indicates that Panasonic, as usual, will find its primary competition from Epson. Since both are 3D capable, they will be slugging it out, for the top honors in our $2000 - $3500 price class. We shall see who comes out on top, in the near future.
The point is, whether or not this Panasonic PT-AE7000 is the best projector for you, it's almost certain that it should be considered and placed on your "very short list" if it fits your budget.
Note, I'd guess that I only say that about 3-6 projectors a year, spanning the range of $800 to $15,000.
The PT-AE7000 is designed for your home theater. But wait: You can put it in a living room/bonus room/ spare bedroom type environment, thanks to the brightness. (As always though, ambient light is an issue.) The PT-AE7000, though, has the picture quality performance that deserves a "real" theater environment. That is thanks to having excellent black level performance, good color performance out of the box, and excellent color and skin tones (post calibration).
The Panasonic Lens Memory feature, which they've touted for several years, and lets you intelligently choose a Cinemascope shaped screen (ie. 2.35:1) instead of 16:9, is no longer a unique feature. It has recently appeared on several - note this - much more expensive projectors, but certainly nothing that can sell for under $3000 in the US.