Panasonic PT-AE900U vs. Sanyo PLV-Z4

Evan Powell, October 14, 2005
Contents
Backgrounder

The single most influential competitive duel in the home theater projector market is the annual face-off between Panasonic and Sanyo in their respective offerings of LCD-based 16:9 widescreen projectors aimed at the mass consumer market. In the last few years Panasonic as debuted (in chronological order) the PT-AE300, the PT-AE500, the PT-AE700, and now the PT-AE900, while Sanyo has responded in kind with the PLV-Z1, the PLV-Z2, the PLV-Z3, and their latest offering, the PLV-Z4. Each year they get better and better, but this year the leap forward in price/performance is likely to rock the industry in a way we have not yet seen.

The annual battle of the LCD products between Panasonic and Sanyo has had a significant impact on the otherwise DLP-dominated home theater projector market. The presence of competitive 720p resolution LCD projectors in the street price range of about $2,000 has forced the prices of the more expensive DLP-based 720p projectors to erode more rapidly than they otherwise would have. Furthermore, with each new release of the latest LCD models, the earlier models drop in price. Since consumers can often find last year's 720p models selling at street prices under $1500, this has forced the price of the lower resolution 480p DLP products down to street prices of $1,000 and less. The bottom line is that without the aggressive annual face-off between Sanyo and Panasonic taking place in the sweet-spot of the consumer home theater market, projector prices across the board at every level of performance would have been higher than they are today.

In last year's competition, the Panasonic AE700 became the most successful of the 720p LCD projectors yet released by either Panasonic or Sanyo. The AE700 captured a much greater market share than did the Sanyo Z3 for several reasons, including Panasonic's innovative move to incorporate a 2.0x zoom lens in the AE700, which made the product more adaptable to a wider variety of installations. It also featured improved "smooth screen" technology that reduced visible pixilation and largely eliminated the traditional screendoor effect that has always been a downside to LCD technology. Consumers loved the AE700's compelling combination of features and went for it in droves.

Evidently, someone at Sanyo said, "enough is enough." For Sanyo's brilliant response this year in the form of the PLV-Z4 constitutes a clear message that Sanyo will not concede long term market share in the consumer home theater market to Panasonic, or anyone else for that matter. The PLV-Z4 is Sanyo's strongest home theater product by far. The big question is--how do these two formidable products compare?

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