Product Review (September 2008) - Panasonic
PT-AE2000U 1080p HD LCD Projector

By Kevin Nakano

The performance and price of the new line of LCD projectors have made the large screen cinematic experience available to anyone with the appropriate room size. Panasonic has long backed LCD technology and their latest PT-AE2000U 1080p projector is an example of just how good the technology has become. The PT-AE2000U creates some of the most impressive pictures we have seen in our theater room with feature unheard of just a few years ago. The new PT-AE2000U incorporates Panasonic’s Smooth Screen technology which greatly reduces the black lines between pixels (known as the screen door effect) that can diminish overall picture brightness. The optics include 16 Lens elements in 12 groups to produce clear images, free of distortion and color bleeding. The Dynamic Iris has also been improved allowing finer gradations and achieving deeper blacks and brighter whites. The 2.00:1 powered zoom/focus lens, with the manual horizontal and vertical lens shift, makes it easy to set up. The Pure Color Filter Pro expands the color gamut to approximately match the level specified by the digital cinema industry known as SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) DC28 Digital Cinema committees.

As with all projection systems, room lighting control is essential for optimal picture quality. Any ambient light hitting the screen will likely affect picture quality. The PT-AE2000U incorporates next-generation LCD panels (C2Fine D7TM), which utilize inorganic alignment layers and vertically aligned liquid crystals for enhanced black level performance. Panasonic claims 1,500 lumens of brightness with a contrast ratio of 16,000:1. The PT-AE2000U has an industrial look with its dark gray exterior and squared-off edges.

Detail Clarity Processor
The PT-AE2000U includes a powerful new digital image processing circuit, called the Detail Clarity Processor. This video processor analyzes the frequency of the video signal in each scene and extracts information based on the distribution of the high, medium, and low-frequency image components. It then applies appropriate sharpness to each portion of the image based on the extracted frequency domain information. The result is greater clarity and sharpness, by reproducing fine nuances that were lost due to image compression. Panasonic says the resulting images have a more natural, lifelike expression than those of previous image-processing methods. The PT-AE2000U handles up to 16-bit digital image processing, which provides four times the gradation capability of the previous model. The end result is a picture that faithfully reproduces even subtle hues and brightness variations to bring out extremely fine image texture and depth. The color space has been extended to better match the approximate level specified in the digital cinema industry.

Lens Shift
The manual lens shift on the PT-AE2000U is very flexible and allows for a near perfect geometric image on the screen. The alternative is usually using keystone correction. However, we always avoid using any keystone adjustments to prevent image artifacts due to the processing required. Lens shifting is the best way to achieve an optimal picture from non-ideal mounting locations. In our installation, we some have vertical flexibility, but are limited horizontally due to the stud placement on our back wall. The PT-AE2000U has both horizontal and vertical lens shifting allowing the picture to be offset up to ±100% vertically and up to ±40% horizontally.

The projector offers a lot of flexibility, producing a 100" image on the screen from a distance of about 10-feet to 20-feet. Our setup placed the projector about 12-feet from the screen. Even with the projector overhead, the fan noise was virtually inaudible. We could hear the noise level increase when changing modes from low power to normal, but was otherwise quiet.

The PT-AE2000U is a good sized projector measuring 18" W x 12.5" D x 5" H and weighing a modest 16 pounds. We inverted the projector and mounted it on the rear ceiling of our theater room using a Peerless PRG mounting system. We projected the image onto our reference 100" diagonal 16:9 Stewart FireHawk filmscreen. This screen has worked well for us and is capable of producing deep black levels with high performance projectors. We set the lamp power to low, which keeps the black level in check and reduces the fan noise. The powered zoom and focus allowed us to dial in the picture while standing right next to the screen with the remote.

The rear panel of the PT-AE2000U has a nice selection of interfaces including three HDMI inputs, two analog composite inputs, RGB/computer, s-video, and composite video. We found little use for the composite and s-video inputs since we use an outboard scaler (DVDO HD+) for these type of video signals. The composite and s-video inputs are fully compatible with NTSC, PAL or SECAM standards. The component video inputs (YPrPb) use the standard three RCA jacks. There's also an analog 15-pin D-sub connector. This input accepts many computer VESA and HD standards from a PC.

