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Our Take

With the ability to pump out at least 8,000 lumens of light, Panasonic’s PT-MZ880 can fill a medium-sized auditorium, conference room or lecture hall with bright and vivid images. Aside from its omission of an integrated WiFi option, it's a fully featured projector that costs much less than comparable 3LCD projectors.

Pros
  • Bright medium-venue laser projector
  • Daylight compensation sensor
  • Washable/reusable dust filter
  • Wide lens shift range
  • Inexpensive with Standard supplied lens
Cons
  • No onboard WiFi
Panasonic PT MZ880 front right

The Panasonic PT-MZ880 comes close to our ideal for a medium-venue projector by delivering more than 8,000 lumens of light in a low-maintenance design. The laser illumination engine, trio of LCD imagers, 1.7x zoom with its Standard lens and wide mechanical image shift mean that it can be set up in odd places and still deliver a rectangular image of exactly the right size in the right place. It can not only automatically compensate for a sunny day thanks to a built-in sensor, but the projector's washable dust filter means that its only foreseeable cost over its life will be electricity. While it lacks the ability to tap into a building's Wi-Fi network, the PT-MZ880 can be had on the street for about $7,500 (with a powered zoom lens), easily making it the current value king in its LCD laser lumen class.

Features

With a trio of LCD display chips and a powerful laser-phosphor light engine behind it, the Panasonic PT-MZ880 achieves an enviable combination of brightness and sharp images. Behind the scenes is a bank of blue diode lasers, an inorganic phosphor wheel, and a pair of dichroic mirrors. The light stream is divided into independent beams of red, blue, and green light that travel through the projector's three 0.76-inch LCD panels. After these streams are combined, the final image goes through the output lens and onto the screen.

Panasonic PT MZ880 laser path
The blue lasers pass through a phosphor wheel before being split into red, blue, and green light by dichroic mirrors and through the Panasonic PT-MZ880's three LCD panels.

The result is a WUXGA image of 1920x1200 pixels that Panasonic says has a maximum contrast ratio of 3,000,000:1. The company rates the lighting components to last for 20,000 hours of use, the equivalent of more than 12 years of use in a business for 8 hours a day over 200 days a year. During that lifetime, the projector's Multi-Laser Drive Engine fail-over system can keep it in use even when one of the diode lasers burns out. Rather than the entire array shutting down, the individually wired lasers continue—although minus the failed element's output.

In addition to not needing to ever buy a new lamp, the PT-MZ880 has a reusable dust filter. Instead of throwing it away, just soak it in water to rinse off the accumulated dirt. After it's dry, return it to the projector. It should last for the life of the projector, although Panasonic sells replacements for $150.

Panasonic PT MZ880 front left
The Panasonic PT-MZ880 is also available in black.

Along with its 8,000-lumen spec, the PT-MZ880 has an ace in the hole for use during a sunny day in a conference room, lecture hall or house of worship. The shades can stay up without washing out the image because the Daylight View function uses a sensor on top of the projector to sense when its output might get overwhelmed. It then automatically optimizes halftone color and adjusts brightness to compensate.

The projector has a slew of digital tricks to improve the image, like the Detail Clarity Processor 4 that analyzes individual video frames to optimize the stream's sharpness and fine detail. In addition to noise reduction, the PT-MZ880 has dynamic contrast control.

Unlike many projectors in its class, the PT-MZ880 includes a lens cap for storing and moving the projector should that be needed. The unit I looked at came with the ET-ELS20 zoom lens that can produce images of up to about 33-feet (diagonal). It'll throw a 200-inch, 16:10 picture from 22'-9" to 39'-0". The projector has powered zoom and focus controls. Also on board are keystone and geometric correction (described below). Between the zoom range and very wide mechanical image shift, the projector and Standard lens combined to create an extraordinarily flexible set up.

Panasonic PT MZ880 lens
The Panasonic PT-MZ880 comes with a ET-ELS20 1.7x zoom lens.

Still, if the ET-ELS20 Standard lens doesn't work for your scenario there are six other lenses available. They include everything from the ET-ELU20 ultra-short-throw zoom with a 0.330:1 to 0.353:1 throw ratio to the ET-ELT23, a 4.44:1 to 7.12:1 long-throw zoom meant for auditoriums. They range in price from $1,949 to $7,499. Check out the throw range for each lens with ProjectorCentral's Panasonic PT-MZ880BU online throw calculator.

Between the projector's pair of rear exhaust fans you'll find a connection panel that include three HDMI inputs compatible with HDCP 2.3 and the ability to handle up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second via HDMI inputs or the Digital Link terminal (YPBPR 4:2:0). (4K signals are converted to the projector's native resolution.) The RJ45 Digital Link terminal, which is Panasonic's version of HDBaseT for long-distance A/V signal and control runs, doubles as an RJ45 Ethernet port. There's also a second RJ45 that's strictly for LAN in case the first is needed for HDBaseT.)

