Projector Review: Panasonic PT-AE900U Home Theater Projector

12:48 PM

Panasonic PT-AE900U Home Theater Projector

The PT-AE900U is a native high-definition home theater projector that produces stunning, film-like images with a dramatic 5500:1 contrast ratio.Capable of displaying ultra-sharp, ultra-clear HD pictures up to 14.5-feet wide, the PT-AE900U is equipped with advanced, digital picture-enhancing features allowing you to enjoy "Hollywood picture quality" in the comfort of your own home.The PT-AE900U offers a host of image optimizing features including a Dynamic Iris optical system that extends the iris range by 30% for a breathtaking 5000:1 contrast ratio. Dynamic Iris, with scene tracking capability, constantly adjusts the light volume and gamma curve in real time, so the picture is always optimal and transitions between scenes are amazingly smooth and natural. The PT-AE900U is also outfitted with Smooth Screen technology that effectively eliminates the "screen door effect" (visible spacing between pixels) and gives the projector a sharp, detailed HD picture that is remarkably smooth and film-like.The PT-AE900U's acclaimed Cinema Color Management (CCM) technology controls both contrast and brightness to provide faithful reproduction of even subtle hues, moving color correction closer to the process used for motion pictures.

Customer Review: excellent construction, so-so image

This is not a noisy unit, that I can tell. Ceiling-installed is completely "invisible" to the audience. The only time I hear the fan is after turning the unit off.

Outstanding out-of-the-box calibration, did the AVIA, but it required minimum variation; nevertheless I can't say I'm thrilled with its image, haven't experienced a DLP or a 480, so it isn't a fair judgement, it's only based on my expectations.

It does not look like a DLP would be much darker, this unit is dark enough for me, I only wish image was better, but again, signal is DVD 480.

I was strongly inclined to buy some 480 DLP and ended up deciding for the 720 LCD for its price after rebate and all the reviews, also because it promised a projected image larger than other DLPs and my room is relatively small.

No screendoor effect, I guess, but again, no video expert here. Image seems a little bit pixeled or blured sometimes, specially around edges and legends, mainly when I start watching a movie. After a couple of minutes, either my eyes get used to it or the movie action highlights colors and sharpness and make that impression go away. High quality movies, such as Star Wars, look remarkable.

Loved the remote, easy navigation menu, rapidly learned to handle Panasonic and non-Panasonic devices.


The bottom line with this player is that it runs circles around virtually any LCD, Plasma or DLP TV setup you'll ever see at those big-box electronics stores. AND it's cheaper than any of them! It is as good (or bad) as the quality of the signal you feed into it.

Now, I won't go into all of the technical details but I want to tell you what is the optimal setup for this projector, consistent with being budget conscious. I have spent countless hours studying this and experimenting with the various setup parameters, so I humbly offer you the benefit of my research. My pain, your gain (ha!).

My primary use for the projector is to watch my extensive DVD collection. I have also fed it a standard TV signal but, as mentioned, it is so revealing that is shows the deficiency of such a signal. I will eventually connect it to an HDTV signal, but for now it is strictly used for watching movies on DVD.

I have the Panasonic PT-AE900U connected to an OPPO OPDV971H player via a 5-meter DVI to HDMI cable. The Panasonic sits on a shelf behind my viewing area 45 inches above the floor and just about dead center relative to the center of my Model C Da-Lite 119-inch diagonal HDTV, high-contrast matte white screen. One word: OUTSTANDING.

Of course, this is just for the video end of things. I have the Oppo connected via digital optical out to my Denon Dolby Digital receiver and 5.1 speaker setup.

The Panasonic's 1280x720 panels are made to display HDTV 720p in native format. There are two ways to achieve this with the Oppo using its DVI output: Set the Oppo to feed the Panasonic a 720p signal, in which case the Oppo does the upscaling; or feed the Panasonic a 480p signal from the Oppo and let the Panasonic do the upscaling. Feeding the Panasonic an Oppo-upscaled 1080i signal is also possible, but this yields no benefit since the AE900U would then have to downscale the previously upscaled signal. In real-world tests this doesn't look good, either.

Feeding the Panasonic an Oppo-upscaled 720p signal looks terrific - even better than feeding the Panasonic a 480p signal from the Oppo and letting the Panasonic do the upscaling. The difference, though slight, is noticeable. I have A/B'd the images and the Oppo 720p feed has better contrast and more detail. However, such a signal input then limits the zoom options available to you from the Panasonic. Certain widescreen/letterboxed non-anamorphic movies were distorted, unless you played them exactly as projected by the Oppo (at about 66% the screen size) with no zoom. Using the Oppo's zoom feature to fill the screen produced terrible results.

For such movies I fed the Panasonic a 480p signal from the Oppo and let the Panasonic do the upscaling. Voila! Scaling in the Panasonic is accomplished with proprietary Panasonic video processing electronics. The end result is superb. Additionally, feeding the Panasonic a 480p signal from the Oppo allows you greater flexibility with the Panasonic's zoom feature. This allows me to fill my 119-inch diagonal screen. With the Panasonic, zooming -- when desired -- still produces an outstanding image.

There are numerous, almost endless, ways to setup the video to your own taste insofar as fiddling with the brightness, contrast, etc., on both the Panasonic and the Oppo. My experiments show that the optimal, most accurate picture was achieved by leaving the Oppo set to its default settings and setting the Panasonic to 'Natural' which, according to the AE900 manual, is 'To reproduce the color of the image faithfully from the image source.' Assuming the DVD was properly mastered, this is exactly what I want to see. I was watching movies as diverse as 'Finding Nemo', 'Out Of Africa', 'Jeremiah Johnson', 'Spartacus', 'Father Goose', 'The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre (B&W) and some classic 'Star Trek' episodes, and ALL looked absolutely gorgeous! It is clear that, when being fed a direct digital signal from the Oppo DVD player as outlined above, the 'Natural' setting is the one to use. Whatever is on the film is exactly what is reproduced - period. All other modes are useful only if you are feeding it some other type of signal.

The Panasonic PT-AE900U, when setup as I have outlined, produces a stunning 119-inch diagonal picture in my very small (12' x 12') apartment living room. It is hard to imagine that it could be improved upon. For the price -- especially with the current rebate -- this is a NO-BRAINER! Watch your friends, who spent 2-3x as much on a screen half to one-fourth the size, drool with envy when you blow them out of the water with a crystal-clear 119-inch image!

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