Panasonic's PT-VMZ71 can train 7,000 lumens of light onto the screen while offering the smallest and lightest package in its brightness class. It may not have every feature, but at its $3,899 street price it’s an economical approach for small- to mid-sized classrooms and conference rooms.
- Inexpensive bright, small-venue 3LCD laser projector
- Smallest and lightest in its 7,000-lumen brightness class at time of review
- Wide zoom and lens shift range
- Low maintenance design
- Lacks integrated Wi-Fi for sharing
The lights can stay on and the shades can stay up when using the Panasonic PT-VMZ71 projector thanks to 7,000 lumens of light that can lower the chances of image washout. Its laser-based design doesn't require much in the way of maintenance, and the projector's optics offer a wide zoom and image shift range. Notably, this is the smallest and lightest 7,000-lumen projector you can buy today, even compact enough to be considered for portable applications.
On the other hand, it lacks some bells and whistles found on other projectors—such as built-in Wi-Fi—and its permanently attached lens means you'll have to make it work for your setup without additional lens options. But overall, the $3,869 PT-VMZ71 is a winner of a low maintenance projector and a value king in its class.
The Panasonic PT-VMZ71 boasts 7,000 lumens, specified as an ISO/IEC 21118 measurement, an ANSI near-equivalent. This should be more than enough to keep the lights on and the shades up for most boardroom presentations, schoolroom classes, or house of worship services. At $3,899, it's simultaneously one of the brightest and most economical projectors in its class along with being the most compact, measuring 15.71 x 5.24 x 13.7 inches (WHD) and weighing just 15.4 pounds.
The PT-VMZ71 is sold as the PT-VMZ71U7 in a white case (which I tested) or as the PT-VMZ71-BU7 in black; both models are offered in 1920x1200 pixel, 16:10 WUXGA resolution. If your company, church or school doesn't need the optical punch of 7,000 lumens and money is tight (when isn't it?), the PT-VMZ61 is identical but tops out at 6,200 lumens and sells for $3,200, while the $2,500 PT-VMZ51 can get to 5,200 lumens. Finally, Panasonic's PT-VMZ51S comes in at $2,400 but lacks the HDBaseT connection for control and feeding uncompressed video via Panasonic's Digital Link technology.
Under the skin, Panasonic's Solid Shine blue diode lasers, along with a phosphor wheel, create blue and yellow beams which are split up into red, blue and green streams using three dichroic mirrors. These individual rays converge on three 0.64-inch LCD panels that create the final image for the output lens. As always, the three-chip LCD architecture provides equal color and white brightness and immunity from the rainbow artifacts that can afflict some single-chip DLP projectors.
With the laser illumination engine rated for 20,000 hours to half life, the lifespan of the PT-VMZ71 could translate into about a dozen years if it's used for 8 hours a day and 200 days a year at full power. That can be lengthened to 24,000 hours with the projector's lower-power Eco mode, though at the cost of brightness.
Unlike some competitors that use sealed optical elements, the PT-VMZ71 requires a dust filter. Rather than go with an automatic cleaning system as found on some projectors, the PT-VMZ71's filter requires no maintenance in normal dust conditions. Cleaning interval for the filter varies with the environment, but the filter is rated for 20,000 hours without cleaning if dust conditions don't exceed 0.08mg/m3, or 10,000 hours if conditions are just under 0.15mg/m3. The filter can be washed twice before needing to be replaced. It took less than a minute to swap one and a new filter costs $80.
While it lacks some of the high-end abilities of the Panasonic PT-MZ880 we reviewed earlier, like that projector's image processor for edge blending and other visual tricks, the PT-VMZ71 has Panasonic's Daylight View setting. When activated in the menu, it makes business graphics and images stand out from the background with three levels of vividness. The system's built-in illuminance sensor feeds room lighting data to the projector to automatically adjust its brightness.
