Opinion of goblue96 - Feb 14, 2005
I've had the projector for almost a month now, and I thought I'd post a review seeing as so many of the other ones on this site were so helpful during my unending search for a quality, cost effective product.
Like some of the other people out there, I'm not an AV purist, so please take the following observations with a grain of salt:
My Home Theater Environment: finished basement, with one section (roughly 13' by 13') dedicated to av stuff. Individual stereo components, powered by a Technics DTS digital receiver. DVD movies play through a Sony 5 disc progressive scan carousel, using 16:9 as the native format and dolby digital surround sound thru a toslink optical cable. Projector is "ceiling" mounted on a shelf I built, set up off the wood with some picture frame bump-ins. All the walls are a dark navy blue, with two small windows that have curtains in front to control ambient light. Screen is another of my creations, built from 2 x 2 pine, 8' wide x 4.5' tall. I bought a restaurant style white tablecloth and stretched it over the frame--cut tacks on the back side keep it nice and taught (no wrinkles) across the whole surface.
Image Quality: this is hard to gauge for someone who has been watching TV on a 27" RCA analog model for the past decade. So my "excellent" rating might be overstated, but I couldn't be happier with the pictures. Colors are true to form and clarity is amazing. Even out of the box, with no tweaks, this produced movie theater style images, with no "screen door" effect or "vertical banding" that I am able to see. The "smoothing" technology that they put in this unit seems to really have made a difference (but again, I think you'd have to be pretty close to the actual image to really see the screen door effect on a LCD without it). I have since played with the settings a bit, opting to watch most movies on the Cinema2 setting, which makes the picture that much more crisp. I tried very hard to avoid keystone correction, based on some of the posts on this site. Because I tend to be a do-it-yourself-er, I came up with the shelf mount idea and replicated the "ceiling" mount orientation without spending a couple hundred dollars on a ceiling mount unit. I ended up with a huge picture, fit to the 8 footer screen that has ZERO keystoning and thus as clear a picture as I can reasonably expect. All in all, very happy with the images I see.
Features: after pouring through the manual I decided to run it for awhile without adjusting anything, save the focus on the lens. After having watched several movies on it, I can say that the remote is easy to use and gets basically everything done that I need to adjust. The memory save feature on the picture option is great--that way you don't have to remember every change you made to get a certain format set just right... Simply load it up with the remote as you start watching and forget about it. Other than that (and since this is my first projector), I assume that all the other options you can play with are pretty much standard across product lines and this unit does the job nicely. I was also intrigued by the low lamp setting, which will hopefully extend bulb life. Since I have almost zero ambient light, I set that option on and could notice no discernable difference. Lastly, the multiple input source options was a must for me--I needed component video for DVD movies (which is worth the money), composite for old VCR stuff, and DVI for computer gaming. This model had all of them and the setup lends itself nicely to someone who is planning on having each source dedicated to one particular input (meaning comp. video is always DVD player, DVI is always computer, etc.).
Construction: seems durable and well put together. The panasonic name was another reason for my purchase, so even though I bought some extra warranty, I'm hoping to never have to use it.
Ease of Use: as I said in the features section, very easy to use and understand after reading the manual.
Reliability: I haven't had it long enought to really judge reliability, so I'll just have to go with what I've seen thus far. No startup/shutdown problems; no cooling fan or overheating problems--hoping this is reflective of the panasonic brand from years past. My guess is that if you follow the suggestions in the manual (in terms of keeping the unit cool and free from objects that could block heat dissipation), you'll enjoy years of troublefree usage.
Value: this was probably my most closely scrutinzed area. I had a definite budget (with my wife on board for X amount, which was a victory in itself), and wanted to try and find something that was a high quality product that wouldn't break the bank. I know that some may say the additional 2 years warranty was unnecessary, or that you could find it for free, but it didn't fall out that way for me. I'm not really sorry about the total cost (including the warranty), because it ended up being right around my initial budget. So had I gone without the extra protection, I would have been under budget! I've talked to some folks in the business, who have seen the evolution from LCD to DLP, and I'm certainly not sorry that I didn't opt for a lower end DLP machine. The images and resolution on this unit are stunning, and unless you have superman-like X-ray vision, would be hard pressed to discern a major difference between technologies. But again, that is a RCA layman's opinion.
This opinion is already getting long, so I'll wrap it up and just wish anyone else out there trying to make the "pull the trigger" decision best of luck. Overall, I don't think you'd go wrong buying this projector.
The only down side to this unit was the standard one year warranty. Being a little on the over-cautious side, I opted to purchase 2 additional years to get up to what seems to be a standard of 3 industry wide.
Also wish the remote had a way to adjust focus so that you wouldn't have to get up to the unit and mess with the lens.
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