The run down, so far.
As I've mentioned previously, in search of my next upgraded, I purchased the Panasonic PT-AE1000U, the Sony Pearl, and I recently picked up the Panasonic PT-AX100U as well.
Note: I am not a professional reviewer and usually don't write reviews at all. I'm also not what one would call a big time tweaker, either. When I sit down to watch a movie, that's what I want to do, watch and enjoy the film, not sit there and try to find every little flaw that might rear it's ugly head. So you won't find a lot of readings and measurments in my reviews, but mainly observations. I'm doing this to find the best projector for myself and help some of you along the way, who are also considering these projectors.
Ok, so let's get to it. I'll start with what's been done and observed up to this point and I'll start with the two 1080p projectors being reviewed here, the Panny AE-1000U and the Sony Pearl.
Out of the box I found the preformance of the AE1000U to be outstanding. I didn't have to hardly make any adjustment at all, other then a few minor tweaks to the contrast and brightness. Other then those few things, that was about it. I was glad to see that I didn't need to change the RGB balance. In fact, with the level of accuracy that this projector possess, it is truly one of the rare and few projector that I've come across that really doesn't require a basic calibration. Now that being said, of course a calibration of any kind will further improve performance, but it really looked good before I did any calibration.
The Pearl required a little more work. Out of the box, it's not bad, but it's not perfect either. I had to make a few more adjustments then what I did with AE1000U, but nothing dramatic and nothing that would cause one to want to steer away from the Pearl. The Pearl however is one that will benefit greatly from a proper calibration. How basic or advance you want to go with the calibration is entirely up to you.
I should also point out that AE1000U as well as the Pearl is a God send in terms of calibrating. Meaning you can tweak the ever living daylights out of these pupppies. The options are almost limitless. Note I said almost limitless, not limitless.
Once I finished with the calibration of both units, the picture coming from both projectors were fantastic and the viewing/reviewing began. I viewed everything from SD programing to HD programing, to SD-DVD, and HD-DVD/BD.
First off, you ain't going to go wrong with either of these projectors. They are both breath taking and will provide you with a truly outstanding picture. I've heard time and time and time again, how some claim that the Pearl and Panasonic produces what they say is a "Soft" picture. My responce to that, horse poop! Listen, to me and in my opinion you've got two types of images. You got what I call a digital type image, and then you got a film like image. A film like image is always going to appear what many label as "Soft" to those who favor a more digital type image. It's like ice cream gentlemen, you got to wet your tounge and pick your flavor. I understand that opinions vary. I also understand that everyone is entitled to their opinion. That said I've also come to the conclusion after many, many, years of being in this hobby that people tend to form their own definition to various terms. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does tend to cause a lot of confusion nonetheless.
Now I have seen many "Soft" pictures over the years and in my opinion neither the AE1000U or the Pearl puts off a soft image. What they both do is produce a very "Smooth" picture and there is a difference between the two. Meaning that there is a difference between a soft picture and a smooth picture, although they share alot of similar characteristics, therefore making it somewhat easy to get the two confused. However, it's all semantics in some form or another. What these projectors give you is a picture more true to film, or in other words a film like image. As I previously mentioned, when you start talking about a film like image, some call this "Soft" other's call it "Smooth", so which is it, really? Well, that answer is almost impossible to answer, for preferences vary. We all see things differently, just as we all hear things differently. Nevertheless, the picture will not disappoint you in anyway if you are one who likes a more film like presentation. I sincerely hope that I've at least helped to shed a little light on that issue, because it is confusing as hell. At least it can be.
Alright, now let's get down to some specifics. I'll start with Black levels, since that seems to be a biggie with most people. I know it is for me anyways.
The Black levels on both projectors, I found to be great, with the Pearl having a bit of an edge. Overall, I consider the PT-AE1000U to be very good in terms of black levels, and one of the best in terms of revealing shadow details. However, the Pearl does seem to produce a little darker and richer black levels between the two and although the shadow detail on the Pearl is very good, I didn't find it to be quite on the same level as the AE1000U.
In terms of the sharpness and clarity in HD 1080p, I found the AE1000U delivered the sharpest images of the two, and it defiantly beat out the Pearl with standard definition material. However the Pearl does seem to beat out the AE1000U in terms of contrast, though it does so at the expense of lumen output. At least it did to my eyes.
So what's the verdict? Which do I buy? Which do you recommend? What's the deal breaker?
They both are really excellent units. The deal breaker for most of us here is whether or not these projectors do vertical stretch to allow for a CIH setup, and I've got some good and bad news. The bad news, the Pearl does not. The good news, both Panasonic's, the PT-AE1000U as well as the PT-AX100U does.
Now if you're not interested in doing a CIH setup, well then it really comes down to a matter of nit picking and personal preferences. Either way, whichever you choose, you won't be making a bad choice.
This now brings me to the projector that I haven't talked much about up to this point, and that's the Panasonic PT-AX100U. Well, I've got more then just a few things to say about this little gem.
To say that I was impressed by the preformance of the AX100U would be a major understatement. What a suprise this projector turned out to be. I wasn't really expecting much from the AX100U. I had my mind set on jumping up to a 1080p, therefore I just wasn't expecting the AX100U to be able to hold it's own with the big boys. Damn was I ever wrong.
First of all, I like a bright picture, and this projector is very bright. I personally don't consider the AE1000U or the Pearl dim by any means, but they certainly are not light cannons. On the other hand, when comparing the AE1000U and the Pearl to the AX100U, they do indeed prove themselves to be quite dim. There's quite a big difference due to the much higher lumans that the AX100U has.
Second, I know this isn't going to sit well with some people, but the fact of the matter is, resolution isn't everything. I know there are some people out there who seem to think that it is, but it is not. The truth of the matter is it isn't any one specific thing. It's the sum of the parts that equals the whole, and this proves itself true in the AX100U.
There has been some here who have reported having some problems with the AX100U, but I did not experience any of the problems that have been reported. The AX100U preformed flawlessly and it did so with flying colors.
I'll be reporting more on all three of these units over the next few days. As of right now, my advice would be choose your screen wisely. If you plan on going with a screen size of 110" or smaller, then any screen that you prefer should serve you well. If however you plan on going with a screen that is greater then 110" and you plan on going with either the AE1000U or Sony Pearl, then a high gain screen is a must have in my opinion, due to the lower lumens that these 1080p projectors posses.
I know there's things that I did not cover, but there's more to come. I just wanted to give you all a run down of what I've observed, discovered and found so far.