Here's what the Epson Pro Cinema 6010 brings to your party, that the 5010 can't
In parens ( ) I've included a rough value you could assign each, and a random $150 - $200 for the black case (I'd pay that much for black, if I was putting a 5010 in my theater, and there was an extra charge for a black case).
- Black finish to the case (vs white and black), an advantage in a dedicated theater environment ($150)
- Extra year of warranty, and of replacement program ($200+)
- THX mode, and ISF Certification ($250)
- A ceiling mount ($100+)
- A spare lamp ($300+)
- Two pair of 3D Epson glasses ($150)
- Local dealer support ($200)
You may not agree with the amounts assigned, but they would seem to be at least fairly reasonable. Add them up and you get $1300 - the actual difference in selling price at this time. You might assign more (or less), to local dealer support, or the warranty. But the rest are pretty solid. THX can save you a calibration fee... and that extra warranty might save you far more, or get you a couple hundred more when you finally upgrade, and your 6010 buyer gets a projector that still has a warranty, vs. one that doesn't, if you sell in year 3...
Enough! Take your pick, the bottom line picture (calibrated) doesn't really change between these two projectors, but what they have in common, is slightly better performance where it counts, compared to the closest competitor, the Panasonic PT-AE7000.
When viewing with the P/C folks in Las Vegas, to me, no question, on those darker scenes, the Epson was definitely more dynamic looking, hd more "pop", simply a significantly more desireable image. When it came to everything else - daytime scenes, average scenes, I don't think there's a telling difference in picture quality, so it really came down to that Epson advantage on dark scenes vs. the Panasonic's Lens Memory. If Lens Memory is your thing - and you must own a 2.35:1 or 2.4:1 "Cinemascope" or "anamorphic" shaped screen, then ignore our favoring the Epsons, and pick the Panasonic.
I have both (16:9, and 2.35:1) shaped screens, and I had a bigger 16:9 screen at the last place. I like having the larger movie size, although my 124" only provides me about a 96" image for sports, and I find that too small, coming from 128"... Doing it again, I'd be going back to 16:9. That most 3D is also 16:9, as is almost all animation, this is a definite shift, although real widescreen isn't going away, anytime soon.
Other than for those who must have one of those wide screens, I have to recommend the Epsons.
Best in Class, Runner-Up Award: Panasonic PT-AE7000
Twas a close thing. I could have rated this Panasonic PT-AE7000 a tie with the Epsons, (that happened a few years ago), but, I'm still the black level fanatic.
I like it too, that finally Panasonic has gotten its act together, and changed the warranty from one year to two years. True, no replacement program - (replacement programs are truly wonderful things - ask anyone who has had to use one), but at least the two years matches the Epson 5010 in duration, if not in terms of the "good hands" replacement support.
Ok, with that out of the way, what else does this Panasonic PT-AE7000 Projector have that makes it great?
Really good blacks. OK, they aren't quite up to the Epson projectors, and dark shadow detail, at best, is about a tie, but, the Panasonic resolves a touch more in the darker mid-ranges, on scenes like the night train scene.
The Panasonic PT-AE7000 also runs quieter in terms of fan noise. I like the Panasonic remote a great deal. It doesn't have as many buttons as some, but is very ergonomic. It's silver finish is a real plus, I hate trying to find my Sony PS3 remote in a dark theater, and the Epson remote (also a black case) isn't much better.
It calibrates great. It's reasonably bright. It is the brightest Panasonic "home theater" (as opposed to more family room like home entertainment) projector so far, beating the older PT-AE4000/3000/2000... In 3D it is pleasantly bright, during actual viewing, consider it equally bright as the Epson projectors, and that makes it tie for brightest in 3D of all projectors in this price tier.
For the tinkerer, there's the impressive Waveform generator that has been in the PT-AE series for several years. I rarely mess with it (I let Mike calibrate everything - I'm "retired" of that type of tweaking). And for the civilized, zoom and focus is motorized. Of course Panasonic's Lens Memory allows one to own a true "wide screen" 2.35:1 or 2.4:1 "Cinemascope" or anamorphic shape, as some call it. Truly a great feature.
Brightness for 3D is a tie with the Epson projectors, and that makes this Panasonic about as bright as you can get for 3D, a major strength compared to other excellent projectors considered for the Best In Class - Runner-up.
In 2D, the Epsons, and also the BenQ W7000 are brighter calibrated, with the BenQ being a great deal brighter calibrated (than Panasonic or Epson) with a truly dazzling 1571 lumens measured by Mike (wow!) In Brightest mode, the Panasonic measured just over 1500 lumens, but after Mike tweaked it to improve the color with minimal loss of lumens, this Panasonic dropped to 1355 lumens (mid-point on the zoom lens), still brighter than most projectors, and enough to put the PT-AE7000 projector in a decent family room / living room environment, if so needed. Still, the BenQ and Epsons are all at least 20% brighter.
Ultimately, the Panasonic PT-AE7000 is a very well balanced home theater projector, with excellent color, great (but definitely not the best), black level performance in the price range, and really good 3D. It's user friendly, with its motorized features and well designed menus
If you have seen this Panasonic, and read our info, and think you are still leaning to the Panasonic PT-AE7000 over one of the Epsons, or the BenQ W7000, go for it! Those who don't have a real theater environment, are unlikely to fully appreciate the modest, but real difference in black levels that would be apparent on dark scenes in a home theater environment. If you aren't pushing for the largest possible screen, again, you won't need the modest extra advantage of those other projectors, and for 3D, for whatever reasons, the Epsons do not appear brighter, call it a tie, and the BenQ W7000 isn't as bright in 3D.
It's a great projector, and if not for the Epson Home and Pro Cinema projectors, this Panasonic likely would have squeaked by the W7000 for the top award in this price class.
The lastest from Panasonic is a really excellent projector for the money. I might favor the Epson, but, it's at least a part my bias - weighing dark scenes more than some others do, and the slight brightness differences that cause this. All else considered, the Panasonic is similar, and more feature laden than the Epson projectors, for a similar price. Your call! Don't agonize, you'll love this Panasonic if you choose it.