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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Yesterday I was given an opportunity by a fellow AVS forum member to demo his Panasonic AE100. I will leave his name out of this discussion; he knows that I am posting this thread and if he wishes to comment he is more than welcome to do so. I would like to thank him for his time and the opportunity to see his projector. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and the pleasure of his company made it a fun exercise indeed.


I thought about putting this post in one of the many AE100 threads currently out there. I really don't think the forum needs yet another AE100 thread. But since this is really a chronicle of my personal experience with the Panny I thought it appropriate to put it in its own thread.


Before I dig into the meat of this topic I want to lay down a few ground rules. Please, no flaming of anyone in this thread. If you can't fight the impulse to lash out at someone for their opinion then please stay out. I want this discussion to proceed in a civil fashion. Counterbalancing opinion and dissenting views are most welcome, flames are not.


For those of you who might not know me too well, let me provide a bit of background. My current projector is the NEC XG110LC 8" CRT. I use it in a light controlled room projecting to an 80" wide DA Lite matte unity gain screen. I use a Radeon-based HTPC for film-source DVD and Dish 6000 for HDTV. I have owned several digital projectors that I have evaluated along side my CRT in an effort to directly compare them. The digital machines I have owned include a NEC LT-150 DLP, a NEC LT-155 LCD with MLA, and a calibrated JVC G1000 D-ILA.


I am including only one screen shot from the many that I took during the demo. I think the value of these images is very dubious at best. There is a great deal that a digital camera cannot do. Still, what you see is fairly representative of the color output of the AE100. But I would not attach any specific meaning to the screen shot. If you are interested in why I don't think screen shots are a particularly good evaluation tool please see the following thread and you will understand:

My two cents worth on the value of screen shots


My interest in the AE100 stems from the following threads:

Panasonic AE100 taking shape...
HDTV Panny AE100 vs Sharp Z9000 vs Sony 10HT vs Sony G70
Panasonic AE100 second look
AE100 Pics
HTPC setting, the first step of AE100
Panny AE100 the problems
My initial thoughts on my new AE100


Some of you will notice that most of the threads were started by Li On. Let me state at the outset that my intent here is not to pick a fight with him or anyone else. I am merely posting my opinion and perceptions: the fact that my view might differ from his and others have no bearing whatsoever on what other people believe they are seeing. My comments only address what I see. So in that vein feel free to take my opinion with a grain of salt. You might see something completely different.

The Setup:


The AE100 was setup in a room that had very good light control. While we were watching selected material the room was for all practical purposes devoid of ambient light sources. Two source devices were used for the purposes of the demo: a Radeon-based HTPC with powerstrip, blight's Zoom Player 2.60 RC1 and Cineplayer filters connected via the RGB port, and a Panasonic RP91 STB DVD Player connected via the component video ports. The screen was a 82" DA Lite Model C matte screen and we were seated about 10 or 12 feet back. I know this is not ideal, but it is not a very practical expectation that one can go to a stranger's home and redesign their home theater and room. So let's not go there. Take these facts into consideration--which is precisely what I did.


I had a number of DVDs on hand that I brought along for the purposes of this demo: Moulin Rouge, Shrek, Desperado (Superbit), The Fast and the Furious, Queen: We Will Rock You (DTS), and several others that we never got around to due to a lack of time.


I used my Avia DVD to do a basic setup of white and black level using the needle pulses + steps pattern and the black bars + half grey and half white test patterns. Once that was completed I put up the vertical and horizontal 10IRE steps patterns. This is roughly were I began to see a problem with the AE100's lack of dynamic range. While the pulses and black bar patterns are used mainly to get you into the "ballpark" where your levels are concerned, the 20 and 10 IRE patterns were crushed. In order bring the detail out it was necessary to substantially raise the black level--which was done. However, at these settings blacks were very grey--especially when the scene was predominately dark in nature. By comparision, performing the same procedure on my XG110LC CRT usually only requires very small adjustments from the 10IRE steps pattern to get the detail fleshed out while holding solid black levels where I believe they need to be for a satisfying 3-dimensional image. In short, it did not take long to run into the AE100's greatest limitation, which is contrast (or a lack thereof). Greyscale accuracy from the AE100 was surprisingly close. We made a few minor adjustments to color bias.

