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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been lurking for a LONG time, but I decided to post a review and give something back!


I recently built a new home with a dedicated room for a home theater. Room dimensions are 19ft long, 14ft wide and 9ft ceilings. I have total light control, so ambient light is not a problem for me.


I picked up (or "rented" as some of you like to say ;) ) an Infocus X1 from circuit city over the holidays and built a DIY screen using blackout material from Joannes stretched and stapled to a black velveteen wrapped wooden frame.

Screen is 106" diagonal in 16:9 aspect ratio. In addition I painted the walls and ceiling a dark red brick color to cut down on light refelection.


Infocus X1 impressions

-----------------------------

I didn't have the adapters for the s-video or VGA connections, so I just ran everything through my receiver (Yamaha 2090) using a good quality s-video lead. I tested DVDs using my Kenwood Sovereign DVD player in 480i, Directv and Xbox. I calibrated the X1 using Avia.


WOW! This thing is good for the money. I've seen many PJs demoed in local stores (mainly >$5k DLPs) but never anything in the sub $1k price range. I'm impressed with the quality of the picture for the money.


I fired up Nemo and was floored by the vivid colors and the silky smooth picture. The DCDi worked very well with my interlaced signal and created a nice film looking picture.


Impressed by Nemo, I went on to test Pirates of the Caribbean. Once again the picture looked beautifully smooth, but I was a little underwhelmed by the brightness of the image. Even in my completely dark room I felt that the image lacked punch. I also noticed the dreaded rainbow effect for the first time as the picture shifted between dark and light areas in the frame. I didn't think it was terrible, and the film was still watchable, but obviously I would have preferred to not see it at all.


I tested several more DVDs including Spiderman, Pearl Harbor, Gladiator and Underworld. I enjoyed watching all these movies on the big screen but quickly came to the conclusion that I wanted more from my projector.


Viewing at a distance of 15-18ft the image looked good, but from my front row seat position of 13ft the pixel struture/screen door was very apparent.


I only watch widescreen material on the PJ, so a native widescreen PJ seemed like a better choice. The light spill was annoying after a few days.


Rainbows were mildly annoying, fan noise was a bit high, but the real killer was the low output (and yes I tried it with the white segment enabled as well). It just didn't seem bright enough to me.


That being said, I'm not trying to belittle the X1, far from it in fact. I think that it is an excellent PJ for the money and would recommend anyone interested to demo one at your earliest convenience. You will be impressed what this "entry level" PJ can do.


Next up, the Panasonic AE500u!


After much research here, on projector central, and any place else I could read about PJs I decided to take the plunge and order the AE500.


The reasons I chose this projector as an upgrade from the X1 are as follows:-


1. Native widescreen format (A MUST have for me after the X1)

2. Higher resolution (720x1280) HDTV is in my future!

3. Potentially brighter (even though the specs might suggest otherwise)

4. DVI port (more future proof)

5. LCD technology (no chance of rainbows)

6. Lower fan noise


I was influenced largely in part by Evan's excellent review of the Z2 Vs AE500 on Projector Central.


I got the AE500 and set it up using the same equipment and same s-video cable as before. I don't have a DVI or component cables yet, so all impressions are based on the s-video connection, (this is also fairer to the X1).


I fired up the PJ and immedeately noticed two things. The picture was brighter than the X1, BUT the image of my dvd player start screen looked terrible! I was like looking at it through a badly cleaned window full of streaks. Things weren't looking good!!!


Trying hard not to get discouraged I loaded up the Avia dvd and set the PJ to the low lamp level and the cinema 2 mode. I ran through all the calibrations and adjusted white level, black level, sharpness and color hue and saturation. Colors were a little off out of the box, but moving the tint control a couple of notches fixed that. I didn't change any of the gamma controls or the individual RGB brightness and contrast controls.


The on screen image was starting to look a lot better, so feeling a little better about things I moved on to look at one of my earlier reference movies, Pirates of the Caribbean. My heart sank as I immedeately saw VERY obvious VB across the entire screen. The fog looked like a multitude of picture segments all stuck together! I knew that the fog in Pirates was a challenging scene for LCD PJs and that if any VB was present then it would surely be seen in this movie.


