The Panasonic PT-AE7000 and the Sony VPL-HW30ES are two high-quality 3D 1080p projectors priced at $3,499 and $3,699 respectively. We set them up side by side to take a close look at how they compare.

Picture Quality

Regarding picture quality, these differences stand out:

  1. The HW30ES is brighter in its ideal Cinema mode, measuring 846 lumens compared to the AE7000's 526 lumens. Lumen numbers always make the difference sound more dramatic than the actual experience. You'd assume the HW30ES would look 50% brighter than the AE7000, but it doesn't work that way. The eye responds to light in a logarithmic fashion, so a 50% increase in brightness looks somewhat brighter, but the difference is not huge. The brightness difference is mostly evident in the highlights. This helps in ambient light, but is typically too bright in a dark room.
  2. If you are projecting in a dark theater, the HW30ES' 846 lumens can be dropped to about 540 by putting the lamp in eco mode. This makes the brightness levels virtually identical between the two units. If that level of brightness is still too high, the AE7000 can be dropped into eco mode, bringing it to about 400 lumens. The HW30ES can reduce lumen output using its manual iris, though you sacrifice the auto iris' on/off contrast boost by doing so.
  3. In the Cinema modes, the AE7000 shows more contrast, more color saturation, and a deeper black level than the HW30ES. The picture has more snap. Due to the higher contrast, the picture appears to have more depth and incremental sharpness. The AE7000 also has an edge in natural clarity; it looks a bit more analog, or film-like.
  4. If a brighter picture is required, either for a very large screen or to compensate for ambient light or room reflections, the AE7000 has Normal mode, which measures 1300 lumens. This is slightly brighter than any of the operating modes available on the HW30ES. Normal mode on the AE7000 shows exceptionally good color balance for a high lumen output factory preset. It is a bit cooler in color temperature than Cinema 1, but it can be brought very close to Cinema 1 by dropping the color temperature control two notches. Some black level is sacrificed in Normal mode compared to Cinema mode.
  5. In 3D operation, the AE7000 has greater clarity due to its contrast advantage as well as a lower level of crosstalk. The HW30ES is the brighter of the two, but the AE7000's greater contrast makes the image easier to see. Both of them need to be viewed in the dark to get anywhere near optimum results. In addition, the AE7000 has a 3D parallax control that adjusts parallax based upon the size screen in use. This increases viewer comfort; if the left- and right-eye images are separated by too great a distance, viewers are more likely to get headaches.
  6. With respect to color accuracy, our AE7000 test sample was perfectly calibrated out of the box. As a caveat, we should add that the unit we have is an engineering model. We presume, but do not know, that the calibration settings on production units will be the same as those on our test unit. Panasonic generally puts a great deal of focus on color accuracy in the design of their home theater projectors, so our guess is that production units will have optimized color calibrations. By comparison, the HW30ES required calibration to reach similar levels of performance.
  7. Digital Noise. The AE7000 has slightly less noise in both SD and HD. It also has a more effective noise reduction filter that can be set to low without compromising fine detail in the image. The HW30ES' noise reduction works better in SD than in HD, but increasing it too far will compromise detail and produce an undesirable airbrushed look.

Overall, the AE7000 has an edge over the HW30ES in picture quality in 2D primarily due to its contrast advantage, and in 3D due to both incremental contrast and better clarity/stability due to reduced crosstalk.

Mechanical Issues

Zoom lens and light output. The AE7000 has a powered zoom and focus lens with a 2.0x zoom range that lets you light up a 120" 16:9 screen from a throw distance of roughly 12 to 23.5 feet. The HW30ES has a slightly shorter manual zoom lens with a range of 1.6x, and a throw distance to a 120" screen of roughly 12 to 18.5 feet. So the AE7000 has an additional five feet of potential throw distance on the long end.

The problem is that the AE7000 loses up to 42% of its light output when the lens is set to maximum telephoto. So unless your particular installation has no need of the full light potential of the AE7000, that telephoto end of the zoom range is something you would want to avoid. Conversely, the HW30ES loses only 13% of its potential light at maximum telephoto, so you can pretty much use the entire range of the lens without worrying much about light output.