The Good:


Still, we adjusted the levels as best we could and moved on to some DVD watching to see what we have wrought. Our first test was Moulin Rouge chapter 4. This is a great disc to use for a number of reasons. First, it has a cavalcade of color and secondly there are numerous scenes in chapter 4 that are a great test of a display device's black level and its ability to display fine detail. From where I sit there were some positives and some negatives (as there are with most any display). On the plus side the colors were surprisingly well-saturated. The red jacket worn by Jim Broadbent in the role of Zidler (from the Zidler's Rap number) is my standard torture test when it comes to color. Many of the digital projectors that I have owned have had major trouble with highly saturated reds and with delivering good fleshtones that don't appear posterized. The AE100 performed admirably on this test. While reds are not as well represented as those of my NEC XG110LC CRT (in fairness few projectors, CRT or otherwise, can match the NEC's colorimetry) fleshtones looked very good and were not posterized. Similarly, The Fast and Furious produced some really sparkling colors in the opening street race scenes. The cars, with their ornate color schemes, were very commendable on the AE100. See the following screen shot, which is cropped and down sized from the original TIFF with no post production color processing performed:

http://66.168.41.185:5990/screenshots/FastNfurious.jpg


EDIT: I neglected to comment on the fan noise if the AE100. This projector is amazingly quiet, at least from what I am accustomed to with the NEC XG110LC and JVC G1000. I think that most owners would find the projector quiet enough to not bother with a hush box. The AE100 was mounted to the ceiling directly above the the seating position and it did not bother me in the least. It's well behaved acoustical properties are big plus.

The Bad:


There are some negatives, some of which are quite serious from my perspective. As I eluded to earlier, this projector's greatest limitations are contrast on the one hand and the ability to reproduce fine shadow detail on the other. While I had my suspicions when making adjustments with Avia they were borne out when we sampled actual movie content during the demo. Most notably, nearly all of the relatively dark shots from Moulin Rouge chapter 4 suffered from crushed blacks. Simply put, much of the fine detail that I see on my XG110LC is lost on the Panasonic. Most people will not really notice it unless they have spent a great deal of time viewing these scenes over and over again and on a number of projectors. My next point may be a bit controversial--just remember that it is only my opinion and not the Gospel. With that disclaimer out of the way let me say that I don't see where there is a great deal of wiggle room with this projector to improve contrast and shadow detail. One can use filters to improve apparent contrast but this will come at the expense of light output and some fine detail--neither of which the AE100 has in abundance. In a light controlled room the AE100 does have ample brightness, but I don't know if I would want to put it on a gray screen (obviously your mileage will vary). The shortcoming, as I see it, relates squarely to dynamic range insofar as the AE100 is limited in what it can reproduce throughout its range of luminance and contrast. So in that vein I have my doubts about the efficacy of gray screens and filtering being able to reproduce what isn't there to begin with. A valid counterpoint to my argument would be that filtering or using a grey screen might be able to bring forth detail that is otherwise crushed into black by allowing for a higher black level floor. Since I don't own an AE100 or the filters and screens to test this hypothesis I can't really challenge someone who might find fault with my argument.


A few comments on screen door. The projector was defocused a bit and this did help control the screen door effect to some extent. Keep in mind that our seating position was about 10 or so feet from an 82" wide screen. Sharply focusing the projector at that distance does indeed make the screen door very distracting. Slighly defocused it was much better on the eyes: still noticable if you concentrate on it but easily better than the alternative.