My next test was Finding Nemo. This DVD had looked so great on the X1 that I was sure that I would have better results. I was wrong!!! As soon as the menu came up, before I had even started the movie, I could see very prominent VB in the blue sea. At this point I was getting ready to put the PJ back in it's box to return it to the dealer.


I went through all the menu options and adjustments and could do nothing to improve the PQ. I was getting desparate and was out of ideas, so I logged on to AVS and searched for anything I could find about tweaking the AE500. I read some posts about adjusting the flicker rate, but I didn't have the option on my menu and didn't know how to get to it. Of course I found the answer here (actually in reference to the 300u) and quickly ran back upstairs to fix my flicker.


Once I got into the service menu and found the flicker adjustments it was obvious that my PJ calibration off. The blue and green screens were very bad. I adjusted the flicker until I got the cleanest possible image for each color and then exited the service menu and prayed!!!


To my utter relief the picture now looked amazing! The VB was 99% gone. If I didn't know that it was there before, then I would not have seen it.


I quickly replayed the same Nemo and Pirates scenes which now looked as they should. All was well with the world again and I was a happy camper!


My next test was an old favorite, Armaggedon - Criterion Edition. I sat down to watch the opening scene and was floored once again by the crisp bright picture. The detail was incredible and at last I felt that I was looking at a picture that I could love. I sat there watching the movie, and I didn't stop watching it until the movie ended some 2+ hours later.


WOW!!!! What an experience. I was grinning the whole way through the movie. For the first time in my home I watched a movie without being distracted by VB, rainbows, fan noise or any of the myriad of other little annoyances. I SAW the movie, I forgot about the PJ.


Now I knew that this PJ was for me. If I could forget about it, then I knew it must be working well.


So here are my impressions of the AE500 after fixing the VB:-


Resolution is a big improvement over the X1 (as expected) and screendoor is non existent (unless you sit a few feet from the screen). Pixel structure is visible before screen door.


Native widescreen is great! If you mainly watch 16:9 material the do yourself a favor and go for a native widescreen chip.


Fan noise in low lamp mode is much quieter than the X1. I had the PJ on a rack a couple of feet from me and I could barely hear it. High lamp mode is more comarable to the X1 and I wouldn't recommend it. The contrast in low lamp mode is exceptional for an LCD.


Scaling of 480i is very good. I didn't compare it to a progressive signal since I didn't have the necessary cables, but it compared favorably to the X1 and its DCDi.


AE500 picture is razor sharp! My wife was looking at the picture today and commented that it looked sharp to her even without her glasses on!

I have the softness set to the lowest setting and fully focused. The X1 PQ in comparison was smoother, and maybe a little muddier. If you prefer a softer picture then a slight de-focus of the AE500 would help.


Black level is good and contrast seems better than the X1. The calibrated image is also a lot brighter than the X1 and this helps with the contrast.

On a completely black screen (e.g. when Nemo is looking for the mask) the screen looks dark gray instead of black, but during normal viewing the blacks are more than acceptable. A high contrast gray type screen would probably work very well with this PJ.


No rainbows! I didn't think the rainbows were a big deal on the X1, but after watching a few movies on the AE500 I can tell you that it is a much more pleasurable experience. The X1 left me feeling fatigued, the AE500 leaves me wanting MORE!


In summary I think that this is a great projector for the money, and certainly a big step up from the X1. It should be, it costs twice as much!


At this point some of you may be thinking, well that was obvious with their price differential these projectors shouldn't even be compared! I wanted to let other people out there know how the AE500 stacked up against the X1 and let you know what you got for your extra greenbacks. Was the AE500 worth double the X1, for me it is a resounding YES! The X1 is a great product for the money, but the AE500 truly takes it to the next level!!!


I hope this helps answer some questions for the other lurkers out there who are still on the fence and having trouble deciding which PJ to buy and how much to spend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
For what it's worth here are some screen shots.