The PT-VMZ71's standard throw lens is versatile but can't be changed. Permanently attached lenses on projectors with high lumen output are becoming more common as a way to save cost over classic installation projectors with interchangeable lenses. It reduces installation flexibility, but as long as the supplied lens suits your environment it can result in considerable savings as it does here.
In the case of the PT-VMZ71, the 1.6X zoom optics creates a throw ratio of between 1.09- to 1.77:1 that should do well in a variety of small to mid-sized venues. The projector tops out at a 25-foot image when it's set up a little over 23-feet away. Comparatively speaking, the similarly bright Epson PowerLite L730U, which costs about $300 more, is made for larger rooms and has the ability to put up a 42-foot image, but it is a bit less compact and comes in three pounds heavier. The PT-VMZ71 does have a bonus in its Digital Zoom Extender that can stretch the throw distance and image size by several feet, if needed. That comes at the cost of resolution, however. You can check ProjectorCentral's online throw calculator for the Panasonic PT-VMZ71 to see its throw distance at different screen sizes.
The PT-VMZ71 has a good assortment of connections that should be more than enough for most uses. It starts with a pair of HDMI ports that accept signals up to 4K at 30 frames per second, and have the ability to be controlled by source equipment using the Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) protocol—a feature found on an increasing number of Panasonic projectors. Digital media can further be captured for display via the RJ-45 Digital Link port for HD-BaseT compliance. There is also a pair of old-fashioned 15-pin VGA input ports.
As is the case with many of its peers, one thing the PT-VMZ71 does without is built-in Wi-Fi. That can be remedied with Panasonic's optional AJ-WM50 USB module. At $60, it's a bargain and plugs right into the projector's USB port. Phones or tablets can connect by snapping a projected QR code with Panasonic's Wireless Projector app; there are versions for Android as well as iPhones and iPads.
Along with the HDBaseT port for uncompressed video and control via Cat cable, the PT-VMZ71 sports a dedicated RJ-45 networking ports to connect with the building's wired Ethernet infrastructure. The LAN connection also offers a peek inside the projector and a way to make remote adjustments. Once it's connected to the building's network, the Projector status screen shows its selected input, what's connected and any diagnostic errors. The Projector Control Window takes this a step further by being able to remotely change the input, raise or lower the volume and change the picture mode. It can even shut the projector down at the end of the day from the room or any place with a Web connection.
If the USB Type A connector isn't being used by the Wi-Fi adapter, it can power a streaming device or display images in a slide show format from an external drive using Panasonic's Memory Viewer protocol. Unfortunately, it can't play videos.
There are two audio-in jacks and one output for driving an outboard audio system. The projector's 10-watt speaker should do fine for a conference room but anything larger will need a sound system. Finally, the PT-VMZ71 has an RS-232 serial connector for controlling the projector from across the campus or a projection booth. It works with PJLink, Crestron Connected, Extron, and AMX control software.
On top of the projector, its three status LEDs show that it's running and warn of overheating. The control panel is minimalist with an On/Off button as well as ones for opening the Menu, picking the input stream and opening and closing the shutter. A central Enter button lets you activate your selection.
Further down, there are two knobs that control the projector's horizontal and vertical lens shift, spec'd at +44%, 0% vertical and ±20% horizontal. There's no motorized image shift operated by the remote control, but the knob action is smooth and accurate.
The included remote control has buttons for each input and the ability to freeze the image. It can optimize the image and select any of the projector's six test patterns. The remote's shortcut button can add a favorite capability, but the remote lacks a direct link to the picture modes, which can only be accessed through the Menu; fortunately, it's the first item. Powered by a pair of AAA batteries, the IR remote had an effective range of about 35 feet in my space (Panasonic claims 98 feet when the remote is pointed directly at the unit's IR receiver). Unlike with some competitive models, there's no jack on the remote to tether it to the projector for wired control outside of its range. But the likelihood of needing that in the small venues this projector is designed for is small.
