Projector Reviews

Panasonic PT-AX100U Home Theater Projector Review: Image Quality 5

There’s a lot to cover in this section, and I have plenty of photos to help illustrate. Let me point out that the images (photos taken of the PT-AX100U) cannot fully capture the dynamic range (from darks to bright) that projectors are capable of. As a result, in a typical scene, if the overall exposure is right for mid and bright areas, the camera will lose all the details in the darkest areas. Therefore, there will be a couple of images where I show you the normal exposure, and then a seriously overexposed image of the same frame, so you can see the shadow details the camera lost on the first shot.

PT-AX100U vs. Optoma HD72

The Optoma HD72 has been my favorite under $2000 DLP home theater projector since it launched. At this time though, despite my general preference for DLP projectors, I have to move my vote to the PT-AX100U. The Optoma is a bright home theater projector, but not quite as bright as the PT-AX100U. This first image below shows the Panasonic projector on the left, the HD72 on the right:

You can see the difference in brightness – certainly not drastic, but definitely there. Both projectors in this image are in their brightest modes – lamp full power, Dynamic mode on the Panasonic, and Bright mode on the Optoma. You can click for a larger image to better compare. You can also look at the sharpess of the two projectors, which is virtually identical.

The image below is from the same two projectors, but in best modes, Cinema 1 on the Panasonic PT-AX100U home theater projector, and Cinema mode on the Optoma HD72 projector:

And when it comes to pixel visibility, even here, the Panasonic PT-AX100U with its virtually invisible pixels, beats out the Optoma HD72.

The Panasonic also has a slight edge in black levels over the Optoma. On shadow detail, they are very close, and depending on the scene (due to AI, dynamic irises etc.), sometimes the Panasonic wins, although on other scenes, the Optoma may do better on shadow detail. Close, with more tweaking, the Panny may be able to beat the Optoma across the board, but with just quick adjustments, I’ll have to give the Optoma a very slight edge on shadow detail, despite the Panasonic’s more definite advantage on blacks.

That makes the PT-AX100U, the king of the hill, (for now) in my book.

Panasonic AX100UvsHD72-brightestLarge
Panasonic AX100UvsHD72CinemaPhantomLarge

Here are a few more images for your consideration:

Above – HD-DVD from Phantom, below, DVD images from Sin City, and Lord of the Rings (the city of Gondor)

The image above, should be enough to convince almost everyone. Rich, dynamic, great color balance, and not even the Panasonic’s best mode, simply their “Normal” brighter mode.

Above, the HDTV from Sunday Night Football, was shot with low room lighting, The same mode was used for the image below, taking in some of the surrounding room. The room was brighter than it appears here, but to get the football field to expose correctly the room is underexposed. With low lighting, Dynamic mode (the AX100U’s brightest) wasn’t necessary to get a rich looking image on the screen.

That should give you a pretty good idea of how really good this Panny performs!

I am certainly impressed with the PT-AX100U’s overall image quality. I would say it produces a refined image – a pleasure to watch, and I was unable to detect any real flaw or artifacts that would spoil viewing enjoyment. And that’s saying quite a bit, for such a modestly priced home theater projector!

The next section is General Performance, where we’ll look at the remote control, menus, lamp life, positioning the projector, screen recommendations, brightness measurements and some info on the calibration I performed.