We connected a 20-meter Vizionware Hi-Wirez HDMI cable from our Sony PlayStation3 directly to the projector's HDMI 1 input. We ran multiple video sources (analog and digital) to our DVDO iScan HD+ scaler and then sent the video through a 25-meter Accell 1.3 HDMI cable to the HDMI 3 input on the PT-AE2000U.

The side of the unit has controls for operating the projector, particularly when it's sitting on a table top where the unit is easily accessible. Most users will opt to use the remote for convenience. Menu and navigation buttons are included along with focus and zoom controls. There is also an input select button that sequences through the video inputs. The side controls are limited, but gets the job done when not utilizing the IR remote.

The infrared remote supplied with the PT-AE2000U is a full size design that provides all the basic functionality needed to control the projector. The backlight works well and the buttons are spaced nicely apart making it easy to use. At first glance we were disappointed not to see dedicated input buttons for the projector, but soon found out that the three function buttons located just below the screen can be defined for any input. In addition, the dedicated Input button cycles through each of the inputs on the projector. The user can customize the names (3 characters) displayed on the LCD screen for each device. The Device button chooses the component to control whether it be a DVD player, VCR, receiver, or set-top box. The remote also has the ability to learn IR commands from any existing remote control using the built-in IR receiver. Standard controls for DVD players are also included along with channel up/down and volume +/- buttons. The backlit LCD screen is rather small, yet provides soft key names for the three buttons just below the display. Several dedicated buttons are provided for adjusting the picture and for setup purposes. Six macros can be programmed into the remote, each supporting up to 16 commands to control your home theater system from a single button push. Delay times can also be programmed in between each of the commands. The backlighting worked well in our dimly lit theater room.

Waveform Monitor
The PT-AE2000U comes with a built-in waveform monitor that resembles the test equipment used by professionals. The monitor lets the user tweak the picture on the screen while examining the input levels coming into the interface. The user can select the total luminance (Y) or any of the primary colors (red, green, or blue) to monitor on the screen. All video lines are shown to give the user a complete picture of the levels being received by the projector. The waveform monitor displays picture intensity as a function of time, so the image represent the picture on the screen with varying intensity. Black is the lower portion of the waveform and white represent the top of the waveform.

Similar to the all inclusive waveform monitor, an alternate waveform mode displays the intensity of a single line of video. Here the waveform represents the image intensity as it moves from the left to the right on the screen. A faint line on the screen represents the line being monitored. Like the full waveform monitors, the user can measure total luminance (Y) or any of the primary colors. These waveform tools can be used to verify that the source device is outputting at full dynamic range of the projector's input. This is a great feature that has never been seen in any product that we have reviewed.

Split Screen
The PT-AE2000U also has a Split Screen Adjust mode that allows the users to split the screen into two and compare the changes to a baseline picture. To use this feature, the user needs to freeze the frame and enable the Split Screen mode. A marker covers the "area of interest" to be adjusted. The user can adjust color temperature, color saturation, brightness, contrast, or gamma and see the original next the the image with the applied changes. Humans are not so good at absolute changes, but are very sensitive to comparing slight changes when looking at a reference. One can clearly see if the adjusted picture looks better than the reference image. This reminds me of the optical comparator that was used by the Imaging Science Foundation to set the color temperature of the picture without using a measuring device. The calibrator would try and match the color temperature using a 6500° K reference.

Menu Control
The PT-AE2000U has a comprehensive and easy to use menu system. Each group of settings is saved differently for each of the inputs. The Picture menu has all the options for adjusting the picture quality. Standard controls for Contrast, Brightness, Color, Tint, Sharpness, Color Temperature, and Picture Mode are available. The Dynamic Iris control can also be turned on or off. The Waveform Monitor and Split Adjust menus aid the user in setting up the projector as mentioned earlier. The Advanced menu allows the user to adjust the video setting for optimal picture quality. Up to eighteen personalized settings with customized names can be saved, loaded, or edited.

