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$1500 - $2000 Home Theater Projectors

Posted on March 12, 2007 by Art Feierman
Best In Class Panasonic PT-AX100U
Runner-up Optoma HD73
Special Interest Optoma HD72

Panasonic PT-AX100U Home Theater Projector

It's really hard to not love the PT-AX100U. It is almost all strengths, including: Brightest home theater projector around (without spending several times more), extremely good "out of the box" color, very good black levels, excellent placement flexibility, and an invisible pixel structure (and this is an LCD projector)!

To get the invisible pixels, Panasonic uses their SmoothScreen Technology in front of the LCD panels. Pixels are no longer visible unless you are standing less than 3 feet from the screen. There is a trade-off, sharpness is on the low side of average, also due to SmoothScreen (no such thing as a free lunch)! The slightly soft look due to SmoothScreen, also gives the projector a more "film-like" look, than other LCD projectors.

The PT-AX100U really exceeded my expectations when it arrived for review in September, I had been expecting a typical replacement situation from the PT-AE900U (the previous best seller in the US market), instead, the PT-AX100U was a major step forward, including the unprecendented brightness. Overall I still believe this is probably the best under $2000 projector on the market for most of us.

Not everything is perfect though. Panasonic only offers a one year warranty, which really is too short. The good news is that many dealers offer very affordable 3rd party warranties. The other downside is that there have been some technical issues, but the PT-AX100U has now been on the market for 5 months and Panasonic should have worked through most of these.

I recently received a review unit of this first, under $2000, DLP projector to be equipped with the "top of the line" Darkchip3 DLP processor, and already I appreciate the HD73. Essentially a reworked HD72 (one of my favorites), but with the Darkchip3 instead of the Darkchip2, the HD73 offers improved black levels. While still not as "black" as some of the best DLP projectors out there, it is the best I have seen in the under $2000 range. There is plenty of variation in black levels and shadow detail handling, from one Darkchip2 to another, with a couple of them able to match the performance of some of the lesser Darkchip3 projectors. Optoma overall, has always been about average in black levels, but by being the first with Darkchip3 in this price range, they also are the black level champs for the price.

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