|Sony HW50||Panasonic AE8000|
|Bright calibrated||1386 (Bright Cinema)||1612 (Cinema 2)|
|Cinema calibrated||931 (Cinema Film 1)||822 (Cinema 1/Rec709)|
As you can see, the AE8000 is brighter than the HW50 in its bright calibrated setting, while the HW50 is slightly brighter than the AE8000 in its cinema calibrated setting. Both projectors have a low-lamp mode that reduces light output by about 35%. So brightness is a toss-up, right? Not so fast.
Let's say you have a 100" diagonal 1.3-gain screen in a dark room and you want to light it up with the recommended 16 foot-Lamberts. A screen like that only requires about 400 lumens to light properly. But even in low lamp cinema mode, the AE8000 is producing 535 lumens while the HW50 is producing about 600 lumens. In both instances, that's noticeably too much light. The standard advice is to use more of the zoom lens such that the projectors soak up some of that light output, but that isn't always an option. On the HW50, you can use the Auto Limited iris mode to reduce maximum brightness using just the on-board controls. What's more, you can always disable it if you want to turn the lights on and watch something at full blast. The AE8000 does not have an equivalent option. While many folks prefer a bit more brightness than the 16 fL recommendation, it's also nice to have the choice.
Our tests revealed that the HW50ES is nearly twice as bright as the AE8000 in 3D. As noted this gives the HW50 a decided edge in the 3D viewing experience.
Contrast. The AE8000 and the HW50 are roughly equal when it comes to black level, and both projectors look similar enough in this regard that picking them apart would be arbitrary and a little silly. The HW50 appears to have more depth and three-dimensionality in quite a few scenes, but the AE8000 appears to have more depth in others. Deep shadow detail is more evident in default settings on the HW50, leading to an impression of higher contrast. Really it's just that the HW50 has a more accurate gamma curve in factory default settings, and you can bring the AE8000 up to parity with a few adjustments.
Color. Both projectors have accurate color right out of the box. The HW50's Cinema Film 1 mode is already close to 6500K without adjustment, as is the AE8000's Rec709 mode. Both projectors also have a near-perfect color gamut out of the box using those image modes. The AE8000 has overdriven color saturation in default settings, while the HW50 appears anemic in this same area. Saturation controls can be reduced on the AE8000 and increased on the HW50 such that they match. The HW50's lower saturation default settings may be truer to the source, but many viewers will want to give it a boost.
Clarity and detail. With all sharpening controls disabled completely on both projectors, the Sony HW50 appears slightly sharper and higher in detail. Once you turn on Detail Clarity on the AE8000 and Reality Creation on the HW50, though, the two projectors are just about identical. Neither projector appears to have any sharpening artifacts until you turn the controls up to about 2/3 of maximum.
Digital noise. Digital noise is one area where there's a clear difference between the two projectors. The AE8000 has very little noise in its cinema modes, while the HW50 has quite a bit. The difference between the two is striking when viewed side-by-side. However, with careful use of noise reduction, you can reduce the appearance of digital noise on the HW50 to the point where it appears more or less identical to the AE8000. Overdriving those controls, though, can reduce sharpness. The AE8000 has an advantage in that that those adjustments are not necessary.
Audible noise.While the AE8000 is quiet, the HW50 is dead silent. You cannot hear the AE8000 during normal use, but you cannot hear the HW50 unless you practically have your ear up to the exhaust vents.
Placement flexibility. The AE8000's powered 2.0:1 zoom lens surpasses the manual 1.6:1 zoom of the HW50 in range and convenience, though both projectors have excellent (and very similar) manual H/V lens shift ranges.
Warranty. The HW50 comes with a three-year warranty to the AE8000's two-year / 2,000 hour warranty. A promotional offer extends the AE8000's warranty to three years / 3,000 hours, but it is slated to end on March 31, 2013. The offer may be further extended, but that is not yet known.
Input lag. The AE8000 is fairly quick when it comes to input lag, at 67ms (4 frames) in its Cinema modes and 34ms (2 frames) in Game mode. The HW50 is slightly quicker at 50ms (3 frames) in Cinema Film 1 and 34ms (2 frames) in Game mode. The single-frame difference will not be noticeable to most gamers and both projectors are quite fast.
Frame Interpolation. Both projectors have frame interpolation systems and both systems are quite good. But we saw fewer artifacts on the HW50 without any increased perception of the digital video effect.
Automated lens memory. On earlier home theater projectors, Panasonic pioneered the Lens Memory system that allows for the automatic resetting of the lens to display either 16:9 or 2.35:1 material at constant image height on a Cinemascope format screen without an anamorphic lens. This feature continues in the AE8000 and is made possible by the powered zoom and focus lens which the HW50 lacks.
Automated panel alignment. Though the AE8000 features Lens Memory it does not have the panel alignment capability found on the HW50. Over time, panels can drift out of alignment due to heat, bumps, and stress, thereby degrading image quality. Panels need to be re-aligned for maximum performance. On the HW50, this is a five-minute fix you can do at home. On the AE8000, this means shipping the projector out for service.
Purchase price. The AE8000 wins on price, as it comes in at $1500 less than the HW50. However, keep in mind that the HW50 comes with an extra year's worth of warranty in addition to a spare lamp ($379) and two pairs of 3D glasses (at $129/ea). Panasonic currently has a mail-in promo offer for two free pairs of glasses, a $100 rebate, and an additional year of warranty coverage, but that offer is slated to end on March 31, 2013 and it is unknown whether it will be extended. The AE8000's warranty also includes a limitation on operating hours (2,000 hours for two years or 3,000 hours for three years) that is not present in the HW50's warranty.
|Review Contents:||The Viewing Experience||Key Features||Performance||Limitations|
|Shootout vs AE8000||Conclusion|
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