Posted on November 13, 2013 By Art Feierman
Image quality is number one on my list of what’s important. The critical areas here, are black level performance, shadow detail, post calibration color accuracy, sharpness, and the overall look and feel of the picture.
For years how black the blacks are, has been the most talked about ability of home theater projectors. Better black levels are often referred to as the “Holy Grail” in terms of home theater performance. Watch a really dark scene, be it something in outer space in a good sci-fi flick, or dark, earthbound scenes in movies like The Dark Knight (or for that matter any movie with really dark scenes), and great black levels can make a huge difference!
Last year, the Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB produced black levels (blacker blacks) far better than any other projectors anywhere near their price, and better than many projectors costing several times as much. This year, however, there are two other manufacturers using Epson panels that also have excellent black levels. One of them is the PT-AE3000.
OK, that all said, it comes down to this: While the Panasonic is very, very, good, it still isn’t quite as good as the older Epson, and the new 6500UB is a little bit better than its predecessor. Bottom line, while the Panasonic is dramatically better than most projectors in its price range, the Epson is enough better still, that by my reckoning, it gives the Epson a signficant advantage!
Here are side by side images of the Home Cinema 6500UB and the Panasonic PT-AE3000. Again, Epson is on the left. To balance brightness between the two projectors, the Epson lamp was set to its low setting, the Panasonic to high. The two projectors were set up side by side, each projecting about a 40″ diagonal image.
The Epson’s black level advantage is one of the primary reasons I personally prefer the Epson over the Panasonic.
Click to enlarge. So close. The better the shadow detail, the less very dark details are lost to the black level. Most projectors today are very comparable in terms of shadow detail, with not a great amount of difference. In this case, the PT-AE3000 does reveal just a touch more dark detail than the Home Cinema 6500UB. That said, keep in mind that the darkest details on a projector with better black levels are darker, and harder to see.
While the Panasonic can reveal a touch more, I don’t consider the difference to be in any way significant.
Out of the box color accuracy differs between these two projectors: We’re not concerned with that here, however, since both projectors improve with calibration. The Panasonic offers more adjustment capability and some handy tools, but ultimately both calibrate very well, close enough for this to be more of how good a calibration is done, than which projector is better. More significant is the overall look and feel of the final picture quality.
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