I took these using a tripod and my Canon A80 (4MP) in manual mode.

ISO 200, shutter speed 1/20 second, F4.0.


The pictures are the best representation that I could get of what I am seeing on the screen. In reality the on screen picture looks better!


Here's a familiar one from Nemo to start :-
 

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I almost placed order for AE500 but changed my mind the last minute. I think I'll wait for 4805. The main reason is not just only the VB problem but the horzontal scanlines that annoy me during the AE500's demo.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My picture looks superb now that I have tweaked the flicker. Without this adjustment the VB was horrible.


It concerns me that the PJs are coming out of the factory this way and that they don't tell you how to fix it in the user manual.


This is a great PJ once it's been set up correctly, and is a big step up from the X1.


The 4805 should be an interesting PJ with it's native widescreen chip and faster color wheel. I hope that they make it brighter and tone down that fan a bit though!
 

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I'm so happy to hear the flicker setting improved the image.

I also upgraded from an X1 and I was a little disappointed with the PQ out of the box, but I have yet to tweak any of the settings.

This is with Svideo and watching something such as Nemo.

HDTV sure is amazing though!

I'm off to search how to get to the flicker menu.. ;)
 

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Wow, after that post I am almost convinced into spending less on a projector and instead of getting a HD2 getting a AE500/Z2/HS20 and spending the difference on more Audio gear. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
groovadelic- Go to the OSD option on the menu and press and hold the select button for about 3-5 seconds. The service menu will then come up.


Sorry, I meant to put that in the original post (because I had to search for it too!), but it was late last night! ;)
 

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Da*n! Pic from background is the cleanest i seen yet on 500. The background is virtually free from any fainted bands. At least not from my monitor.

Can we have a few shots on floggy / blue sky backgroud?? Please

Thanks
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by rushforth
My picture looks superb now that I have tweaked the flicker. Without this adjustment the VB was horrible.


It concerns me that the PJs are coming out of the factory this way and that they don't tell you how to fix it in the user manual.


This is a great PJ once it's been set up correctly, and is a big step up from the X1.


The 4805 should be an interesting PJ with it's native widescreen chip and faster color wheel. I hope that they make it brighter and tone down that fan a bit though!
I agree. Out of the box, a PJ should have these settings correct from the factory. I wonder what the industry average, for the percentage of PJ returns attributed to poor settings from the factory, is?


The cost for an entry level PJ purchased by an average consumer shouldn't have to involve engaging the factory service menu. But then again, most of us are hardcore and would not learn a thing without tweaking.

:p


sidenote: my tax refund better be quick or else

I might change my mind on a PJ again and again and again, lol.


X1-->AE500--> ?? --> cycle continues sigh.
 

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Surely the engineers at Panasonic are aware that this 'tweak' would sell this projector in far greater numbers given the success of this review, post tweak.

I'd like to know why this isn't done at the factory and what possible harm this tweak might be causing, now and perhaps in the future. Are we not going down roads which we shouldn't be when going into the service menu and might it not void the warranty if one were truly honest?

Can anyone say that they know for certain the relationship to other service menu parameters that a tweak like this might harm? The immediate improvement in the picture might be offset by something unknown down the road.
 

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You guy's are making this difficult!;) If I could find one locally or get one shipped C.O.D. I'd be all over it.
 

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Guys, the flicker issue really can't be fixed out of the box. You need some time on the machine to let everything warm up, and you will need to readjust it over the life of the projector. I know at 90 hours on my bulb I went in the other day and tweaked it again. It's just something you have to do. Also, make sure you don't do it until the projector has been on at least 1/2 hour or so.


-MP
 

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I was going through the threads for the last month or so, to get info on Panny's ae500. I came across a thread which talked about color distortions on the ae300 after about 300 hours of use. Has anyone had their 500 long enough to see if this problem is still there? Thanks

johnf
 

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Nice to know there are solutions to the vertical banding. I'm amazed that the internal line doubler is as good as you say it is. What is the line doubler for the Panny anyways?
 
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