Lens Memory. The powered zoom/focus on the AE7000 supports a Lens Memory feature that allows the projector to automatically reconfigure its image position for 2.4 format films on a 2.4 Cinemascope format screen. The HW30ES does not have this feature. In theory, you can set up a 2.4 screen and manually move the HW30ES' lens back and forth to accommodate changes from 2.4 to 16:9, but anyone planning a 2.4 format installation will strongly prefer the automated capability on the AE7000.

Black level. The HW30ES has an aggressive auto iris, so on a complete fade to black the black level can be deeper than that of the AE7000. However in mixed content with highlights and shadow, the AE7000 has a somewhat deeper black level.

On-board vs. external IR emitter. The IR emitter on the AE7000 is built into the unit, and operates from a distance of up to 6 meters from the screen. As long as you are within this throw distance, this is the cleanest and easiest setup. The HW30ES has an external emitter that connects to the projector via an Ethernet cable. The cable is not included, but is easy to find at any electronics store. Once you acquire the cable, you must position the emitter in front of the viewers, pointed at the audience. We ended up placing it on the coffee table in front of us. But the maximum cable length is 15 meters, so in a more permanent installation, you might run the cable along the wall or ceiling and attach it to the screen frame.

Fan noise. With lamps in full power, both projectors are rather quiet, putting out a soft whisper. The AE7000 is slightly louder, but you need to stand within a couple of feet and listen closely to hear the difference. When the lamps are put into eco mode, both projectors are, for all practical purposes, silent.

Connectivity. The AE7000 has three HDMI ports, while the HW30ES has two. The AE7000 also has two 12V triggers as opposed to just one on the HW30ES.

Warranty, Price, and Availability

The Sony HW30ES includes a three-year warranty. The Panasonic AE7000 has a two-year warranty, but the second year is contingent upon registering the product with a mail-in claim. If you fail to do that, you only get one year of warranty.

At the moment, neither model includes 3D glasses with the base price. The AE7000 includes the built-in 3D IR emitter as a standard feature. The HW30ES emitter and cable are not included.

The Sony HW30ES is currently in production, and $3,699 is the effective selling price at the moment. The Panasonic AE7000 has been announced but will not be shipping until next month. We expect the AE7000's MSRP of $3,499 to be followed up with a lower MAP, or official street price, as we get closer to the actual ship date.

Comments (19) Post a Comment
Davidk442 Posted Aug 18, 2011 4:50 PM PST
Great comparison, no competition. Would love to see the same shootout between the Panasonic and the JVC RS40/X3.
Bruce Allen Posted Aug 18, 2011 5:27 PM PST
Thanks for doing the shootout. This was really helpful. Two quick questions:

1. What are the actual contrast ratio numbers? I'd love to know the brightness of black vs white within a single given frame? Eg if you put up a test pattern with squares of white and black, what would you get?

2. When you talk about black levels, are you talking about: - the Sony having a black of 50 and a white of 1000 - the Panasonic having a black of 25 and a white of 1000 Or - the Sony having a black of 50 and a white of 1000 - the Panasonic having a black of 25 and a white of 500


Bruce Allen
Joe Dokes Posted Aug 18, 2011 6:13 PM PST
Thank-you but I am still interested in knowing if these projectors have moved the bar forward in 2-D contrast and black level. If the AE7000 looks like a HC4000 with an effective autoiris i'm sold. I hope you will compare the AE7000 to the best in reasonable cost contrast HC4000; and to the JVC's for unreasonable cost ultimate black levels in the near future.
SHAMIM Posted Aug 19, 2011 1:21 AM PST
Panny,Sony reviews of 3D PJs and their shootout report are perfect. I was waiting for them to upgrade my HT To full HD. It appears that Panny 7000 is the winner with substancial lead and I am all set to go for it,although it is quite expensive .However, one worry- the core technology of this PJ remains LCD which is presumed or rumored to be fragile as compared to LCOS or DLP. I will earnestly request Evan to give us an update-at this point in time, of his earstwhile appreciation of Munsell Lab report on LCD and DLP PJs sponsored by TI. This update will definitely give confidence to make a better use of my money

