Other Key Features
On-board panel alignment system: The 5030UB has on-board panel alignment and the AE8000 does not. This is a key feature advantage for the 5030UB. Over time any three-chip projector can drift out of convergence. If or when this happens, the 5030UB gives you the ability to realign the panels, whereas the AE8000 needs to be sent in for adjustment. The AE8000 has many extra features that most home theater projectors do not have, but the omission of on-board panel alignment capability is something we hope Panasonic will rectify in their next generation product.
Warranties: Epson and Panasonic both offer two-year warranties on these projectors, but Epson's is clearly the more comprehensive and service-oriented of the two. Panasonic has a 2000-hour limit, so the warranty is really two-years or 2000 hours, whichever comes first. If you plan to use your projector more than 3 hours a day, this limit comes into play.
Epson also pays for shipping both ways when the unit needs to go to the shop, and a replacement projector is provided while your unit is being serviced. Panasonic's warranty offers neither of these things.
Fan noise: You may have noticed a difference in the dB specs on these two models--the AE8000 is rated at 22dB and the 5030UB at 32 dB. There is indeed an audible difference when both projectors are run in full power lamp mode. The 5030UB simply produces more fan noise, so the specs are not misleading in this regard. When set to eco- or low-power mode neither projector produces any noticeable fan noise. And in full power, though the AE8000 is quieter, the 5030UB is not objectionably loud since it produces a rather low-pitch whirring that is not normally distracting. However, you may become aware of the fan noise on the 5030UB during quiet interludes in a movie, whereas you won't with the AE8000.
Connectivity: The AE8000 has three HDMI inputs along with one 15-pin D-sub, one RS232, one 3-RCA component, one S-video, one composite, and two 12-volt triggers. The 5030UB has fewer connections--only two HDMI ports, no S-video, and only one 12-volt trigger. We don't miss the S-video, but some users with more elaborate theater set-ups may appreciate the third HDMI port and second trigger on the AE8000.
Wireless options: Epson offers the 5030UB in a wireless enabled configuration designated as the 5030UBe, which costs $300 more. If you want to go wireless on either the 5030UB or the AE8000, you can acquire one of several third party wireless 1080p video transmission products generally priced under $300. However, if you know up front that you want wireless on your 5030UB, it is a matter of convenience to order it in the 5030UBe version.
B/W Cinema Mode: Epson introduced a B/W Cinema mode this year, which is calibrated to a warmer than standard color temperature of about 5500K. This is an excellent reminder for anyone who views older classic B/W films. They simply look a lot better when viewed at a warmer temperature. Beyond that, the warmer temperature that Epson calibrated into this mode approximates how B/W movies actually looked in theaters back in the day. Viewing Casablanca at 5500K, you're seeing it as audiences in theaters are thought to have experienced it in 1942. Epson's B/W Cinema mode lets you dial that in without having to think about it. You can achieve the same effect on the AE8000 by moving the color temperature control to the warm end of the scale, but you're just feeling your way along as to what might be the right setting. And since there is no B/W setting on the AE8000, there is no reminder that this is something you might want to think about anyway. We applaud whoever came up with this idea.
Auto-shutdown/sleep modes: If you fall asleep during a movie, the 5030UB will shut itself down either 5, 10, or 30 minutes (your choice) after it last senses a signal. The AE8000 has a sleep mode too, but your choices are a minimum of 60 minutes, with 30 minute increments up to four hours. Why anyone would want their projector to continue projecting a blue screen for anywhere between one and four hours after the signal stops is a mystery to us, but somebody might view that as an advantage. On the other hand, if you want your projector to burn all night long to keep the room warm, both the 5030UB and the AE8000 give you the option to turn the sleep modes off altogether.
Case color: If none of the differences enumerated in this extensive comparison has tipped you one way or the other, consider that the AE8000 is black, and the 5030UB is mostly white with a black faceplate. If you want a black version of the 5030UB, you may upgrade to the 6030UB, which comes only in black. If you happened to be installing your projector on a white ceiling, the 5030UB will end up blending in and looking less obvious. It might look almost invisible were it not for the black faceplate.