Here are my impressions of the AE4000 thus far:
I have been looking for a replacement for my 720p projector (Marantz VP4001). I have been all over the map. I am currently demoing the Sony HW15, the AE3000 and the AE4000. I am using a Carada 128" 2.35:1 BW screen.
AE4000 vs. BenQ W6000: I purchased the Benq W6000 twice, thats right....twice...because I have always bought DLP and I thought maybe I was just being too harsh in my assessment of first W6000 so I wanted to give it a second shot. Bottom line - the issues with the W6000 model deserve a thread of their own - I would not waste my money on it considering all the great competition out there. Consider for example the W6000's a) fan and color wheel noise -which gets worse at 24p, b) noisy and visually noticeable IRIS as well as the periodic high pitched whine that accompanies it, c) the unacceptable level of image noise, d) the overdone sharpening, e)the so so black levels, and f) the higher price.
AE4000 vs. AE3000: No brainer. The AE4000 sports a better picture and it is cheaper. It is definitely brighter - absolutely no issue watching films with my size screen in "Color 1" mode. In fact, I am beginning to think that I don't even need high lamp mode in a darkened room. The colors are better out of the box. It has better lip sync when using "Mode 1" frame creation. There is a clear improvement in black levels. The aspec-ratio auto switching is a gem of a feature. I'm also not sure whether I got a bad AE3000, but the AE3000 lens was pretty bad. The AE4000 lens is far superior. The AE4000 also has multiple test patterns that I have found useful and a slightly revamped menu system and remote.
AE4000 vs. Sony HW15: This is a real tough battle and I will do some more evaluation over the weekend. I will say that although the picture on both projectors is great right out of the box, there is something special about the HW15 picture. However, this may be a non-issue if both are calibrated similarly (ie, saturation, colors, etc.). Black levels and brightness are great on both. The HW15 has better shadow detail so far, but I really need to calibrate brightness and contrast on the AE4000 before I make a true comparison. Then I will see whether the AE4000 can match the HW15's shadow detail without sacrificing black level by increasing brightness too much.
The AE4000 has some features like "auto aspect-ratio" conversion that are really key for people like me who have a 2.35 screen. The AE4000 also has frame interpolation which I have come to respect and appreciate when used properly (mode 1 most of the time). The AE4000 also upconverts 24P to 96P which makes for an extremely stable image with none of the flicker I am sensitive to on HW15 that clearly is playing 24P at 24hz. The AE4000 is more sensitive to the HDMI cable length than the Sony. A 45ft HDMI cable is no problem for the Sony, but too long for the AE4000 to reliably sync all the time. The AE4000 is very quiet, but the HW15 is silent.
If the Sony had all the features of the AE4000, I would probably pick it as my choice. However, I think that they are close enough in picture quality that the price and features of the AE4000 (including 96P and FI) make it a hands down winner for me.
I am impressed with the AE4000 and the HW15. The only issue I have with both is my sensitivity to Motion Blur. The FI of the AE4000 helps a lot. I am attempting to view a wide variety of material to be sure my sensitivity isn't caused by the source material (ie, poor filming or excessively shaky cinematography). So far, the AE4000 is ahead by two strides. Stay tuned for more comments.