It is the feature set of the PT-AE3000 where the Panasonic holds a significant advantage over Sony's VPL-HW10.
Panasonic PT-AE3000 Anamorphic lens emulation
I discuss this in depth elsewhere in the Report, as well as in the Panasonic PT-AE3000's individual review. Therefore, I'll keep the discussion here, to an overview. As most of you know, most movies are shot in Cinemascope - with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, a shape significantly wider than the 16:9 HDTV standard aspect ratio that is native for all home theater projectors. This leaves you with a letterbox (dark gray area) on your 16:9 screen, above and below the movie content. To get rid of that, you need a wider screen (2.35:1), and a stretching of the image horizontally with an anamorphic lens. You'll also want a motorized sled for that lens, to move it out of the way for 16:9 and 4:3 content. Problem is, an anamorphic lens and sled combination costs more than either of these projectors.
Panasonic's solution is to let you change the zoom for different aspect ratios. By having the ability to save different lens settings, this makes things practical for folks to go with that Cinemascope shaped screen. It's not a perfect solution - those dark gray letterbox areas are still there, but above and below a Cinemascope lens, and essentially invisible if your wall around the screen is dark. The other limitation is that with a real lens/sled combination, the projector uses every pixel for the movie, but with Panasonic's method, only about 80% are used, so the real anamorphic lens solution is about 20% brighter. To allow this to work, it also limits the usable range of the zoom to about half of the 2:1 ratio of the lens.
Very few people go with an anamorphic lens, and I doubt that many buying the Panasonic will pair it with a Cinemascope shaped screen, but the feature is a nice one, and there for those who desire it.
By comparison, the Sony will require an outboard processor to support an anamorphic lens. That all by itself, would make the Sony (plus processor such as the DVDO Edge), about $1000 more than the Panasonic. Thus, for those considering an anamorphic lens, the clear advantage goes to the Panasonic.
Creative Frame Interpolation
No contest. The Panasonic offers the best CFI of the few projectors that offer it. The Sony is not one of those. I do like the Panasonic's CFI for sports viewing, and on some other content, although I consider CFI to be a minor feature.
There are times when CFI on the Panasonic makes movies look too digital - what I refer to as being like "live digital video". In such cases the PT-AE3000's CFI is over the top, in my book. Still, you only need to use it when you want to. By comparison, the Sony offers no CFI. Again, a minor plus for the Panasonic for most, and more significant for some. A win for the PT-AE3000.
Color Management is good on both projectors, but the Panasonic has a selection of tools that will thrill those who like to tweak, including a split screen feature to show before/after, as you change settings.
Sony VPL-HW10 vs. PT-AE3000 Bottom Line
I'll finish this, where I started. We have here, two very comparable projectors, more similar than different. In overall picture quality they are about equal, despite the modest black level advantage of the Sony VPL-HW10.
The Sony is better for those who are completely focused on the best movie viewing image, while those watching a mixed assortment of content, may favor the Panasonic for the extra lumens in brightest mode. If you are one of those who focuses just on movies, the Sony can easily handle a screen one or two sizes larger, but if you need to deal with ambient light for non-movie viewing, than you'll lean to the Panasonic.
I think it really boils down to this. The PT-AE3000 tied with the Epson for top honors in this category, the Sony did not pick up an award. I see the reasons as follows:
The Panasonic has more placement flexibility. It has the assorted anamorphic related features, while the Sony needs an outboard processor. Panasonic offers a good (the best so far) creative frame interpolation abilities, while the Sony has none. The Panasonic has more lumens for dealing with ambient light. The PT-AE3000 projector is one of the quieter projectors when it comes to audible noise, and the Sony HW10, while in the same category, is a touch noisier.
But, if you are a movie focused individual, and don't worry about having some lights on for sports and HDTV viewing, you will likely favor the Sony, thanks to the brighter "best" mode, and slight black level performance advantage.
The Panasonic should have wider overall appeal, but those buying the Sony for the reasons I have stated, should prove to definitely be pleased with their choice, and likely would not be as enthusiast with the Panasonic.