Projector Reviews

Panasonic PT-AR100U Home Theater Projector: A "First Look" Review

I know you’ve been waiting for this quick look at Panasonic’s new super bright home theater and home entertainment projector, the PT-AR100U.

Greetings projector fans, movie fans, sports fans, TV fans, and the world in general.  I’ve had a couple of days now with the Panasonic PT-AR100U.  Not as much time as I would have liked, but that’s my fault.  This weekend I had a tough choice watching a dozen or so hours on the PT-AR100U projector, or heading to Las Vegas with an old friend, to catch a concert.

But, first things first.  Panasonic’s pricing has dropped dramatically since the PT-AR100U was first announced around the fall.  A quick look on the web the street price is obviously right around $999, despite an MSRP of $1999.  Panasonic is definitely getting aggressive, price wise.

Sorry folks, in this case, the PT-AR100U projector lost out.  The band, btw, that Eddie and I saw, was Alan Parson’s Project.  (Yeah, just about none of you have ever heard of them, even though they’ve had some huge hits over the decades.  Hey, even a lot of folks from the 60’s don’t remember Alan Parsons.  More about the trip below!

The Panasonic PT-AR100U isn’t your average home theater, or home entertainment projector.  It is simply the brightest of them all, at least of the ones I’m aware of that are true home projectors, not compromised cross-over projectors.

Mike’s picking up the AR100U in a couple of hours, to measure and calibrate it, but I just want to start out with some impressive tidbits for you, even though I can’t quote measured numbers yet.

OK, here are the Panasonic PT-AR100U projector’s strengths, based on watching:

  1. Major league brightness.  2800 lumens claimed! To find another home theater projector that has significantly more lumens we’re talking 3 chip DLP’s and a price tag at least 10x higher!  Well, if you are looking for one of these, a three chip DLP probably isn’t in your budget (or mine).
  2. Great out of the box color!   I am truly impressed (regular readers know I’m quite often “impressed” and sometimes “very impressed” or “really impressed”, but rarely, every do I put “truly” in front of impressed.)  Even the really bright modes look really good out of the box. True, Cinema 1, and REC 709 are no where near as bright as Vivid Cinema, Standard (even brighter), and of course Dynamic, which is dazzling (and only slightly brighter than Standard).  I mean I can detect yellows as being a touch strong in Dynamic, and a touch more overall “contrasty” look, but not very much.  There’s a far smaller drop in color quality from Standard to Dynamic, than in most other projectors, including the Epson 3010 or 5010 projectors.   I’d have to say, that the Dynamic modes looks better than most LCDTV’s, PERIOD!  See the image from X-men, below, taken, with default settings using dynamic!
  3. And paired with the right screen, and a not too terrible family room or living room, this Panasonic projector just might prove brighter than an LCDTV, and I mean, even at sizes of 100 inches diagonal.  (Yes, black levels will suffer somewhat, but sports – nice!)
    Wow!  I have to see how far I can push this projector – It’s going to be leaving my theater, and going downstairs into our extremely bright great room.  I need to shoot a few pictures for you – I’ll start with my light beige walls, since I have no screen down there, then I’ll break out an 80″ portable matte white screen, just to see.  But, you’d want an appropriate  screen in a family room or living room where there’s tons of ambient light.  Those pics will show up in the full review, in a few more days.
  4. The amenities.   Lots of features, two screen triggers, Panasonic’s waveform analyzer, their auto adjustment for room brightness (Light Harmonizer), dynamic features, like CFI etc.  Lot’s of placement flexibility, good remote, lots of (good) picture modes
  5. And: You get a dynamic iris, for better blacks.  Note:  I’m not prepared yet, for a really good assessment of the black level performance.  The 50,000:1 claim is a really good number, but, this projector is really not an ultra-high contrast projector in the sense of the Epson 5010, or Panasonic’s own flagship, the PT-AE7000 projector.  It may well offer better blacks than say the Epson Home Cinema 8350, a projector with a slightly higher street price, or their more expensive 3D capable 3010, but most likely its blacks are comparable to those Epson’s, and probably not as good as the Acer H9500BD DLP projector.  Remember, I’m watching a really bright projector – which means even really good blacks aren’t as black as a less bright projector on the same screen.  I’ll have it sorted out soon, in the full review of the PT-AR100U projector.

My first real take on the PT-AR100:

For those looking to forgo 3D, and just need a really bright projector – for almost any remotely suitable room, or for someone who just can’t live without a 160″ diagonal matte white screen, this Panasonic is probably the ticket.  It should easily outmuscle those other $1000 – $2000 home entertainment projectors, with only the Epson Home Cinema 3010 being bright enough to discuss as even “close” in brightness.

Panasonic PT-AR100U Projector - looks great, even in Dynamic mode (brightest).

At first I had the disturbing impression that the really bright modes are also a very high in typical image noise.  I normally expect to see more mosquito and other basic noise on DLP projectors than 3 LCD or LCoS.  In reality, I noticed a lot of noise  in Normal and Dynamic, but it turned out to be the default settings of the Detail Clarity control which was set for 3.  It provides an over-sharpened image, and in doing so, it magnifies the noise.

Can’t wait until Mike hands it back calibrated, and to do the whole photo shoot, and some side by side viewing.  In this case against the Epson 5010, as it’s the only projector I have here right now, bright enough to do a side by side with the AR100U projector.

For you gamers – we haven’t tested lag times yet, but that will be done in time for the full review.  Either Pete or Scott, my two gaming – projector bloggers, will get the projector to really run though its paces as a serious gaming projector.  Keep in mind Panasonic has been heavily focused on doing great gaming, on the predecessors to the PT-AR100U, such as the PT-AX200U, which this projector replaces.  Considering there’s even a Game mode, I expect lag times to be respectable.

That’s it, folks (well, mostly).  Below, a bit on the trip to vegas, and how my friend Eddie, will soon be considering replacing his old projector with a new one, with the PT-AR100U being on his short list.

Finishing up on the Vegas trip (and a home theater decision), my wine guy:  Eddie – Eddie Osterland, I should note, is one of the world’s foremost wine experts (first american to become a Master Sommelier), so you better believe there was some great food and wine on the trip.  If you head to Las Vegas, check out this Thai restaurant: Lotus of Siam – awesome and a world class wine list to die for (per Eddie).  Yummy!  (note, it’s in a run down large strip shopping center, and lacks the ambiance, of a fancy restaurant, but the food and wine, more than offsets.  Eddie says it’s a legendary restaurant among wine and food aficionados.

Eddie, is a home theater projector owner too – sold him his first a decade ago.  He’s got an old Sony and also a Panasonic, but time to upgrade.  He’s going to be replacing soon (I mention all this, because we watched a bit of Hugo in 3D, on the Epson 5010, and some 2D content on the PT-AR100U.  Eddies new place is loft like, lots of light, he’ll have to decide, which will serve him best – since he needs some real horsepower.  He can go 3D and really good brightness (Epson), or he can go for even more lumens and also save some bucks (if he forgoes 3D) with the Panasonic PT-AR100U.  Eddie knows about the importance of good blacks, but he also knows when you need lots of lumens, often blacks don’t come into play.  Ultimately we’ll see what he finally decides upon in a couple of months, and let you know.

Thanks folks!  -art

PS.  The full PT-AR100U projector review should be up on the website this weekend (sooner or later)!

 

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