Review: Panasonic PT-AE4000 Home Theatre Projector

Earlier this year Panasonic Canada began shipping the PT-AE4000 1080p Home Cinema Projector to retailers, the fourth iteration of its popular flagship high definition LCD front projector.

Recently, Digital Home spent three weeks using the Panasonic PT-AE4000 3 LCD Front Projector and found it to be the finest sub $3,000 front projector we’ve had the opportunity to review.

Overview

The new PT-AE4000, which looks virtually identical to its predecessor the PT-AE300, features 1,600 lumens of brightness; 2.0X zoom; three HDMI inputs; 100,000:1 contrast ratio; dynamic iris; improved frame creation technology; and new Intelligent Lens Memory feature which makes it possible for users to program up to six different zoom/focus positions for different aspect ratio flexibility.

The projector also comes with a new optical system which Panasonic says improves contrast ratio and increases brightness by 50% in the popular Cinema Picture modes compared to its predecessor.

Panasonic PT-AE4000

Setup

Setup of the Panasonic projector was straightforward and we encountered no difficulties. Connection was simple, we just plugged our HDMI cable into our Onkyo 906 receiver and into the projector using one of the three available HDMI connections. For HD, component inputs are also available.

Next, we placed the projector on a shelf approximately 17 feet from from the center of our screen. Thanks to the projectors 2:1 optical zoom, the projector can output a 100” diagonal from a projection distance of 9’7” to 19’6”.

If you’ve never setup a front projector, the optimal position is near the longest distance recommended by the distance calculator and centered on the screen. If the projector is off-center, it is possible to adjust your image using the horizontal and vertical lens shift. If possible, try and avoid placing the projector too far off center since, the more off center the projector, the more you’ll see a drop-off in brightness on the edges of the screen.

We were not required to make any significant lens adjustment since we mounted the projector on a shelf behind the seating area with the lens pretty much dead center on the screen. The projector has two front screw thread adjustable feet in the front along with a single rear foot making for a stable three point stance.

Once the physical connections were complete, we turned the projector on and centered the image on the screen with the manual horizontal and vertical lens shift dials which are located on the top of the projector. Next we used the powered zoom lens to size up the image.

After the image was centered and properly sized, we pressed the Lens button on the projector’s remote and used the electronic focus to produce a sharp image.

The total time to set up the projector on our rear shelf was approximately twenty minutes.

Picture Modes

The most frequently used button on the remote will likely be the button which allows users to toggle between seven preset picture modes which include: Cinema 1, Cinema 2, Cinema 3, Colour 1, Colour 2 normal and dynamic.

Picture modes provide users with pre-set brightness, contrast and colour settings so you can quickly adjust the image to suit the current lighting environment and image source.

Generally speaking, the Dynamic modes does not provide the best contrast or colour accuracy and should only be used when you’re viewing programs in a brightly lit room. Normal is a general setting suitable for use with most image sources when there is less ambient light in the room.

When viewing a front projector, you’ll achieve the best picture quality by watching with minimal ambient light and preferably with the lights out.

When watching a movie or HD program in a dark room or a room with subdued lighting, the preferred color modes on the PT-AE4000 are the cinema modes.

The following is a basic outline of each:

  • Cinema 1: A soft, smooth picture ideal for movies which was developed under the supervision of David Bernstein, a leading Hollywood colourist.
  • Cinema 2: Mode that emphasizes deeper, richer colours and is suitable for older film classics.
  • Colour 1: A setting that supports the 6,500K5 colour temperature recommended in the HDTV standard (ITU-R BT.709)
  • Colour 2: A setting that supports the 6,300K5 colour temperature recommended in the Digital Cinema Distribution Master (DCDM) standard.
  • Cinema 3: Designed for clear, sharp reproduction of dynamic scenes. Suitable for action films, cartoons and animation.

Generally speaking we followed the Panasonic guidelines for matching Picture modes with the source material and came away impressed. The performance of this projector out the box was amazing.

We spent some time tweaking the settings for some of our personal preferences, however, the adjustments were minor and we doubt most users will need or want to spend much time changing the default settings. The reason for the excellent performance out of the box is because Panasonic has consulted heavily in the last few years with professional colourists to deliver out of the box “Hollywood tuned” settings that are ideal.

If seven preset color modes aren’t enough to satisfy your viewing pleasure, the projector allows users to adjust settings such as contrast, brightness, color, tint and sharpness in the picture menu.

If you choose to customize your settings beyond the pre-set color modes, the projector enables users to save their customized settings in memory and recall them with the remote.

Performance

Ultimately, once a front projector has been setup and tune, the most important aspect is image quality and after spending 40 hours with this projector, we have nothing but praise.

Whether we were watching a standard definition DVD, Blu-ray disc, or HD programming we consistently viewed a natural image with excellent black levels. Flesh tones were natural, color reproduction was excellent, and the shadow details were the best we had witnessed in a front projector in this price range.

Thanks to Panasonic’s SmoothScreen technology, we had no hint of pixilation or screen door effect. Thanks to 1,600 lumens of brightness we found the projector more than bright enough in our home theatre environment.

One note for gamers who demand a very bright projector. Although the PT-AE4000 was more than bright enough in a home theatre setting, it should be note that this is a home theatre projector which is best suited to deliver film like and HD images in a typical home theatre environment. This is not a projector for video gaming in a brightly lit room.
Summary

The Panasonic PT-AE4000 is a fabulous 1080p HD front projector that will please any home theatre enthusiast willing to spend between $2,000 and $3,000 for a front projection system.

The ease of setup along with seven “Hollywood tuned” preset color modes, should allow owners to project an excellent image regardless of the source without having to worry about tweaking inputs.

We were impressed with: ease of setup, the choice of colour modes, and overall excellent picture quality. Thanks to its 2x optical zoom lens and lens shift capabilities, this projector should be easy to mount or place in any home theatre.

Pricing and Availability

The Panasonic PT-AE4000 arrived in stores early this year and retails for $2,999 in Canada (street prices could be 10 to 15% lower). Lamp life is rated at 2,000 hours in normal mode and a replacement bulb will cost you approximately $500.

Summary

The Panasonic PT-AE4000 is a fabulous 1080p HD front projector that will please any home theatre enthusiast willing to spend between $2,000 and $5,000 for a front projection system.

The ease of setup along with seven “Hollywood tuned” preset color modes, should allow owners to project an excellent image regardless of the source without having to worry about tweaking inputs.

We were impressed with: ease of setup, the choice of colour modes, and overall excellent picture quality. Thanks to its 2x optical zoom lens and lens shift capabilities, this projector should be easy to mount or place in any home theatre.

Discuss the Panasonic PT-AE4000 Front Projector in Digital Home’s Front Projection forum.

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