I want to replace my old Optima h31 with either a Panasonic AR100U or an Epson 8350. From what I've read, the projectors seem very similar, but the AR100U is brighter and does better in ambient light, and the 8350 has better blacks in dark rooms. The problem is that I don't know what counts as ambient light. This is for home theater in my living room (2 walls are yellow paint, the other opens into the dining room). We never watch during the day, and at night in the winter it is pretty dark, say at least as dark as a typical movie theater showing the main feature. However, during the summer months the sun sets later, and there is more light until later in the evening. I have drapes and shades on all the windows, but some light seeps in around the edges. So on early summer evenings before the sun sets, I'd guess the light is similar to what I see in a movie theater when they are showing previews (much lighter than when the movie is on), but it will then get dark as the evening goes on.
So when people are talking about the Epson not doing as well in ambient light, are they talking about situations like I have in the summer before it is really dark, are they talking about the minimal light during a theater's main feature, or are they talking about viewing it in daytime or with lamps on? Put another way, when I read in reviews that the Epson is better than the Panasonic for dark rooms, I don't know what is meant by "dark room"; does my room on summer evenings with shades drawn count as a dark room? Does my room on winter evenings count as a dark room? What I'm wanting to know is whether I need to get the AR100U, or whether the 8350 will be bright enough for my needs. Some online discussions seem to indicate the Epson is not bright enough for living rooms, although some (http://www.projectorcentral.com/epson_home_cinema_8350_projector_review.htm?page=More-Advantages
) seem to indicate there is no problem projecting a 120" diagonal with curtain light leakage. And will the Panasonic be too bright for 120" screen once the sun has set?
Other info: My screen is 120" diagonal (105"x 59"), and the distance from the screen to the lens on my current Optima is 14' 7". I haven't quite figured out how to calculate the throw distance and other technical details yet, but as far as I can tell, both should be able to project a 105" wide image at this distance (but I could be wrong). I will mount the projector on the ceiling, but I can easily modify how low I mount it (right now top of the screen is 17" from the ceiling, and the lens is 11" from the ceiling).
Any help would be appreciated. As you can tell, I'm not very knowledgeable about these matters. It looks to me as if the Epson is about $200 cheaper than the Panasonic and would be bright enough even on summer evenings, but I'd pay the extra $200 if it means a better picture for me in my situation.