1080p Home Entertainment Projector
November 1, 2011
Picture Quality. The AR100U produces a bright, beautiful 1080p picture. Contrast is solid and the AR100U is competitive with other projectors in its price range as far as dynamic range is concerned. Our test sample's default color calibration in Cinema 1 averaged 6400K. Detail is crystal-clear and razor-sharp, especially when the projector is given good source material such as The Dark Knight on Blu-ray, one of my personal favorites. The IMAX scenes in that movie are just overflowing with fine detail, but the AR100U did a good job of putting it all on the screen.
Placement flexibility. The AR100U has a 2.0:1 manual zoom lens, plus manual lens shift. The lens shift uses the same joystick controller found on the AE7000, complete with the same protective cover to keep it from getting jostled when not in use. With the lens shift, you can place the bottom edge of the image 15% of the image's height above or below the centerline of the lens, which makes both ceiling mounting and coffee table mounting a possibility. Of course, using the center position of the shift also allows for a rear shelf mount. The horizontal shift can move the image 25% of the image width in either direction, which allows for some creative installations should something prevent you from placing the projector on-axis with the screen. When planning your installation, think of the lens shift range like an oval, rather than a rectangle; you cannot reach the extreme horizontal and extreme vertical ends of the shift range simultaneously.
Light harmonizer. The AR100U has one more trick up its sleeve when it comes to ambient light performance. The Light Harmonizer, a feature first seen on Panasonic's AX100U from way back in 2006. There have been some significant improvements since then. In the presence of ambient light, the AR100U will use built-in sensors to determine light level and color, then apply color and gamut changes to maximize contrast and color performance automatically. This is a big help if you're bringing the AR100U out into the living room and don't want to spend time recalibrating it. Testing this feature in a typical living room revealed that it works as advertised, and its performance is several steps above that of previous versions.
Other features. The AR100U wouldn't be a Panasonic projector without some extra goodies. Included are Panasonic's Waveform Monitor, which is a tool to assist in calibration, as well as their split-screen adjust feature which allows you to preview calibration changes before committing them to memory. Their Motion Effect system helps to smooth out fast scenes, though it is not as comprehensive as a frame interpolation system. Rather than adding interstitial frames, Motion Effect detects moving objects and applies the projector's Detail Clarity processing to these objects. The effect is a subtle improvement in clarity.