Panasonic PT-RW430UK WXGA DLP Projector
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Highly Recommended Award

Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.

  • Performance
  • 4.5
  • Features
  • Ease of Use
  • Value
Price
$4,699 MSRP Discontinued

The new Panasonic PT-RW430UK is a 1280x800 (WXGA) installation projector equipped with Panasonic's new Solid Shine hybrid LED/laser light source instead of the traditional high-pressure lamp found in most projectors. This 20,000-hour light engine does not require an air filter, so the design provides maintenance-free long-term operation. It currently sells for $2,999 in both black (UK) and white (UW) case designs.

The RW430U is a highly capable installation projector that is ideal for conference room or extended duty cycle use even without its hybrid light source. It is capable of 24/7 operation, and its heat pipe cooling system keeps the internal components from degrading prematurely. One operating mode enables the unit to be installed in vertical orientation, allowing for portrait projection in digital signage applications. HDBaseT compatibility, a 2:1 zoom lens and manual H/V lens shift make the RW430U easy to set up in most venues, while edge blending and color matching features make the projector appropriate for large-scale multi-projector image walls. When you tack on the hybrid 20,000-hour light source and filter-free design, the RW430U starts to look like a sure bet.

The new Solid Shine series of projectors includes several models, including the 1920x1080 resolution PT-RZ470UW. This review covers just the 1280x800 resolution PT-RW430U, but many features of this projector are available on the other Solid Shine models as well.

The Viewing Experience

The RW430U comes in both white and black versions to assist in unobtrusive mounting in any situation. At a touch over 22 pounds, it is not portable, but the added size and weight dampen the sound of the cooling system. The projector's lens is center mounted, making installation less complicated. The RW430U has a 2.0:1 manual zoom lens which allows it to produce a 100" diagonal image from anywhere between 10' 10" and 21' 10". It also has a total H/V lens shift range of 2.15 image heights and 1.65 total image widths, so you can place the projected image completely above or below the centerline of the lens or shift it 30% of the image width in either direction.

The RW430U is rated at 3500 ANSI lumens, and upon startup our test sample measured 3536 lumens in Dynamic mode. Solid state projectors reach their maximum brightness immediately upon startup, but then lose a bit of light output over the next 5-10 minutes. In the RW430U's case, it loses about 5% of its light output during warm-up, so maximum sustained light output after warm-up stabilization was 3359 lumens on our test unit.

The feeling you get from the RW430U overall is that the projector is slick -- the physical controls are effortless and easy to use, the menu system is logical, and the remote control is responsive and well laid out. The projector is not only easy to use, but also easy to install, easy to integrate, and easy to maintain.

While home entertainment is not the RW430U's intended use, it can serve double-duty as a home entertainment projector should the need arise. The projector's excellent color saturation, lack of digital noise, and comprehensive 3D compatibility make it a strong performer in the living room, though it is more expensive than consumer projectors built for this application due to its complexity and bevy of features. In a home entertainment setting, we used the RW430U on an 80" diagonal screen and sat about 8 feet from the screen (about 1.5x the screen width). At this size and viewing distance all visible pixelation disappears and the image from the RW430U looks terrific, like a very large television -- bright, high in saturation and contrast, low in noise, and sharply detailed. However, if you increase the screen size or reduce the viewing distance, the 1280x800 pixel structure becomes a visible artifact in video and film viewing, so this projector is not designed or recommended for large screen home theater. Panasonic does make the RZ470U, a 1080p solid-state projector with the same feature set as the RW430U, but it is more expensive.

Key Features

Instant on. Lamp-based projectors need several minutes to come to full brightness, and often take 30-45 seconds from power on just to get a picture on screen. Solid state projectors do not have this limitation. Indeed, the RW430U comes to full brightness less than ten seconds after the power button is pressed, allowing you to get on with your work right away.

Maintenance free. The RW430U is designed to be maintenance-free as much as possible. The Solid Shine light engine is rated for 20,000 hours of operation before replacement. The projector itself comes with a three-year warranty along with an additional 10,000 hour warranty on the light source itself. If three years have elapsed and the projector has not yet reached 10,000 hours, the light source remains under warranty protection.

Placement flexibility. When no two of your conference rooms are the same, it can be difficult to choose a projector that will work in all of them. The RW430U's 2.0:1 zoom lens and H/V lens shift make it easier to install the projector in conference rooms of different size and orientation. It can also be installed vertically for use in portrait mode, allowing for its use in digital signage applications. An option in the menu adjusts the projector's cooling system to compensate for the differences in air flow and heat distribution, so it does not lose any of its significant lifespan from using it this way.

