As you can see, the average brightness increase between our samples is more like 35% rather than 20%. Some of this may be due to manufacturing variances in the individual samples, so the testing of two random samples cannot be used to make comparative statements about the product lines in general. Suffice it to say we are seeing more than the 20% increase claimed by Panasonic in all operating modes. This makes it possible to use the AE8000 on larger screens, but it also makes a significant and valuable difference in 3D.
Last year's AE7000 did not quite have the brightness required to make a compelling 3D image at large screen sizes. 3D light output has received a 25% boost on a pure white signal, but in actual use the difference appears more substantial than that. We are eager to see how the AE8000 stacks up to this year's crop of 1080p 3D projectors, as we expect it will fare better than the AE7000 did.
If the AE8000 produces too much light for your screen, you can either engage Eco lamp mode, which reduces brightness by 35%, or you can use more of the projector's zoom range. Going from the wide angle to telephoto end of the 2.0:1 zoom lens causes a 39% reduction in light output. With a projector like the AE8000, many people will opt for the super-simple rear shelf mount and then zoom the projector to their screen. Even doing this, there will likely be lumens to spare.
Contrast. Dynamic range has been improved on the AE8000. The projector reveals quite a bit of detail in shadows that was not previously visible without causing those shadows to look too light. And despite a sizable increase in light output, the AE8000's black level is still rock-solid.
Color. The AE8000's Rec. 709 mode nails the specification almost perfectly, while Cinema 1 mode is more or less Rec. 709 that has been tailored to fit how humans see color in large images. As you may know, color perception is less black-and-white than other aspects of human vision (pun fully intended), so Panasonic has attempted to adjust for how the eye perceives color on large screens as opposed to smaller televisions. In other words, while Rec. 709 might look perfectly correct on a television or monitor, it can look a bit flat on the big screen -- and that's what Cinema 1 is for.
Cinema 2 factory default settings produce a very different picture than Cinema 1. It is almost twice as bright and has less green in it. With a little bit of tweaking, Cinema 2 makes a beautiful bright picture that many users may prefer.
Normal mode is a staple of Panasonic home theater projectors, combining higher light output than the Cinema modes with decent color balance to make a pleasing "living room" picture, thereby allowing the projector to multitask when required. Normal mode does not have the typical washed-out colors, gray blacks, and green push found in the maximum light output dynamic modes of this and other projectors.
Sharpness and clarity. The AE8000's Detail Clarity Processor has had an upgrade, and the difference is visible. Fine details in hair and foliage -- really small details, in other words -- are easier to see on the AE8000 than they are on the AE7000 when viewed side by side.
Frame Interpolation. The AE8000 uses the same frame interpolation system as the AE7000. At the moment, the AE7000's FI system is still the best available. That might change as new projectors come to market, but suffice to say that the AE8000 has a clean, smooth frame interpolation system with comparatively little lag and very few artifacts.
Input Lag. The AE8000 has slightly less input lag than its predecessor. On the AE7000, Game mode measured 41 milliseconds of delay, whereas Game mode on the AE8000 is improved to 34 milliseconds. That improvement works out to half a frame at 60 frames per second. It's not quite as fast as Panasonic's AR100U, which at 25 milliseconds is their fastest projector for gaming.
As it turns out, Frame Creation does not have much of an effect on input lag in the AE8000's Cinema or Rec. 709 modes. With Frame Creation set to Mode 1, Mode 2, or Off, Cinema 1 mode measured 67 milliseconds of delay -- the setting made no difference. Mode 3 did increase delay slightly to 73 milliseconds. So if you are going to be playing games on the AE8000 and are concerned at all about input lag, stick with Game mode.
Fan noise. Despite its high brightness, the AE8000 is quiet during operation. In Normal lamp mode, which is the highest-power setting, fan noise is a low pitched whisper is only audible at distances closer than about five feet. Meanwhile, in Eco lamp mode the fan is barely audible at all.
4000/5000 hour Lamp life. The AE8000's lamp's life of 4,000 hours in Normal and 5,000 hours in Eco mode is state of the art and competitive with many competing home theater projectors. We know people are hoping for longer life LED-based projectors, but unfortunately, LED technology cannot yet generate the lumen power of high pressure lamps for anywhere near the price. Replacement lamps for the AE8000 have an MSRP of $379.
Two-year Warranty. The Panasonic projector warranty used to cover one year, plus an additional year if the purchaser filled out and sent in a warranty card. Since then, they have changed it to two years, standard, with no mail-in requirement. While the change went into effect in February, the AE8000 is the first home theater projector to launch with the new warranty coverage in place.
|Review Contents:||The Viewing Experience||Key Improvements||Performance||Limitations|