That about does it for using a HTPC as a source. We next connected the Panasonic RP91 to the AE100 via the component video connections. I am not going to spend a lot time talking about this option. I thought the picture was more or less servicable but that really is about it. There was noticable color bleed and electronic ringing that was very hard not to notice. I would not recommend this configuration for anyone serious about this projector. There is no question that the best image is obtained from a HTPC using powerstrip to get pixel perfection.

My Conclusions:


Where do I think the AE100 fits into the grand scheme of things? For someone who wants a digital projector on a tight budget and has a lot of patience on tap to work with this unit then I think the AE100 can be an exceptional value for them. At $1,400 it is something that you don't have to throw a ton of money at to get into the front-projected picture game. For your money you wind up with a projector that has a small physical footprint that makes good color and does not take a lot of time or technical expertise to get setup. The reward is relative to the risk. Even if you find you don't like the AE100 you are not likely to take a financial bath on it. If your buget is tight and you want the best image avaliable for your money and you have NO other contraints then consider a used 7" CRT projector, such as the NEC 9PG--which can be bought for about the same price. On the other hand if you have budgeted substantially more money for a projector then my recommendations are two fold: (1) You can buy the AE100 for less and see how you like it--if not then sell it (nothing ventured nothing gained) or (2) buy a projector closer in line with your allocated budget (especially if that budget is greater than $3,000). You are more likely to find other models, at a substantially higher cost mind you, that will outperform the AE100 in a variety of ways. Lastly, if you are someone who has owned higher end machines such as any good CRT projector or something along the lines of a calibrated D-ILA or Sanyo XP21N then my suggestion for you is to stay with what you have since you are very likely to be disappointed in the Panasonic. In my view it is highly unlikely that the AE100 even under the best of circumstances can compete with such projectors. But then again, at a price of $1,400 it doesn't have to. For bargain hungry HT enthusiasts who want a digital projector the AE100 is a good deal at its current price point. For everyone else there are better solutions out there.


--Jerome
 

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jerome


I think you've given a fair testament of this projector and it should not be taken as flaming.


I finally saw this unit last week and I cant believe no one has touched on the negatives of this projector.

It is not the holly grail its made out to be at all but for the money it cant be expected.


I can only attribute all the positive posts to be from people who never had a projector before and are not picky and just want a big display.

Or they have never seen a true HT projector set up properly, one that does cost more of course but you get what you pay for.


This unit was crossed off my list for a serious contender for my HT. For the money it makes a great first projector for the family and I think that's where it has found its market.


From another serious and picky videophile thanks for the truthful review.
 

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Jerome thank you for taking the time and your unbiased review.
 

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Jerome


Thanks for the review!


I have 4 friends that have bought this projector and they so far are tickled about it. Yes, It's their entry into front projection and I'm sure they will upgrade in the future. But they all took my advice and bought the AE cause at $1400 it's kind of a no brainer and they are having a ball watching movies. It's all relative...


Quote:
Originally posted by jsaliga
NEC LT-150 DLP, a NEC LT-155 LCD with MLA, and a calibrated JVC G1000 D-ILA.


--Jerome
Your review is great, but comparing Digital to CRT to me seams a little futile. Since you have seen other digitals, could you give us your impressions of how it stacks up to the LT150 DLP, Lt155 LCD and the G1000? This information would be incredibly valuable to us in the Digital Forum.


Also, if you could tell us what you liked about the AE-100 (besides just colors).


Thanks
 

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Jerome-

Thanks for taking the time to present your findings. It is helpful to read other reviews from someone who has experience with other projectors. I bought a AE100 and was very impressed with its performance relative to its price point but agree that it does not compare well to other projectors.