Color Tracking
We set the projector mode to Color1 and adjusted the color temperature to the middle setting before we started taking measurements. We began with the 15-pin D-sub (RGB) input and calibrated the projector using our Sencore VP300 video generator. Using 1080i video in the RGB/HV mode, we set the black level and verified the stair step levels on the screen to ensure we had properly adjusted the display. Using our Sencore CP5000 All-Display Color Analyzer, we measured the color temperature in 10 IRE increments starting with 20 IRE. The desired 6500 °K setting was very accurate and deviated no more than ±300 °K across all measured IRE levels. The Advanced Menu options allow the user to adjust RGB contrast (high IRE) and brightness (low IRE) as well as high, mid and low gamma. The pre-calibration levels were very good for such an inexpensive projector.

Contrast ratio (Full On / Full Off) was measured to be 2800:1 (11.20/0.004) in the calibrated mode using the Color1 setting. This increase slightly when going to the Normal and Dynamic mode at the cost of color accuracy and black levels.

Display Primaries
Color primaries were measured using our GretagMacbeth Eye-One Pro Spectrophotometer along with the ColorFacts PRO System from Data Color. Measurements were taken directly from our 100" Stewart FireHawk filmscreen. We used the HDMI 3 input connected to our Gefen 1080p Video Generator. The generator allows us to easily select the full screen primary and secondary colors with a push of a button. The CIE chart shows where the ideal primary and secondaries are located with the smaller three diamond shaped points making the darker triangle. The measured primary and secondary colors have the red, green and blue markers connected together with the white triangle. The primary colors produced by the PT-AE2000U were quite accurate, just barely missing the ideal marks with blue and red. However, we found the projector produced accurate flesh tones without looking over-saturated. In addition, color gradations were smooth and free of banding artifacts often seen with earlier projectors. This is certainly one of the better projectors we have seen in the past few months and is reflective of the latest designs improvements such as the 16-bit video processing.

Picture Mode Maximum Light Output (foot-Lamberts)
Cinema 1 10.98
Cinema 2 10.63
Cinema 3 10.34
Color 1 11.20
Normal 21.20
Dynamic 31.00

Light Output
The PT-AE2000U has the ability to produce substantial light output and is rated at 1500 Lumens. However, the most accurate picture was found when using the Color 1 mode where the light output was reduced to produce an accurate picture. In addition, the lamp was set to low to help produce deeper black levels. If brighter light levels are desired, the user can set the lamp mode to normal and change the picture mode to Normal or Dynamic, which substantially increases the light output at the cost of color accuracy. These modes work well in some situations where ambient light is negatively affecting the picture quality.

The PT-AE2000U provides support for an anamorphic lens with the ability to stretch the image vertically for 2.35:1 movies. This fills the picture without black bars on the top and bottom of the picture. The advantage is the image uses the full picture, maximizing the light output of the projector. Once the anamorphic lens is attached, the 2:35 image is created.

We had both HD-DVD as well as Blu-ray for reference high-definition source material. Picture quality on the PT-AE2000U is absolutely stunning with superb detail and excellent contrast. The PT-AE2000U exhibits virtually no pixel structure thanks to the SmoothScreen filter. No other projector that we have seen looks this smooth while still preserving extreme clarity in the picture. Black levels were great and with the image projected onto our 100-inch Stewart FireHawk, the experience was engaging. Our PlayStation 3 provide the video source for Blu-ray material. We ran the video directly to the projector using a Vizionware Hi-Wirez 20-meter HDMI cable. The timely arrival of Alvin and the Chipmunks and other Blu-ray movies provided us with some great source material for this projector review. On a 100" screen it is much easier to see flaws in the picture. Surprisingly, there were few and the picture was outstanding with smooth gradations across varying brightness levels.

We did little testing with 480i material using the built-in deinterlacer and scaler. However, some sample 480i material from our HQV and Faroudja test patterns exhibited some motion artifacts. The high-definition source material we sampled did not exhibit any of these problems since little processing was required.