Cool operation. The RW430U uses heat pipes and radiators to channel heat away from critical system components and expel it from the projector quietly and efficiently. The RW430U's solid state light source already produces less heat than a traditional high-pressure lamp, so the end result is a cool, quiet room.

24/7 operation. The RW430U can be run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without negatively impacting its lifespan. This makes the projector ideal for digital signage and other heavy duty cycle applications.

Connectivity. In addition to the RW430U's collection of inputs, it also features an HDbaseT decoder onboard. Using an external digital input box, you can send video data to the RW430U over cat5e or cat6 network cable. This cable is ubiquitous, inexpensive, and your IT department has likely already run it all over your building. This gives you a one-wire solution to input signal that costs very little to implement.

Multiple projectors. Not only can the RW430U handle edge blending, but it also automatically adjusts the color and brightness of each picture such that all projectors involved match. As the projector's light output diminishes over time, the system will evaluate itself periodically to ensure that the picture matches, even across projectors.

Universal 3D. In addition to support for HDMI 1.4 3D formats found on Blu-ray disc and broadcast content, the RW430U also supports PC 120Hz frame sequential. This format is still used by many educational software suites. The projector can use either DLP Link or VESA synchronization via an external emitter (not included).

Performance

Light output. The RW430U is rated at 3500 lumens, and our test sample measured 3536 lumens in its brightest usable mode. After a reasonable warm-up period of five minutes, light output settles about five percent, bringing stable output to 3359 lumens.

Dynamic mode on the RW430U is different from other projectors' Dynamic modes. While other projectors use "Dynamic" as shorthand for "bright and greenish," the RW430's Dynamic mode adjusts the levels of red, green, and blue in real-time based upon the content on screen. As a result, a mostly-white image (like financial spreadsheets or text documents) is significantly brighter than a mixed image containing both highlights and saturated colors. As a result, light output in Dynamic mode can be much lower than 3359 lumens without changing a single setting, and image brightness is entirely dependent on the content of the projected image. The upside is that the image never appears unbalanced and highlights never appear too bright, as is common on many DLP business projectors with large white segments in their color wheels. The downside is that a dark image could reduce light output, and in a bright room this can make the picture seem dimmer than is comfortable.

The RW430U's other color modes are more traditional -- there is no dynamic readjustment of color and white light output. These other modes include Graphic (1949 lumens), which is slightly blue and has open mid-tones. Standard mode (1542 lumens) comes next, with higher gamma and a stronger blue push. Cinema mode (989 lumens) is the projector's go-to video mode, and after some adjustment it can produce a smooth, striking 6500K image, though these adjustments do decrease light output to 936 lumens. Natural (877 lumens) and Rec. 709 (898 lumens) are similar to Cinema mode, but with slight differences that may appeal to certain viewers of the projector. Finally, DICOM mode (776 lumens) simulates medical imaging equipment, opening up the RW430U for use in medical lecture halls and patient conferences.

Contrast. The RW430U's on/off contrast rating of 20,000:1 is higher than that of many other WXGA installation projectors. This is because the projector uses three separate "lamps" - a red LED, a blue LED, and a green laser - and can drastically reduce the brightness of any of these, independently of the others. Less light coming from the projector leads to stronger blacks. We saw excellent dynamic range coupled with strong black levels while using real-world content, not just test patterns. This, in part, accounts for the RW430U's strong crossover potential with the home video market, but it also has benefits in the display of photography or data graphics.

Color. If what you're after is a bright, highly-saturated image, the RW430U's Dynamic mode can deliver it, though there are some caveats. Dynamic mode, as mentioned above, adjusts the amount of red, green, and blue in each image on a per-frame basis. This can lead to a striking picture in the right circumstances, but it also makes color in this mode hard to measure. When displaying a solid white image, Dynamic mode tends to push green in order to increase brightness. The result is grayscale tracking that can appear to be all over the map.

Panasonic RW430U RGB levels in Dynamic mode

Dynamic mode does not allow any user customization of white balance, though color balance in actual use is not as haphazard as the above graph would suggest. Still, if you plan to view content that changes from frame to frame, like video, it would be wise to use a different image mode as Dynamic's adjustment can become distracting.