The PT-VMZ71's warranty coverage is three years or 6,000 hours of use, whichever comes first. That puts it on a par with the Epson PowerLite L730U and Panasonic PT-MZ880.
The PT-VMZ71 is small enough and, especially, light enough at 15 pounds that one person can likely get it mounted without assistance. It has three threaded attachment points underneath for ceiling mounting. Panasonic's two recommended brackets include the ET-PKL100S ($415) for mounting the projector close to the ceiling and the ET-PKL100H ($405), which hangs the projector 12- to 15-inches below the ceiling. Both utilize the ET-PKV400B attachment plate. For tabletops, the front feet are adjustable for aiming and leveling the system.
While it can operate at any angle, including straight down, the projector requires enough cooling air to keep it from overheating. Panasonic recommends 40-inches of clearance on the exhaust side and 20-inches on other sides. If you plan on stacking more than one projector, leave about 8 inches between them.
Once it's mounted, the PT-VMZ71 offers a lot of installation options for positioning the image. In addition to the projector's 1.6X zoom lens, there's the aforementioned vertical and horizontal lens shift, and if you need it, keystone correction that can square off an image at up to a 25-degree angle vertically or as much as 35 degrees horizontally. The PT-VMZ71's six-point adjustment feature is easier. It let me push or pull all corners as well as the top and bottom until it looked good.
The PT-VMZ71 lacks the built-in edge blending of more expensive projectors but has a trick up its optical sleeve. It can make quick work of wrapping the image around a corner or working with an angled or curved screen. It can also help avoid image barreling or pin-cushioning.
Happily, the PT-VMZ71 comes with a lens cap to protect the delicate optics during transit and storage, which might come in handy given this projector's potential portability. It even includes a string, making it hard to lose.
While I understand that the lack of motorized focus and zoom are the price to pay for such an inexpensive projector, I did find the mechanical design a bit lacking in practice. The zoom and focus levers are just too close together for efficient adjustments. For a while I consistently chose the wrong lever to push. But in most installations, these are controls you'll set and forget.
As mentioned, the projector's five picture modes are only accessible through the menu and not directly accessible from the remote, which slows things down a little if the projector is frequently used for different types of content. While the Dynamic setting is the hands-on brightest, using the Standard mode sacrifices brightness for a little better color balance, while the Natural setting has just enough warmth to be used for an art history class, previewing an online ad campaign or amateur movie night. The Whiteboard setting is for use with a shiny white surface and DICOM Sim is aimed at showing medical scans in classrooms and other non-critical teaching environments. There's neither a sRGB nor Rec.709 choice for accurately rendering photorealistic or movie content, but Natural seems to come close.
Able to start in 14.5 seconds and shut itself down in 1.3 seconds, the PT-VMZ71 is good for start-and-stop use all day in a common room, though unlike some of its competition, the projector can't be conveniently fired up and down by an AC outlet wired to a light switch. On the other hand, its inclusion of HDMI-CEC control may allow it to fire up automatically alongside its HDMI source.
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Its six picture modes run the gamut of expected uses, and you can fine tune them with control options for Brightness, Contrast, Gamma, Color Temperature and Sharpness. With the projector set to Dynamic mode, it slightly exceeded its spec with a measurement of 7,124 ANSI lumens. Dynamic is tuned to compensate for viewing in direct sunlight, and like many projectors in their brightest modes, images in a darker environment look overwhelmingly green, making photos look other-worldly. This mode still worked fine for business infographics and text, however.
Using the Standard mode yielded a step down in brightness to 5,496 ANSI lumens but a step up in naturalistic color balance. The image still leaned slightly green, but much less so than Dynamic. That said, the Natural setting was the best of the bunch in terms of color balance, but as usual its better accuracy and warmer color temperature comes at the cost of some brightness, which was reduced to 5,087 ANSI lumens. The two specialty modes, Whiteboard and Dicom Sim, measured 5,251 lumens and 5,168 lumens, respectively.