(Enter the numbers as they appear
DigiMagic Posted Aug 19, 2011 2:56 AM PST
This is sort of a third review in series regarding these two projectors, I might have missed it but I don't recall lumens in 3D mode being mentioned anywhere?
HiFiFun Posted Aug 19, 2011 4:55 AM PST
Bill Livolsi and Evan Powell - you guys complement each other and make one heck of a review team. Please don't change anything. Otherwise at the forums, one has to wade through thousands of posts which twist the facts or are clueless and confused. Now, in these tough economic times, the sales teams are crassly taking over threads resulting in a total loss of credibility. Their whining is pathetic. Other review sites have a dealer bias built-in in that they only review one brand quickly (usually Sony) and will wait months before reviewing the competing projectors, if at all. Consumers are steered by what is omitted. Here Projector Central reviews the new statement projectors simultaneously. Most impressive. No one else comes close. Both Sony and Panasonic are to be congratulated for their improved projectors. However, Panasonic and Epson wisely sat-out the first 3D generation to give their design teams extra time to come up with a superior engineering solution. The 480Hz front projector technology matches current flat panel technology – a first. The coming $2500 1080p 3D sweet-spot will increase sales, even in these tough economic times.
Claes Posted Aug 19, 2011 6:43 AM PST
Thanks for your post. I will most likely pick up one of those projectors later this year.

It seems like the Panasonic would be the best choice, but I'm not so sure that I would think so if I saw them next to each other. I currently have the AE3000 which I've been pretty happy with, but it looks kind of "dimmish" compared to my previous Sony projectors. I should mention that I usually blow up the picture quite a bit and I always prefer to use the normal or dynamic mode. My next projector will be used on a 192" screen (what gain to buy?) and will sure have a hard time to decide which projector to go with. Should I trust my intuition and always go with Sony for video products, or should I pick the Panasonic which I admit looks better on paper (but now also in your review).

Now to my question... Did multiple people look at your test setup? Was there anyone that preferred the picture quality of the HW30ES?
PatB Posted Aug 19, 2011 8:15 AM PST
It sounds like the differences in contrast that you experienced would be captured by the ANSI Contrast measurement? Right? But you didn't post them. Why?
Duke Posted Aug 19, 2011 12:05 PM PST
Without coming across as a noob but what does "maximum telephoto" mean? I am interested in the PT-5000 but with placement it would probably need all the horizontal and some vertical shift on the lens.
DigiMagic Posted Aug 20, 2011 3:40 AM PST
Telephoto = zoom set to lowest value resulting in smallest projected image. Simplified, useful when projector is near the screen and screen is small; or when projector is very far away from the screen.

So, optimal placement for PT-5000, regarding brightness and zoom setting, would be as near the screen as reasonably possible and with zoom set near max. value.
SAM Posted Aug 20, 2011 11:44 PM PST
Why don't any of the reviewers ever respond to the comments or questions about the reviews?
Keith Jordan Posted Aug 22, 2011 11:09 AM PST
I don't want to sound like an idiot but here goes...I still don't understand zoom on a projector. Logically I would think you would want to have the projector as close to the screen as possible for brightness correct. So ideally you would want to have the zoom max out as much as possible correct? In other words have the image be as large as possible by adjusting the zoom as opposed to just bringing the projector further away from the screen. Am I correct? Or do you want to zoom in on the image and make it as small as possible and move the projector further away?
Steve Posted Aug 22, 2011 11:21 PM PST
I would have thought this as well - but if using the maximum zoom results in reduced brightness this is not the case. It's like lens shift: if you use too much, it can reduce image quality. For some reason zoom can reduce image brightness. So if you are zooming the picture to fill a 2.35:1 scope screen for example, and then zooming back out for 16:9 material, you need to consider placement more carefully. It's harder to find that sweet spot between throw distance and zoom. If you're zooming to fill a scope screen, the 16:9 image will likely be a lot brighter than the 2.35:1 image. This is where an anamorphic lens can help by retaining the brightness of the 16:9 image when it's stretched.
DigiMagic Posted Aug 23, 2011 8:18 AM PST
@Keith Jordan, you are correct that maximum zoom and projector near the screen, as well as minimal zoom and projector far away from the screen, would result in image of equal size on the screen in both cases. It's just that due to optics in the projector, more light exits from the projector at max zoom setting, therefore that combination is usually preferred.