Standard mode pushes green and blue by default, making it a good mode for use in brighter conference rooms. If the added brightness is not required, you can improve color balance and knock down light output roughly 10% by reducing green.

For accurate 6500K color, start with Cinema mode. This mode, like many of the other precalibrated modes on the RW430U, pushes green by default, but a quick calibration can take it to near-perfect 6500K white balance.

Panasonic RW430U RGB levels in Cinema mode before calibration

On our test unit, 6500K was reached after reducing green and blue significantly in the high and low ends of the grayscale by varying amounts. Our settings are listed below, but due to manufacturing variances they might not be ideal for all units.

White Balance high
R+255
G+119
B+146
White Balance Low
R0
G-3
B-1

Panasonic RW430U RGB levels in Cinema mode after calibration

The divergence at 0% illumination is because the RW430U largely turns itself off when displaying an all-black test pattern and our meter had difficulty picking up any significant light output at this level.

Solid state technology tends to expand the color gamut. In the RW430U's case, the projector exceeds the Rec. 709 points for red, green, and blue, though green is also pushed towards yellow. In typical use these divergences do not have any practical impact.

A word on color brightness: single-chip DLP projectors designed for commercial use tend to have low color brightness in part because of the white segments in their color wheels. Since the RW430U has no white segment (indeed, it has no color wheel), it has excellent color brightness. Dynamic mode's color light output measured 81% of white, while Cinema mode measured 100% of white. Both are more than sufficient for a well-balanced, natural image.

Sharpness and clarity. As a single-chip DLP projector, the RW430U has no panel convergence errors to be concerned about as is the case with 3-chip designs. It has a razor-sharp appearance with text and data graphics. Native-resolution content is rendered with pixel-perfect fidelity, giving each pixel a sharp-edged clarity that makes text easy to read. Downscaled higher-resolution content gains a smoothness from the resolution conversion, but little detail is lost and legibility is not compromised.

Input lag. The RW430U measured a lightning-fast 17 milliseconds of delay in our input lag tests, putting it among the fastest projectors we have tested to date. This makes it an attractive choice for video games, especially since its 20,000 hour hybrid light engine will allow you to play for hours on end.

Limitations

Brightness. When viewing color photographs, data graphics, or other content that isn't primarily black and white, the RW430U cannot produce more than about 2000 lumens. While the RW430U's Dynamic mode measured over 3500 lumens with black/white subject matter, light output decreases when viewing content with significant color and shadow information. So, while the RW430U is a solid projector with a vibrant, high-contrast image, for any display of color-rich subject matter it is not as bright as the 3500 ANSI lumen specification would indicate. So depending on your intended use, more ambient light control may be desirable than you'd need with conventional projectors rated at 3500 lumens.

Both academic papers and industry press report that LED projectors are often perceived as being brighter than their counterparts using traditional arc lamps. Specifically, the Helmholtz-Kohlrausch (HK) phenomenon states that humans perceive intense color saturation as a component of brightness, so a highly-saturated red, for example, will appear brighter than white of the same luminance value.

Our testing shows that a pure color image from an LED projector will appear brighter than a pure color image from a projector using an arc lamp when those two images have the same luminance value. However, this effect is most pronounced in images with large solid areas of highly-saturated color, and is either much less visible or absent when viewing video and film. There are many factors that can make two projectors look different from one another, and the HK phenomenon is only a practical concern in some circumstances. This is something we will be investigating more in the future, as our results are by no means definitive or final.

Green push. While not entirely inappropriate for conference room use, the RW430U's precalibrated image modes tend to emphasize green. This has the effect of boosting light output at the expense of color balance. While it does not unbalance the image in the same way that a white color wheel segment would, some adjustment is needed if a balanced grayscale is desired. The net result of calibration in most image modes is a 10% drop in light output.

Conclusion

Buyers shopping for solid state projectors have several options these days, but not all of those options are created equal. It is possible to find a projector that does some of what the RW430U can do, but it is the only hybrid projector with its specific combination of features, making it a very strong contender for a number of applications including 24/7 digital signage, conference rooms, and even home video and gaming. The RW430U also has a number of first-in-class options, like lens shift, a 2.0:1 zoom lens, and full 3D compatibility. These features are not found on any other solid state projector to date -- except, of course, for several other models made by Panasonic.