Lenny Eckian
 

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Outstanding! This is the most honest, objective, forthright and well-spoken post concerning the AE100 I've seen to date! Thank you Jerome. :)


Ken


PS It looks like you didn't set the anonymous rights for your screenshot again. ;)
 

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Jerome,


A very thorough review and glad to see some honest dissenting opinions. But, stay away from my 75u ;)


Bottom line, I don't understand everyone's obsession with "proving" their projector is good or bad. Given all the external variables, even beyond sources and lighting control, such as psychological moods, visual accuity, dust particles in the air, whatever, it all boils down to a very personal experience. If it gives you an enjoyable movie watching experience, then it is a good projector. Who cares if the blacks aren't the blackest, or the reds are 1 degree off? If I'm watching a movie and paying attention to the degree of blacks, then I need to switch movies, because the one I'm watching sucks and doesn't have my attention.


For me, the $2200 75u is the next best thing since sliced bread. I demo'ed projectors including Runco's, Sharps, Yamahas, Marrantzs, Sony's, and to tell you the truth, except for some notable problems with rainbows, I would be happy with any of them. But my budget allowed for the 75u, and yet I'm still happy. It puts a nice big picture on the wall with great colors, decent blacks and minimal screen door. My regular guests will be my family and neighbors, not AVSForum members (although you're all invited), so I don't really care if the blacks are somewhat crushed, or if the reds are a tad bit off.


If I have to watch a movie and worry about those things, then I don't think I would ever be happy. Growing up and watching movies at the local cineplex was never about how good the film print was or how well the sound was. It was about enjoying the experience with friends and family. I think the 75u, or AE-100 or any number of budget projectors accomplishes that.


Does any of that make sense? Sorry for the disorganized rambling.
 

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Thank you for a well-thought out, honest review. I pretty much suspected such due to 16:9 wide-VGA LCD technology, but having not seen it in person can't say much about it. How did you find it compared to LT150 XGA DLP or LT155 XGA LCD with MLA?
 

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Well said Robert.


I can only speak for myself, of course, but my primary intention in all of my posts concerning the visual quality of the AE100 was (and is)to provide an objective view from my own personal experience, relative to the limited amount of Direct-View TVs and projectors I've viewed. I didn't intend try to prove my projector is better than anyone else's, but rather I tried to directly compare the unit with the Toshiba 65" RPTV that I also own.


After reading Jerome's post (and some of the replies), I've come to the realization that I *personally* haven't put any effort into providing any negative criticism for the AE100. So, I can absolutely understand how some may feel there's an overriding sense that everyone been saying this projector has no faults, when indeed, when compared to others, it does.


Heck, I have no loyalties to *any* projector. As I've said in other threads, the AE100 is an interim step towards the Next Generation DLPs that will be out in 8 months or so (or, maybe D-ILA). It just so happened that the "inexpensive" AE100 surpassed my expectations by a long shot. I can only image what the more capable machine will do in a year or so! :)


Ken
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Tryg
Jerome


Thanks for the review!
Tryg,


You're most welcome.

Quote:
I have 4 friends that have bought this projector and they so far are tickled about it. Yes, It's their entry into front projection and I'm sure they will upgrade in the future. But they all took my advice and bought the AE cause at $1400 it's kind of a no brainer and they are having a ball watching movies. It's all relative...
I don't think there is any question whatsoever about that. It is very much relative to one's perceptions and experiences. And I think that really is the gist of my comments about the Panasonic. First-time projector buyers will probably be very happy with it. And there is no reason they shouldn't be. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch and veterans who are experienced with higher end models will probably find the AE100 wanting.

Quote:
Your review is great, but comparing Digital to CRT to me seams a little futile. Since you have seen other digitals, could you give us your impressions of how it stacks up to the LT150 DLP, Lt155 LCD and the G1000? This information would be incredibly valuable to us in the Digital Forum.
Your point is well taken about comparing digitals to CRT. That is simply the framework from within which I evaluate since I regard the XG as a reference standard when I look at other projectors--digital or otherwise. I don't examine these machines from a point of fairness but instead from the angle of performance.