The PT-VMZ71 is a power miser considering how much light it puts out. Regardless of picture mode, it used 346 watts of power. That translates into an annual power bill of about $92 if it's turned on for eight hours a day over 200 days and your organization pays the national average of 14 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity.
The projector's fan put out a peak of 45.7dBA of noise in a casual real-world measurement taken 36 inches from the exhaust fan in a room with a background noise level 33.5dBA. Using the Eco setting reduced the projector's output by 34 percent and its power needs by 100 watts to 247 watts, while the fan noise was lowered to 44.3dBA. The Quiet mode is well named because it lowered the projector's noise to 40.3dBA but at the cost of a further lowering of its brightness to 4,500 lumens. Panasonic rates the projector at 38dB and 28dB for the Normal and Quiet modes respectively, using the industry-standard averaged multi-point measurement in a soundproof chamber; note that our real-world single-point measurements always run louder. As for its running temperature, the PT-VMZ71 hit a peak of 105 degrees Fahrenheit at the center of its exhaust vent.
If you hate the hassle of turning off the lights and lowering the blinds for a presentation, church service or classroom lecture, the Panasonic PT-VMZ71 is for you. Its more than 7,000 lumens of brightness will light up a good size screen and it will likely never need any maintenance. While it's not intended to serve everywhere you'd use a traditional interchangeable lens installation projector, it comes reasonably well equipped to fit a variety of small- to mid-venue installations and offers a solid mix of basics in its 1.6X zoom, its optical lens shift, and its image keystone and geometric correction capabilities. Its caveats are minor, primarily a lack of integrated Wi-Fi for sharing that's well addressed by an inexpensive USB module and app that lets participants mirror their phone or tablet screen by snapping a projected QR code.
In the final analysis, for many organizations, especially schools and universities who install many projectors at once, it all comes down to price per lumen. And here the PT-VMZ71 is a market leader, delivering its 7,000 lumens for an affordable $3,899, lighting up your room for less.
Brightness. With the PT-VMZ71 set to Dynamic mode, the projector delivered 7,124 ANSI lumens of light to the test screen. This is about 2 percent over its 7,000-lumen spec. When it was set for the more color-accurate Standard or Natural modes, the output dropped to 5,496 and 5,087 lumens. The DICOM Sim and Whiteboard settings came in at 5,168 and 5,251 lumens. The Eco setting can reduce the brightness by 34 percent while the Quiet mode goes a step further to a 36 percent reduction in light output.
Panasonic PT-VMZ71 ANSI Lumens
Zoom Lens Light Loss. The projector's 1.6X optical zoom lens offers good flexibility when setting the system up. However, going from its wide-open to its longest telephoto setting lowered the light output by 20%.
Brightness Uniformity. The projector had a measured brightness uniformity of 84% percent with the center being the brightest sector.
Input Lag. Using a Bodnar lag tester, the PT-VMZ71 had an input delay of 56.0 milliseconds with a 1080p/60 signal.
Fan Noise. With the projector set to full illumination and Dynamic mode, it was a little on the loud side, measuring 45.7 dBA from a point 36 inches from the exhaust fan. That drops to a low of 44.7 in Natural mode. If that's still too loud, the PT-VMZ71 has a Quiet mode that reduces the noise level to 40.3dBA but does so by lowering the brightness 36%. Using the industry standard measurement technique that averages sound from several points around the projector in a soundproof booth, Panasonic specs the projector's noise output at 38dB in Normal brightness mode and 28dB in Quiet mode.
- HDMI 2.0 (x2) includes CEC support
- Computer RGB in (x2; 15-pin D-Sub)
- Computer RGB out (15-pin D-Sub)
- USB (Type A, for accessory power)
- Wired LAN (RJ-45)
- HDBaseT (RJ-45)
- Audio in (x2; 3.5 mm)
- Audio out (3.5mm)
- RS-232 serial port
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Panasonic PT-VMZ71WU projector page.