Special Interest Award: 2D only: PT-AR100U
Check out the Projector Reviews TV: Video Summary of the Panasonic PT-AR100U
One of the reasons that the PT-AR100U (click for full review) is now a two time winner, is the category itself. new 2D only projectors for the home are pretty scarce these days. For example, even the brand new Acer H6510BD that we discuss, offers 3D, and plenty of lumens for only $799, compared to the current $1299 price of this Panasonic. Strangely the Panasonic is actually selling for about $100 more than last year this time, due to a special promotion offered last year. As I mentioned, not many new 2D projectors in this class. The toughest competition for the PT-AR100U turned out to be the Optoma HD23 a projector sold primarily by Best Buy, in the US, it's not a new projector either, although we didn't get to reviewing it for last year's report.
Light cannon! The Panasonic PT-AR100U (click for specifications) is an LCD projector that claims 2800 lumens. That's still the highest claim out there for this year's report, of any projector we received in time for a full review. I believe only the lower cost Acer H6510BD a DLP projector, which is more of a "cross-over", claims more brightness with 3000 lumens, but that arrived too late to be reviewed in time for this report.
And this Panasonic PT-AR100U is flexible. A manual 2:1 zoom lens and plenty of lens shift will let you put it most places a projector can go.
The Panny calibrates well, final skin tones look really good. Can you do better if you are a purist? Well, you could consider a competing DLP. If you need the maximum lumens for your room, or large screen, this is going to be the "2D only" champ. If you want a similar projector for a lot less, but one not as bright, look there's the Epson HC8350 picking up the Value award. The Panasonic may be the flame thrower, but the Epson's the bargain. In many ways they are similar.
Black levels on this projector are good for the price point, but not close to being "ultra-high contrast". With all that brightness, that might be an issue for some, as blacks will be even brighter due to the projector's tons of lumens. If you really want a more purist projector near the price, I do believe you will need to switch to a projector that also offers 3D. In that case you might consider the Acer H9500BD, or the BenQ W1070, those two (both also award winners) straddle the price of the PT-AR100U. The BenQ W1070 is the low cost one at $999.
The Panasonic is a friendly projector to own. It's solidly constructed, has a very good feature set, is easy to use. It's a great projector for those that really are far more interested in watching a theater sized image, than playing with controls or tweaking a projector. I refer to some projectors as "rough around the edges". Not this PT-AR100U. It is the opposite. Very predictable, everything seems to work well. Can you say "no headaches"?
The PT-AR100U certainly can be placed in a dedicated home theater. While it will function just fine in a theater/cave like environment, I do believe most people with such rooms, would favor a projector with a bit better black level performance. A projector that's 2D only, and with a similar price, one that's even more vintage than the PT-AR100U, would be BenQ's W6000.
The PT-AR100U projector is a gamer, definitely, with lag times in the 30ms range. It's not the fastest around (we do see some 0 lag projectors - those are always DLPs), but our gamer bloggers are hard core, and say a projector with lag times like this, works just fine. Panasonic has made a point of promoting the PT-AR100U for gaming, they take it seriously.
Although I don't consider this Panasonic projector to be ideal for the real enthusiast/purist movie viewer, it should have really strong appeal to just about everyone else. And did I mention it looks great on sports and general HDTV, thanks to all those lumens under the hood?
So, why only a Special Interest award this year? Well, a reason for going 2D only is to keep the cost down. That Panasonic is selling the PT-AR100U for about $100 more than a year ago, while most of the competition today is even more capable than last year for the same price with improved models, or the competition is back, but at a lower price. Consider today, that the Panasonic is barely less expensive than the Acer H9500BD. There simply isn't a need of a Best In Class 2D only. Had the price comed down below $999, perhaps. Note, we gave the Epson Home Cinema 8350 the Value Proposition award, but its current price is 25% lower than a year ago, and now a whopping $400 less than this Panasonic.