As for how the AE100 compares to other digitals that I have owned, that would be difficult for me to quantify since I no longer own any of those projectors and would merely have to draw from my recollections of how they performed. In a nutshell, the G1000 was the best digital that I have owned. I parted company with it out of frustration with using Dilard and the sensor that came with it. In retrospect I am half sorry that I sold it and am considering buying another one to send to William Phelps for calibration (perhaps a G11 if I can find one at a fair price). I haven't commited to it, since I have a lot to think about before going that route. The other problem I had with the G1000 was throw distance. I have a small 14 x 12 foot room so I could not fill my 80" wide screen with it. I don't know enough about what the ISCO and Panamorph can do. If you have some thoughts on this please send me a private message. The LT-150 was a nice unit that had respectable blacks, decent shadow detail, and pretty good colors. The rainbow was a deal killer for me so I sold it to a friend at my cost (it was a Dell deal purchase at $1,680). The LT-155 was also a nice projector but I could never get the color out of it quite right without wrecking the grayscale tracking. If I had to rate them then here it is in descending order:


1. JVC G1000 D-ILA

2. NEC LT-155

3. NEC LT-150 (rainbow knocks it down a spot)

4. Panasonic AE100


That does not mean the Panny is a bad machine--especially for the money.

Quote:
Also, if you could tell us what you liked about the AE-100 (besides just colors). Thanks
I think that color output really sums up nicely my positive feelings about the AE100. I know that might not sound too good. But think about it: colorimetry is a known weakness in so many digital projectors that this positive is nothing to sniff at. It accounts for a great deal.


--Jerome
 

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Jerome, perhaps you missed my comment amongst the sea of accolades, but it appears your screen shot hasn't been given anonymous rights again. :)


Ken
 

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Jerome,

I am appreciative of your efforts to try and arrive at some objective findings of a medium that is, by nature, so highly subjective.


I think you have accurately described some of the weaknesses of the AE-100. After viewing many different PJs, I found that many of them within the $2000.00 to $3500.00 category shared many of the same drawbacks that you observed. Which is why the AE-100, in my opinion, has so many folks enthusiastic about it: it provides basically the same video quality for less than $2000.00.


I would be interested in seeing your impressions of the 75U. I think it solves some of the problems you mentioned with the AE-100 --- like far less noticable screen door, as well as a bit better performance regarding contrast and shadow detail --- although not to the same level as your NEC.


I think a good lesson for folks to learn from your post is this: You've got to actually SEE the projector do its thing BEFORE you can decide if it will meet your expectations.


Again, my thanks for a very good evaluation.

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by kenfab
Jerome, perhaps you missed my comment amongst the sea of accolades, but it appears your screen shot hasn't been given anonymous rights again. :)


Ken
Hi Ken,


I tested the post and the image loads fine anonymously. You might want to flush the cached page from your browser and refresh it.


If anyone else has a problem loading the image send me a PM.


--Jerome
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by leckian
Jerome-

Thanks for taking the time to present your findings. It is helpful to read other reviews from someone who has experience with other projectors. I bought a AE100 and was very impressed with its performance relative to its price point but agree that it does not compare well to other projectors.

Lenny Eckian
Hi Lenny,


I agree with you. I would have no problem recommending the AE100 to someone for the reasons stated in my original post. For the $$ invested it could be a great first projector for someone with other constraints.


--Jerome
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Huey
How did you find it compared to LT150 XGA DLP or LT155 XGA LCD with MLA?
See my reply to Tryg a few posts north of here.


--Jerome
 

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The image doesn't load for me either, but I'm not terribly interested in seeing it. Just posting so Ken doesn't think he's bonkers ;)
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Ok Guys, I know why the images aren't loading. The DNS servers for my domain are down (hosted at a remote location). Try it now and let me know.


--Jerome
 

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"I have a small 14 x 12 foot room so I could not fill my 80" wide screen with it. I don't know enough about what the ISCO and Panamorph can do."


The ISCOII decreases throw ratio by 25%; with the pj in the same position, the image will be 1.33X wider.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Noah,


Thanks for the info on the ISCOII.


--Jerome
 
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