The Panasonic PT-AE2000U is an amazing product especially given its price (Street $2700) and should be considered if you are looking for a 1080p LCD projector. The powered zoom and focus on this projector make it easy to adjust the picture using the remote while standing right at the screen. While the vertical and horizontal lens shift controls are manual, they are easy to use to get the picture just right. The PT-AE2000U's is virtually free of pixel structure exhibiting very little screen-door effect in the picture. This is one of the best projectors currently available with a price that makes it very affordable. Pushing the screen size beyond 100-inches will likely affect the picture brightness in a negative way. The PT-AE2000U clearly makes the short list and based on the performance of this projector, it's tough to find many competitors in its price range.

- Kevin Nakano

OPPO BDP-103 Blu-ray Player

Review System

Screen: Stewart Filmscreen 100" FireHawk Screen on a Luxus Deluxe ScreenWall
Video Processor/Scaler: Anchor Bay Technologies DVDO iScan HD+ A/V Processor
Preamplifier/Processor: Parasound AVC-2500U THX-Ultra DTS/DD Preamp/Processor
Amplification: Parasound HCA-2205AT THX-Ultra Five Channel Amplifier
Bass Management: Miller & Kreisel BMC Mini 5.1 Bass Management Controller
Front Speakers: Miller & Kreisel S-150THX (L+R) and S-150AC (Center) Speakers
Rear Speakers: Miller & Kreisel SS-250 Tripole® Surround Speakers
Subwoofer: Two Miller & Kreisel MX-350THX MkII THX-Ultra Push-pull Subwoofers
Room Treatments: Echo Buster panels and Bass Buster towers
Set-top Box: Dish Network ViP622 HDTV Satellite and Terrestrial Receiver with HDMI
HD-DVD Player: Toshiba HD-A1 HD-DVD Player with HDMI
DVD/CD/SACD Player: Sony DVP-NS900V DVD/CD/SACD Player
DVD Audio/Video Player: Kenwood Sovereign DV-5900M 400-Disc DVD Changer
DVD Player: OPPO Digital OPDV971H DVD Player with DVI Output
D-VHS VCR: JVC HM-DH30000U D-VHS High-Definition D-Theater VCR
Media Server: Kenwood Sovereign MRH1 Entre
Remote Control: Remote Technologies Inc. T3-V Controller
HDMI Video Switcher: Radiient Technologies Select-4 HDMI Video Switcher
HDMI Cable: VizionWare Hi-Wirez 20-meter Active 1080p Cable
HDMI Cable: Accell UltraRun 1.3 25-meter 1080p Cable
A/V Cables: Ultralink Platinum and Advanced Performance Series Cables

Review - At a Glance

Panasonic - PT-AE2000U High-Definition 1080p LCD Projector

Panel Size 0.74" Diagonal 16:9 Active Matrix LCD Panel
Pixel Resolution 1920x1080 (2,073,600 pixels)
Powered Zoom/Focus, F 1.9-3.2, f 22.4-44.8mm
Lamp 160W UHM™ lamp
Brightness 1500 lumens
Contrast Ratio 16,000:1 (full on/full off, AI mode activated)
Fan Noise 27dB (low power mode)
Installation Ceiling/desk, front/rear (menu selection)
Keystone Correction Vertical: ±30° (approx.)
Video Signal Support NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL, PAL-M, PAL-N, PAL60, SECAM
HDTV Compatibility 480i/480p/576i/576p/720p/1080i/1080p
Power supply100–240 V AC, 50/60 Hz
Dimensions (W x H x D) 18-1/8'' x 5-1/8'' x 11-25/32''
Operating Environment 0° C - 40° C (32° F - 104° F)
Humidity: 20%-80% (no condensation)
Operating humidity 30% to 85%
Weight 15.9 lbs (7.2 kg)

Composite Video In 1 (RCA)
S-Video In 1 (4-pin mini DIN)
Component In 2 (3 x RCA)
Computer In 1 (RGB D-Sub 15)
Serial 1 (D-sub, 9-pin)

Optional Accessories
Replacement Lamp ET-LAE1000
Ceiling Mount (High) ET-PKE2000
Ceiling Mount (Low) ET-PKE1000S
Cable Cover ET-PCE2000

Company Information
Panasonic Consumer Electronics Company
Division of Matsushita Electric Corporation
One Panasonic Way
Secaucus, New Jersey
Phone: 800-211-7262

Source: Manufacture loan
Model Number: PT-AE2000U
MSRP: $2,500


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