3D Home Theater Projector Review
September 4, 2012
Almost every year, Panasonic comes out with a new home theater projector, and each time it incorporates several significant improvements to the previous year's model. Last year's AE7000 was a groundbreaking home theater projector that, in addition to being the world's first LCD projector capable of full 1080p 3D, also raised the bar on what one should expect from 3D home cinema.
Now Panasonic has introduced the PT-AE8000. The AE8000 is not as outwardly different from its predecessor as was the AE7000 from its own, but outward appearances mean very little. The AE8000 has significant improvements in all areas of picture quality, from brightness (both in 2D and 3D) to contrast (both in dynamic range and shadow detail) to color accuracy and the clarity of detail. Any one of these improvements can seem rather small, but taken in sum they constitute a major upgrade that will interest both videophiles and more casual users.
Update September 12: We have received further information from Panasonic regarding the price of the AE8000 and its replacement lamps. We have also been told that Panasonic will offer consumers two free pairs of 3D glasses with the purchase of a Panasonic AE8000.
The Viewing Experience
The AE-8000 is Panasonic's newest home theater projector, offering several improvements over the AE-7000 that will be of particular benefit in a dark room home theater environment.
We set up our AE8000 on a rear shelf above and slightly behind our seating area. The projector has manual H/V lens shift with a joystick-style adjustment mechanism. This system allows for a total shift range of three image heights by 1.5 image widths. In other words, you can move the picture one full image height either up or down from the central position, or a quarter of the image width in either direction. As always, the shape of the lens shift range is an oval, not a rectangle, so one cannot reach full horizontal and vertical shift simultaneously.
The AE8000 has received a brightness boost over its predecessor of 20% on paper, from 2000 to 2400 lumens. However, our actual measured increase is more than the specs indicate. The AE7000's Cinema 1 mode measured 529 lumens on our test sample, whereas the new AE8000 cranks out 822 lumens in that same mode, which is more like a 50% increase. That's enough light to power a 140" diagonal 1.3 gain 16:9 screen at 18 foot Lamberts.
Our AE8000 was set up for a 100" diagonal image on a Stewart Studiotek 100, a 1.0 gain screen, using Cinema 1 in low lamp mode with the lens at its widest angle setting. That produced 534 lumens, or 18 fL, and still left plenty of room to increase brightness when it came time for 3D. (Btw, Stewart doesn't recommend the neutral Studiotek 100 for home theater; the Studiotek 130 (1.3 gain), is usually preferred for home theater installations.)
Viewed by itself, the AE8000 is a stunning projector. However, viewing the AE8000 next to the AE7000 is when things start to get interesting. There's a clear increase in contrast, especially in low-illumination areas; shadow detail is better defined on the AE8000. The brightness difference is readily apparent to the naked eye. Detail appears more clear and sharp, though there is no sign of anything resembling an edge enhancement artifact. In 2D, these improvements combine to give the AE8000's picture a touch of refined elegance as compared to the AE7000, a quality that will be appreciated by dedicated videophiles. In 3D, a substantial improvement in brightness and stability may have specific appeal to those who view a lot of 3D material.