I posted this review over on the UK forums, but I thought it might be worth copying here too:
I have only had a short time to try my new AE3000, but I’d like to post my conclusions so far about the differences between my previous AE1000 and AE2000.
For background information, my setup is a long throw (6 metres) onto a faux 2.35:1 106” wide screen ( a 16:9 Greywolf II electric gain 1.8 that is set to stop before full drop, with a top ‘pelmet’ that acts as the top masking), viewing distance approx 13 feet/ 4 metres. The projector is shelf mounted at exactly dead centre to the screen, so no lens shift is needed. My screen wall is dark brown, but the ceiling is white and the side walls are light grey. I use a black material ‘tent’ over the first 5 foot from the screen when watching and attach some black velvet to the bottom of the screen to mask the bottom black bar overspill. With a dark rug and a dark throw on an adjacent sofa, the room has pretty good reflection control and no ambient light during viewing. Although nothing like as good as PJ Hifi’s demo room (for those that have been there), it is much better than a typical magnolia living room.
I’m at minimum zoom (i.e. best contrast, but lowest brightness) for 16:9. For 2.35:1 I have to zoom to x1.33 so still very near the best contrast end of the range.
I’ve just sold my AE2000, but before delivering it I borrowed the lamp to confirm that I wasn’t just being influenced by a new brighter lamp. I used only Colour 1 mode for these initial observations as that’s what I’m familiar with on my AE2000 and I wanted to highlight any differences, whilst keeping as many variables out of the equation. Sources used were a Sony BDP-S350 BluRay player and a HTPC connected via a DVI to HDMI adaptor. Contrast and brightness set using DVE BluRay edition and the built in waveform monitor, no adjustments to RGB levels, colour, tint or colour temperature were done at this time. Hopefully a full calibration using an Eye-One sensor plus HFCR software at some later stage will be done.Positives:
The black level seems lower on a fade to black and blacks within a brighter scene really do have much more depth, so these scenes have more ‘punch’ than before. :thumbsup: I couldn’t really say that the image was noticeably brighter than before (using the same lamp remember). The specifications claim maximum lumens up from 1500 to 1600, so that percentage increase would be hard to see with the naked eye anyway.
Motion smoothness using the ‘Mode 1’ of the frame creation seemed a nice improvement and the image seems to stay sharper during movement. I wasn’t taken by ‘Mode 2’ as the audio delay was noticeable and I hadn’t time to adjust my receiver to match. ‘Mode 2’ seemed a bit too artificial for my taste judging by my brief viewing with it on though.
Colours in ‘Colour 1’ mode seemed as good as the AE2000, plenty of brightness in my setup (with a 1.8 gain screen).
The lens memory feature is one of the main attractions for me: I saved three settings for the most common ARs that I watch, 1.85:1, 2.35:1 and 1.78:1. It seems to keep the focus well between memories, but I recommend only setting the memories after the PJ has warmed up for an hour or so. In common with the AE2000 and most other projectors, the focus drifts a little from switch on, plus it is easy to disturb the focus when removing the lens cap. It is a shame that it isn’t possible to program three buttons on the remote for these three memories. You can program the one ‘function’ button to bring up the memory menu, then use the up/down buttons and then ‘enter’ to select the required memory. It then takes approx 10 seconds to zoom, shift and refocus whilst displaying a ‘Processing’ window on the screen centre. When completed you then have to press ‘return’ to exit the lens menu again. Perhaps some clever macro with my Harmony 525 using a blanking screen might provide a classier result. It’s still quicker than messing about zooming, shifting and refocusing manually though.
For anamorphic lens use there is the same ‘V stretch’ mode, but in addition there is now a 4:3 mode (or ‘squeeze’ mode) that would allow a HE lens to be left in place for 16:9 use. The AE2000 didn’t have this mode, so it seems Panasonic are paying attention to the increase in 2.35:1 screen owners.
I never had a problem with DVD up scaling on the AE2000 and the AE3000 doesn’t change that view. Although I am using my BDP-S350 to do the up scaling, so feeding the projector with 576i/p isn’t my typical mode. The improved image depth and better blacks has an obvious effect even on DVDs, so that seems more pertinent to me.General:
The overall sharpness I find no better than the AE2000 and any of the reported ‘tweaks’ to the smooth screen don’t seem to make any difference to me. If you find the AE2000 ‘soft’ then buying an AE3000 will not change your impression. Personally I found only the AE1000 was soft and my AE2000 and now AE3000 both sharp enough for my taste and the pixels can be seen when about 2 foot away from the screen, though a slight texture on the Greywolf screen makes it harder to see them. Note: See further comments below on focus/sharpness.
