PT-AR100U Projector - Typical Street Price, MSRP, and Value
I started discussing this above, because, some early feedback from readers - it was obvious they were expecting the actual selling price of the PT-AR100U to be upwards of $1500. That might have been the case, briefly, when PT-AR100U sales started late fourth quarter of last year. But after a couple of months ago, it seemed street price was down around $1200, and today, as I write this I've got two advertisers on our site advertising this Panasonic for $999.
I've decided price, in this case, should be discussed briefly as a "Special Feature," since the falling street price has had a major effect on the PT AR100U's competitiveness.
Consider: Epson has two projectors selling between $1000 and $1600. My first impression when the AR100U started shipping, was that the Epson 8350 was significantly less, offers a similar feature set, longer/better warranty, and while a bright projector, is nowhere near the brightness of this Panasonic PT-AR100U projector. People needing the extra lumens would be paying a good chunk more for the Panasonic.
But today, the Panasonic is definitely not the more expensive of the two. At around the same price, with similar feature sets overall, the Epson 8350 still has the better warranty, but you are getting far more brightness for the same price... Right now, the PT-AR100U would seem to definitely be the better value, and, the better choice for most.
Regarding the other Epson, well, it's about $600 more than the Panasonic at the moment, but for the difference, you get a 3D capable projector that's very close in overall brightness (and the better warranty), with the Epson Home Cinema 5010. As a result, it really comes down to whether you plan to buy a projector and forego 3D for another few years, or pay the extra now, and start enjoying 3D (you have to see Hugo, in 3D at home on a screen of 100" diagonal or so. Outstanding!)
So, at least here, price trades off against a major feature. Many of you will find choosing between the Panasonic PT-AR100U projector and the Espon HC5010 to be a much more difficult decision.
PT-AR100U Dynamic Iris
A dynamic iris is the key on most projectors to improving overall black levels on darker scenes, and the resulting improvement in the viewing experience.
Panasonic claims a pretty impressive 50,000:1 contrast - which one just might expect to translate into some very impressive black level performance. In reality, like several other under $2000 and relatively new home theater projectors, with contrast around 30,000:1 to 50,000:1, the spec looks better than the blacks. Nothing wrong with the blacks for the price, but the use of a dynamic iris hardly guarantees great blacks. Like with other 3LCD projectors (notably the Epsons), Panasonic's projectors both have dynamic irises, but far different black level performance. This will be discussed further on the Image Quality page.
PT-AR100U Projector 3D - Rather, The Lack of 3D
That's right, The PT-AR100U lacks 3D abilities. That's unlike Panasonic's flagship, the designed for home theaters: PT-AE7000U. Of course that Panasonic sells for a good 2.5 times the price. Panasonic's predecessors - the PT-AX200U and the AX100U before it, were extremely bright, 2D projectors - although lower resolution - 720p, not 1080p.
It would seem Panasonic decided to stick to 2D on this "lower end" projector, where it is the brightness champ among other 2D and 3D home projectors anywhere near its price. With a $999 street price, it's hard to blame them. They're definitely slugging it out with other 3D models with their more expensive projector. The PT-AR100U would seem to be another really high volume, widely popular projector from Panasonic.