The Panasonic RW430U is a truly unique product, and as such it is difficult to judge its value relative to the competition. If you can benefit from the wide array of features provided by the RW430U, it is quite simply the only viable option. The fact that it has a sparkling high-contrast image with great color balance does not hurt its case, either. And while it is not intended for home use, its accurate color, high contrast, and minimal 17ms input lag mean that it is certainly capable of delivering a superb 80" diagonal picture for home entertainment and video gaming.

For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Panasonic PT-RW430UK projector page.

Comments (10) Post a Comment
PatB Posted Jul 10, 2013 4:03 PM PST
It seems to me that this projector - or rather a bunch of them - is the next step. Not the super expensive 4K projectors. It should be awesome for gamers (not me as it happens).

Even a $100K 4K projector is still just a picture on a wall. With edge blending you could easily construct a circular surround screen with you at the center. That would be real immersion. It would be a step beyond mere Home Theater. If you were driving a Grand Prix or flying a jet car you could look over your shoulder (check six) and see your opponent.

Some people have already done this but this machine might make it practical. It has no bulb replacement and short lag times. All you need is software (content). I went to the original Cinerama shows when I was a nipper. With digital video and 7.1 sound you could surpass that experience and that of Imax too.

I figure someone could make a package that would fit in any room that was at least 15' square for under $100K. Building a ring shaped screen is probably too difficult for DIY.
John Posted Jul 11, 2013 8:18 PM PST
The article doesn't explain how it works. It is DLP, but no color wheel. So, do the different LEDs and laser cycle on and off in conjunction with the DLP?
Dave Posted Jul 13, 2013 11:32 AM PST
I would love to see Panny refine the LED/Laser engine & chipset enough to deliver a knock you socks off dedicated home theatre projector. Ideally with a street price under $5,000. Does not seem like there are too far away......Hope so!
Stunko Posted Jul 15, 2013 6:13 AM PST
"I would love to see Panny refine the LED/Laser engine & chipset enough to deliver a knock you socks off dedicated home theatre projector. Ideally with a street price under $5,000. Does not seem like there are too far away......Hope so!"

Yes indeed, that one also came out last year, and it is called the "Solid Shine" PT-RZ470UK model. Full-HD 1080p all the time. Priced in the mid-$3,000 range as of 07/2013. So cool, really. Xenon and UHP halogen lamps need constant color balancing as their lamps burn, like after every 75-100 hours of use. Now, you really must calculate a cost of $400 for your home theater UHP lamps, they last anywhere from 2000 to 3000 hours before reaching half-brightness. So, during the 20,000 hour life of an LED+laser PJH, you would be burning up say 7 UHP lamps @ $400 = $2,800. With the LED+laser models, you have zero lamps costs during this period.

The question I would have from the author, since the DLP panel and the LED + laser light engine are sealed inside a single unit, you would have to replace both after 20K hours. How much will that cost? What did Panasonic say on this?
Frank Posted Jul 15, 2013 11:57 AM PST
I "love" the manufacturer's bold 3500 ANSI lumen rating of this thing -- seems that as soon as you drop under 1000 ANSI brightness, you begin to enjoy a much better picture.

I would have made it a little bigger point stating that this single-chip DLP PJ has NO SPINNING COLOR WHEEL. For some folks, that is worth the price of admission.

I just ordered the PT-RZ470 for HT use specifically because it does not have all that gazillions of superfluous stuff that weighs down the PT-AE8000 dedicated HTPJ.
Todd Posted Jul 15, 2013 12:08 PM PST
Bill, based on your review, I am now following the Panasonic SOlid Shine technology for home theater use. I have a couple of questions. First, how did the projector perform in 3D? You mentioned its compatibility, but did you test the 3D performance?

Second, how much noise and heat does it emit? You mentioned heat output is lower. I've got a moderate sized home theater with less than ideal ventilation. Would love to upgrade to a projector that outputs less heat. Same with noise, which I assume is very low with a solid state projector.

Third, do you think this projector would be bright enough for a larger screen in a darkened home theater? I am looking at upgrading my current 82" screen to a 100" screen. Would love for this or a future Panny Solid Shine projector to suffice.

THanks for the review. Very encouraging report.
Evan Powell, Editor Posted Jul 15, 2013 2:08 PM PST
To Stunko, thanks for the comment and question. Keep in mind that the vast majority of consumers will never watch a projector for 20,000 hours before they upgrade it. (That is 10,000 two-hour movies obviously.)

