Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector - The Bottom Line
It really is quite amazing really. This year Panasonic offers you a very capable, 2800 lumen projector for $999 street price (as of the time of this writing), based on online dealer advertising. Last year the PT-AX200U was $999, but it was 720p resolution, and offered only 2000 lumens. This new Panasonic projector also has improved blacks with 50,000:1 contrast, compared to 6,000:1.
One month people were buying the PT-AX200U, and the next, this PT-AR100U. Now a couple months later, the AR100U's price has come down to where the older projector was.
Compared to the overall similarly priced competition, the PT-AR100U has to be considered one of the best values around, and I'm convinced enough to give it a Hot Product Award, as it offers a lot for the money.
This really is a projector suitable for the family room, bonus room, etc. Finally a projector that can tackle a respectable amount of ambient light. Pair the PT-AR100U with the appropriate screen for your room and lighting. I've been crying for projectors with up to about 3000 lumens for years, specifically for family room type use. This year we finally see a number. Most of those new projectors that are that bright, in order to do well with 3D (which costs about 75% of the brightness). Not so, this 2D only PT-AR100U, it's brightness is there to be unleashed in rooms that would overwhelm most more expensive projectors two to ten times the price, as most are designed primarily for more of a dedicated theater or cave.
Despite the high brightness, calibrated the PT-AR100U produces a comfortable 650 lumens, not too many lumens for a nice 100 or 120 inch screen in more of a dedicated home theater. The thing is, there are lots of projectors that have the brightness to handle a theater, but very few can do what this Panasonic can in a brighter room.
As a projector in a theater, the PT-AR100U works great. It cruises under my theater's lighting conditions. But, brightness isn't the only thing. Overall image quality is very good, skin tones look rather good, a touch of reddish caste, sometimes appears, but every projector has some bias. Some of you might prefer the look and feel of a DLP projector, in which case there are several to choose from, but there's nothing wrong with this projector's overall picture.
The PT-AR100U projector's handling of sports is really good, I'd say excellent, but for the lack of having creative frame interpolation, which many should like on sports, if nothing else. Understand, that's not a feature normally found in this price range.
As I have said, there's plenty of lumens for a nice bright sports image, even on a very large screen. That's the way I like it!
In a good home theater you will be able to have a enough ambient light for socializing when watching sports, without any difficulty, but what about in a family room?
Where you place the projector in the family room will be important to its brightness. If not too far back you'll get to enjoy almost all of the PT-AR100U's 2400 lumens that we were able to measure, with the lens near wide-angle. In the brighter modes there's more than enough brightness to handle modest ambient light levels, or perhaps a bit more, depending on how large a screen. Even with a pretty large screen though, this projector will have less trouble than any others.
If you have (off)-white walls and no way to block all the light entering from windows, then your family room / living room / bonus room normally isn't suitable for watching movies during the day, because most movies have some dark scenes, and those normally wash out. With all the lumens of the PT-AR100U, you'll have a better chance, and for those where the not to much daylight gets in, movies might work, not great on dark scenes, but sufficiently.
Come nightime, though, the PT-AR100U should go great in this type of room for movie viewing. The more than adequate black levels make for a nice showing, for a lower cost projector. There's a huge difference between the blacks in this projector and Panasonic's more expensive PT-AE7000U, but that projector's more than 2.5 times the price. Until you're an afficiano of home theater projectors, these blacks should serve you fine.