Unfortunately, the projector does without built-in Wi-Fi or even an add-on option, so network and signal connections are strictly hard-wired short of tapping a wireless display adapter such as Panasonic's PressIT connection kit, which includes modules for the notebook and one for the projector that taps one of the HDMI ports. It costs about $500. The PT-MZ880 also lacks the DisplayPort input you'll see on some more expensive models in its class but, conveniently, it does have both a VGA-in (for an old school computer) and a VGA-out (for driving a podium monitor or a secondary display in an overflow room).

Audio is covered by 3.5-millimeter inputs and outputs but, like others in its class, the PT-MZ880 lacks a speaker. A USB-A port is strictly for powering an external accessory, such as a wireless display adaptor or video streaming device.

For those contemplating combining the output of several projectors, the PT-MZ880 has inputs and outputs for Panasonic's Multi Sync system that synchronizes the shutters and contrast for effective image blends. It also has built-in edge blending and the ability to match color among several projectors. If needed, the Multi Sync input doubles as a RS232C control port.

Panasonic PT MZ880 remote

It's easy to wire the remote control directly to the projector using a long 3.5mm audio cable for when the operator needs to be more than 32 feet from the projector, which is the effective range of the infrared. The remote control easily fits into the palm but lacks backlighting to help in the dark. In addition to the expected powered zoom, focus and lens shift, the device lets you pick the input, change the aspect ratio and project any of 10 test patterns.

If the remote control is too confining, the PT-MZ880 can not only use the PJ-Link system but also Panasonic's Smart Projector apps for iOS and Android systems. The app lets you adjust, control, and monitor up to 64 networked projectors individually or simultaneously if they're on the same network as the mobile device. Similarly, you can use Panasonic's Multi Monitoring and Control software (MMCS) and tap into the projector directly using a Web browser.

Finally, it may not seem like much, but the PT-MZ880's power cord lock is a nice touch that can prevent the embarrassment of the power cable coming loose at an inconvenient moment.

Four LED indicators at the top left of the front panel let you know that the PT-MZ880 is turned on, that the lasers are firing, that its internal temperature is within (or outside of) operating range, and that the filter needs replacement. The control panel on the projector's side has buttons for the turning it on and off, firing up the Menu and an input selector. Happily, it's far enough from the exhaust so you can keep your cool.

Panasonic PT MZ880 web control
Control functions are available through a web browser and provides status information like light temperature and projector runtime.

Panasonic offers a three-year warranty, but its Top of the Class program for educational institutions extends that to five years, which is competitive with the generous five years offered by NEC's Star Student program.

Setup

The PT-MZ880 is no lightweight, but with its 41 pounds and 8.8 x22.1 x17.3-inch footprint, it qualifies as one of the new relatively "compact" models at its brightness. Still, it's a lot to lug up a ladder. I'd suggest having two on hand to prep and install it.

Underneath, the projector has a pair of adjustable feet up front and four threaded attachment points for use with mounting hardware. Panasonic sells three ceiling mounts for the projector through resellers that range from $350 to $600.

The projector's menu is thorough and easy to navigate. Front and center is the choice of the PT-MZ880's six picture modes that range from Standard, Dynamic and Natural to Cinema, Whiteboard and Dicom Sim. It's a good range of choices but the projector lacks a dedicated Rec.709 mode for directly matching industry production standards. As described below, the Natural mode probably comes closest.

Able to operate at any angle without risking overheating, the PT-MZ880 requires about 20-inches of open space on each side, 40-inches in the back and 4-inches between stacked projectors.

Panasonic PT MZ880 front

With its Standard lens, the PT-MZ880 has an unusually wide 67 percent lens shift up and down and 35 percent right-to-left for dealing with awkward locations. Its keystone correction can help make rectangular images from as much as 25-degrees off the vertical and 30-degrees right or left. At a 15-degree correction, the output was diminished by 10 percent, which is less than we see with some projectors. Along with conventional keystone correction, the projector's on-board geometric adjustments allow installers to correct distortion when images are projected at an angle, onto curved screens, or over irregular screen surfaces. You can correct for spherical, cylindrical, and other complex screen shapes without a PC and save the settings for future setups.

Performance

The PT-MZ880 is a fast starter, with it showing an image 14.8-seconds after it was turned on; it shut itself down in 1.1 seconds. This means that it would fit well in a school's lecture hall or a business's shared conference room, and users can turn it on and off with a standard wall switch. The projector monitors its HDMI ports in standby and lights up when it senses a video signal.

Its six picture modes run the gamut of expected uses, plus the brightness, contrast, gamma, color temperature and sharpness can be adjusted with a User setting. The projector's Daylight View, Noise Reduction and Dynamic Compensation controls can be turned on and off.

Using Dynamic mode and the Normal laser setting, our PT-MZ880 sample measured an average of 9,031 ANSI lumens, well above the 8,000-lumen ISO21118 rating. The Standard mode delivered 7,493-lumens, close to the projector's top rating. Both settings on my sample had too much green in the mix for photorealistic images (Dynamic more than Standard), making them better for projecting presentations.

