Well, the speculation is over, the US will get the PT-AE4000.
Panasonic's New PT-AE4000 only $1999
Most of the conjecture about why The Panasonic PT-AE4000 wasn't announced at CEDIA is now meaningless. Apparently some dealers have run out of the older PT-AE3000
already, so the thought that Panasonic had too many of those in warehouses proved to not be the case. Panasonic says a change in strategy was involved. No matter, it's good finally know for sure, that the PT-AE4000 is coming to US.
As seems to be the trend this fall, the Panasonic PT-AE4000 is
another evolutionary projector. Definite refinements over the PT-AE3000 it replaces, but physically, and for the most part in terms of operation, there's not much new to report, just improvements.
Panasonic has been busy with their contrast enhancements. They have upped the contrast from 60,000:1 to 100,000:1. This should improve black level performance one modest step, but at the levels where the Panasonic is at, that's a real improvement. This was accomplished by an contrast plate in the light path that uses polarization to minimize stray light in the light path (that's assuming I got that right). Epson has talked about what sounds like a similar solution in their UB projectors.
Of course I don't have one here. Panasonic tells me there's only one engineering sample in the US at this time, but, the good news is that first shipments are targeted for the end of October, perhaps early November.
I have no details but I believe, Panasonic has further improved their "anamorphic lens emulation" solution, which I'm curious about.
As to my reviewing the projector, all I'm told is that I'll probably receive a full production PT-AE4000U, which means I won't likely receive it before month end. It's a priority, of course, so I'll get right on it. That should time well with the Epson Home Cinema 8500UB. I'd expect them to be back to back reviews.
The $1999 price is a most pleasant surprise, and should cause some rethinking of prices by other manufacturers. Other popular projectors, with things higher performance features like CFI, 96 and 120 fps, and ultra-high contrast black performance are likely to be hard pressed to price more than $500 higher unless they are truly superior. This represents about a $500 price drop compared to last year. Nothing wrong with $500 and some performance enhancements.
Their Lens Memory System, which I like to call "anamorphic lens emulation" is now a smart feature, if you choose. The projector will analyze the signal and automatically adjust. You can always override if it should make a mistake, or not use it at all. Nice touch, though, especially if it's bulletproof.
Creative Frame interpolation adds a 3rd mode. I'm still not sold on CFI, except, primarily for sports and some high quality all digital material, but the manufacturers continue to improve. I'm still waiting to see anyone's version of CFI that will satisfy most enthusiasts for movie viewing. It's still more of a special effect, than a solution that maintains the director's intent.
And so it goes. The PT-AE4000 is, as I said at the start an evolutionary projector, no shocking new capabilities, but, it's less money, and looks to be improved in many areas. That's a great start for a projector that shared our Best In Class award in last year's report.
Can't wait to get my hands on one. I'd like to see a few more lumens out of the this year's PT-AE4000U projector, than last year's but the two have the same 1600 lumen rating.
It certainly would have been a far less interesting showdown this fall, if Panasonic decided not to to launch a new model.