On topic: can we hope that some further review will list measurements of brightness, contrast and color balance in 3D mode? Do the glasses cause any coloration? Is flickering noticeable? Is dual-link/Nvidia's 120 Hz video transmission supported?
sck Posted Aug 30, 2011 2:33 AM PST
i want to know is both projectors deeber black compare to lates Epson Home Cinema 8700. Only black pictures and mixet whit white.

and how the Frame Interpolation works, and whitout.

and colors compare to epson.

and sharpnes.
Toni Posted Sep 1, 2011 11:41 AM PST
Great article! One thing I'm very curious about is if you have measured input lag in either of projectors. I have not found any numbers anywhere and as an enthusiastic gamer I would be very happy to know some numbers
GAR Posted Sep 8, 2011 6:03 AM PST
Refresh rate question: I'm no AV whizz but I believe the refresh rate stated by any xyz flatscreen or Projector model is often "created" in the machine itself, the input source still being fed at 60Hz even if it is higher. What about these 2 beasts (240Hz Sony and 480Hz Panasonic stated rate I believe), would they accept and pass through an input at those rates wihout interference? I'm asking mainly for the compatibility of nVidia's 3D vision, which needs a min. 100Hz intake by the screen/projector to work.
Romel Posted Sep 11, 2011 6:35 AM PST
It appears this site is bias and favors panasonic projectors. The Sonny's lummens advantage seems to have been glossed over as no big deal or as to say you don't need it because it's too bright in a dark room. Projectors with good contrast and a bright cinema mode seems to have more "snap" in its picture to me, when viewed in person than PJs with better contrast but lower lumens. This site seems to state the opposite is true.

Also, this site talks up how the Panny can produce more lumens in normal mode than the Sonny can produce in any mode, but fails to compare how the Panny's normal mode picture quality stacks up against the Sony's cinema mode. It the Panny's normal mode is better and brighter than the Sony's cinema mode 846 vs 1300 then that is a huge advantage for the Panny, but obviously this is not the case or this site would have mentioned it because they are bias towards Panny's. There are no mention of ANSI contrast and no comparison of the frame interpolation systems. Also, based on a comment made in this review, it appears that the Sonny produce better blacks than the Panny in darker scenes, but this review didn't expand on this advantage. The review only focused on the dynamic and or mid range contrast advantage of the Panny. These reviews need to be more thorough and unbiased.
Paul Posted Jul 10, 2012 5:27 AM PST
I agree with the very top poster, this article sounds extremely biased.

What I do find funny, is that I just demo's both these projectors, and me and the lady right away said the same thing "The Hw30 picture is brighter and has more POP then the Panny".

Granted, I do not own either one of these yet, I was stuck on the Panny before I seen the Sony in action in a comparison, and for me, I'm about 3 weeks away from having the extra $500 needed for the Sony, the difference was that substantial to me, and my woman. Not to mention a much better mf rate for gaming with the Sony, so less lag (Sony 30mf while Panny between 70 and 80, I have seen some people measure it at 50mf but the Panny is inconsistant).

You will see many, many people around the Internet use the saying "Jack of all trades" when it comes to the Sony Hw30, it does everything good, nothing bad, but is not the best at anything. The Sony is basically the only Projector without a major archili's heel.

Looking forward to receiving my Sony in a could weeks, can't wait! :)

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