The Cinema setting is warmer and puts out a still hefty 6,505 lumens, while the Whiteboard mode works well with a shiny white surface and markers and delivers 7,171 lumens. The Dicom Sim mode is for projecting medical scans, like in a medical or nursing school, and yielded 6,482 lumens.

The Natural mode delivered 6,693 lumens and offered the best balance between brightness and color balance. Reminiscent of the sRGB setting on older projectors, it worked well for showing a variety of content, like online video clips, video conferencing sessions and works of art.

In Dynamic mode, the PT-MZ880 consumed 424.4 watts of power and 14.2 watts of power at idle. If it's used for eight hours a day for 200 days a year, its annual electricity bill could come to $109 if your organization pays the national average of 14 cents per kilowatt hour. That's 50 percent less than the projected cost of the NEC's PA1004UL we tested last year .

Panasonic PT MZ880 top

The PT-MZ880 has two low-power modes that can save even more. Using the Standard settings, the Eco mode reduced light output by 25 percent in our sample and power consumption by 28 percent. Meanwhile, the Quiet mode keeps the power and light output at about the same levels but reduced the fans' noise to under about 40dBA in our real-world measurements taken three feet from the exhaust vents. That's a big difference compared to the full power mode's range of 43.3- to 44.7 dBA of fan noise. (Panasonic rates the projector for 34 dB using the industry-standard averaged measurement in a soundproof room.)

The projector's pair of fans helped the projector to keep its cool, even when blasting a screen with its full output. Its exhaust never got above 98 degrees Fahrenheit and the case was always cool to the touch.

Conclusion

With the potential to put 8,000 or more lumens to work at a street cost of only $7,500 with lens included, Panasonic's PT-MZ880 cuts the price of lighting up a conference room, auditorium or house of worship by a minimum of 25% to one-third compared to the comparable 8,000-lumen 3LCD models from competitors Epson, NEC, and Sony. While it lacks a few niceties like integrated Wi-Fi, it delivers an awful lot for a little—and that makes the PT-MZ880 one of the best bargains you'll find today in medium-venue projectors.

Measurements

Brightness. Using the PT-MZ880's Dynamic mode, our sample measured 9,031 ANSI lumens on the test screen. Standard and Natural modes came in at 7,493 and 6,693 lumens, while in Whiteboard and Cinema modes, the projector measured 7,171 and 6,505 lumens. With the Dicom Sim setting we measured 6,482 lumens.

If you want to save power (and the planet by reducing carbon dioxide emissions), the PT-MZ880 used 28 percent less electricity using the Eco mode but at the cost of lower output.

Panasonic PT-MZ880 ANSI Lumens

Mode Normal Eco Quiet
Standard 7,493 5,590 5,672
Dynamic 9,031 6,858 6871
Dicom Sim 6,482 5,010 4,923
Whiteboard 7,171 5,072 5,028
Cinema 6,505 4,773 4,762
Natural 6,693 5,039 4,973

Color Brightness. With three independent LCD imaging chips, the PT-MZ880's color brightness nearly matched its white brightness. In fact, our readings show that the color brightness was just 1 percent below the projector's white brightness, well within the margin for experimental error.

Zoom Lens Light Loss. Using the included 1.7x ET-ELS20 lens, the projector lost 25% percent of its brightness potential when its zoom was moved from the widest to the longest telephoto position.

Brightness Uniformity. The projector's brightness uniformity was 87.8 % as measured in the Dynamic mode.

Input Lag. The PT-MZ880 recorded an input delay of 55.3 milliseconds.

Fan Noise. Panasonic rates the projector at 34dB in the company's soundproof room using the industry-standard multi-point averaged measurement. In the real world, the projector at full output registered 44.7dBA measured at a distance of 36 inches from the exhaust vents. The Quiet mode lowered the noise level to between 39.7 to 40.1 dBA but at a loss of nearly 20 percent of its brightness potential. The background noise level of the room where the measurements were made was 36.8dA.

Connections

Panasonic PT MZ880 connections
  • HDMI 2.0 (x3) with HDCP 2.3, all with CEC support
  • Computer RGB in (15-pin D-Sub)
  • Computer RGB out (15-pin D-Sub)
  • Panasonic Multi Synch-in/RS232C Serial (9-pin D-Sub) and -out
  • Panasonic Multi Synch-out (9-pin D-Sub)
  • USB (Type A, for accessory power)
  • Wired LAN (RJ-45)
  • Digital Link (HDBaseT, RJ-45)
  • Audio in (3.5 mm)
  • Audio out (3.5mm)
  • Remote Control extension (3.5mm)

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Panasonic PT-MZ880BU projector page.

To buy this projector, use Where to Buy online, or get a price quote by email direct from Projector Central authorized dealers using our E-Z Quote tool.

The Panasonic PT-MZ880BU is also sold outside of the United States of America as the Panasonic PT-MZ880BE. Some specifications may be slightly different. Check with Panasonic for complete specifications.

 

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