The light source cannot be replaced. However, it does not stop at 20,000 hours. You can keep using it beyond that if it is bright enough for your application. The 20,000 hour limit is based on the point at which the lumen output degrades to 50% of its initial output (same thing is used to estimate UHP lamp life). The advantage to LED/Laser, at least in Panny's implementation, it that light output degrades on a straight line curve. UHP lamps degrade much faster than that in the early portion of their lives, then flatten out in the later portion of their lives.

Once the projector gets too dim to use it for the application you have, you just replace the projector. It will be cost prohibitive to replace the light engine, and it is not clear that the vendor would even offer that as an option.

Evan Powell, Editor
Stunko Posted Jul 16, 2013 12:46 AM PST
Thanks for the heads-up on that, Evan. This is indeed a great new technology, Casio let the genie out of the bottle, and now this valiant effort from Panasonic.

I would be surprised if the 2 LED lamps and the green laser could not be replaced at all, but when I read that the DLP chip is sealed together with the 2 LED lamps and the tiny laser, I began to be concerned by that. Now, the light engine warranty is 10,000 hours from Panasonic, assuming the PJ should catastrophically fails after that and there is no light engine replacement available, then you had used the unit for 10K hours with no hope of extending that.

I watched the Panasonic demo of this machine on their Panasonic Projectors You Tube Channel, the demo is totally mute on how they came up with the 20,000 hours and whatever should happen after that. Also not clear to me is this: how can the expected life expectancy of an LED lamp be the same as that of a laser beam generator? In other words, will one age before the other, if yes, then the color composition of your image would have to be adjusted taking this into account.

Half brightness at 20,000 hours sounds great, however like I said I saw nothing stating this anywhere from Panasonic. Now, based on the review, the best looking images from this nominally rated 3500 ANSI lumen brightness PJ from Panasonic would be in the 700 to 1000 ANSI lumen range. Once this drops to say half at or around 20K hours, then we would be projecting an image with 350 to 500 lumen brightness, that is just not bright enough really for most apps, particularly if this is indeed intended mainly as a conference room projector where plenty of ambient light is anticipated.

This model and its sister models are touted as 24/7 capable projectors, well that would come to 8,760 hours per annum, so the 20,000 hour limit would be reached in less than 2.5 years if the unit is indeed being run continuously.
Ben Posted Aug 27, 2013 11:27 AM PST
Only 8 comments? This is the pre-cursor to the product all htpj owners have been requesting. Here's my HALLELUYAH!! Can't afford it right now but by the time i burn through the last 2 bulbs on my Epson 8500UB, my wife should clear me for the next generation of this bad boy. Superbowl 2015 at my house, come to papa!
Robert Posted Sep 28, 2013 10:35 AM PST
20,000 hours is a lot for home theater use. It's 2 years of solid running if you never turn it off. Never turning it off is unlikely in the home but that is not what it's for apparently. As the general view so far has been that there is no lamp replacement (I know lamp isn't the right word), then you assume that the projector gets replaced after that. For 24/7 digital signage, that kinda eats into the benefit if you have to buy a new $3000 every 2 years.

Pro installation projectors designed for 24/7 operation are normally expected to last a lot longer than 2 years with proper maintenance and bulb changes. Plus, 20,000 hours is meant to be when it reaches 50% of the brightness level on the day you bought it. It already isn't very bright for signage and with continuous operation, I would bet that it becomes unusable for anything other than nighttime use after less than 1 year.

Led/laser light sources make a lot of sense for home use or for rear projection display cubes. For commercial use, I can't help thinking we're not there yet. Real installation projectors are 7000 - 40,000 lumens because they have to battle bright light. 3500 lumens is in no mans land with a non-portable projector. If it was portable, it would be good for business presentations but those projectors get used for 2 hour a week so no need for led. Same is true for board room installation projectors.

Distinguishing between color and black and white is pointless. I don't watch much black and white tv and nobody else does either. May as well call it what it is - a 2000 lumen projector. I would be interested to know how it looks with one of the black screens in ambient light to see how it does as a home theater projector. I would buy one and throw my tv away with no bulb changes to worry about. Those 3000 hour bulbs last less than half of that when set up for bright conditions. As we are about to get hit with the new wave of oled tv's, now would be a good time to reintroduce the new generation of projectors and screens which challenge some of the traditional reasons not to get one instead of a tv. Plus, they don't dominate the room when you're not watching - it just disappears into the ceiling.

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