Noise level in both Eco and Normal lamp modes seems the same as the AE2000, i.e. I can just hear it with the sound muted with the projector mounted 5 feet behind me. High altitude mode is more audible, so I wouldn’t plan on using it unless you really do live in a high altitude area.
There seems to be a slightly more noticeable difference between Eco and Normal lamp modes, though still not a massive change. It might help balance lumens between zoomed 2.35:1 mode and 16:9 mode.Negatives:
The new remote is smaller and has fewer features than the AE2000. It has no learning buttons that allow the control of my amp and basic player functions. Luckily I have a Harmony 525 that does what I want, but I’ll miss the ‘old’ remote. There is now only one programmable ‘function’ button instead of three, which would have been useful for the three lens memory function as I mentioned above or even just for your three favourite colour modes, like I had my old AE2000 remote set to do.
Focus is sharp in the centre and right side of the screen, but initially mine seemed slightly softer on the left hand side. When viewing a Windows desktop, the icon names weren’t as clear as any text in the middle of the screen. My old AE2000 was sharp all over the screen and I even rechecked it after replacing the lamp at the end of my testing to confirm it wasn’t my imagination. However, with the AE3000 I found that by using a little horizontal lens shift to the right and then slightly turning the PJ to get the image back in line with the screen, it seemed to resolve this left edge softness. I now have a sharp image all over the screen. From my long throw, the slight twist of the PJ doesn’t seem to cause noticeable keystone, so it seems to be the best compromise. I’ll try to take some photos and add them to this post later. I should point out that this slight softening was only visible with text and test patterns, but not noticeable when watching BluRay films. Now it is hardly visible even close to the screen with text.
I’m not entirely happy that I should need to do this ‘fiddle’, but given that there are no dead pixels or colour spots/clouds when showing a white background, maybe it is better to have an issue that can be resolved without having the hassle and risk of a swap. Other owners may be luckier with overall focus, or perhaps try out my ‘tweak’. Tolerances of a machine built down to a price I guess. Perhaps I’m being overly critical….Conclusion:
Was it really worth the cost of upgrading from an already good AE2000? In my case the answer is ‘Yes’, mostly due to the DLP like ‘punch’ in the medium to brighter scenes (which was unexpected, as I never thought my AE2000 was lacking in this area), better blacks and of course the lens memory feature. It is the first time that I’ve seen an image on my home setup that has the depth of some DLP demos I had a year or two back, but rainbows prevented me from buying. However, if I hadn’t improved my room with the dark cloth, velvet, etc then I think most of the black level improvements would be lost. I tried it briefly with the room as it is normally, cream sofa exposed near the screen and the white ceiling lighting up and it could easily have still been my AE2000 I was watching. I think we are approaching the point where an average living room will not really benefit from anything better than the AE2000 or similar. To see an improved image is not just a question of throwing money at a newer projector, but the room itself should be treated accordingly.
I’ve seen the JVC HD350 and HD750 at PJ Hifi in a fantastic room. The 750 was too far above budget, but I did consider the 350 for a while, but the ‘off’ colours would probably have got to me eventually and it doesn’t seem like there is an easy fix without even more money spent. Another £1,300 or so would be better used elsewhere in my house….it was hard enough to justify the £1,100 it has cost me to change to the AE3000 as it is. In my less than perfect room, then the contrast improvements are going to be less apparent, so I’ll stick to my choice, but YMMV as they say. I believe (certainly I hope
) that I've reached a similar level with my visual setup as I have with the audio side; I no longer analyse it and just enjoy it. Time will tell. :devil:Tweaks:
I plan to add the Cine4home filter to mine once they become available and a Christmas present of the Eye-one sensor. This will help to recalibrate the off colour but better contrast ratio ‘Dynamic’ mode into something very near to D65 if previous Cine4home versions of the AEXXXX range is anything to go by. But this is mainly to allow a higher lumen output that I can filter down with an ND2 filter until the lamp ages, the improved CR may not be noticeable in my setup anyway, but I’ll no doubt report back later.
A final tweak is that, as reported over on one of the German forums, using HDMI in expanded mode and recalibrating the contrast and brightness to match, does seem to increase maximum brightness without crushing whites. Until I get my Eye-one I can’t measure it to confirm, but it certainly seems brighter, though the black level will remain the same. It may allow the use of an ND2 filter to improve blacks whilst maintaining a bright enough image as the German forum claimed a 20% increase in 100IRE output using this method.
If there are any specific questions re the AE3000, I’ll be happy to try to answer them, in the meantime I hope this helps.