Pros / Excellent contrast ratio. Incredible throw distance and overall diagonal image size.
Cons / It's expensive. The lumens rating is slightly lower than similar models.
Verdict / This is a terrific projector to consider if you can afford it.
Editor's note: The Panasonic PT-AE8000U is now available. Clicking the Buy button will take you to this version for purchase. We will evaluate, rank and review the PT-AE8000U when we next update the Home Theater Projectors reviews. Meanwhile, enjoy our review below about the PT-AE4000U.
The Panasonic PT-AE4000U LCD Projector, our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner, is a terrific home theater projector with excellent picture quality, technical specifications and technical support.
Ease of Use
The Panasonic home theater projector is large, weighing in at 16 pounds, so take extra care when installing from the ceiling. Otherwise, if you decide to put it up on a stand near the floor, there obviously won’t be too many issues. Connecting appropriate cables from the television receiver (satellite, cable, etc.), DVD or Blu-ray player, and gaming console is effortless.
Once it’s powered up, you’re ready to start watching it right away using the default settings. However, once you start using it you may want to adjust some of the settings. It's relatively easy to navigate the menu to make changes to the picture, brightness, contrast, etc.
Picture quality is excellent, and just about every video resolution is supported, from high definition (HD) to standard definition (SD), including 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480i and 480p. Standard European formats are also supported.
The Panasonic AE4000U home theater projector uses LCD technology in the AE4000U, which gives it great color processing and over 1 billion colors total (remember the days of 16 million colors?). The Cinema 1 setting offers a great image and is highly recommended if you are shy when it comes to customizing the image settings.
The contrast ratio, how the projector handles bright whites and dark blacks, is rated up to an outstanding 100,000:1, the best rating on our list. This is nearly double that of the Sony BRAVIA SXRD unit, and close to three times better than the Epson PowerLite 8100, our number one pick. The higher the contrast ratio, the more rich and vivid the images will be displayed.
Panasonic has a Pure Contrast Plate to help block out any light leakage, thus giving darker colors and blacks a truer look. Nothing hurts picture quality more than murky blacks that appear almost dark gray or charcoal. The contrast plate is located behind the LCD panels.
Lamps are arguably the most important part of home theater projectors. The 170 watt lamp, the ET-LAE4000 (MSRP $400) is bright and rated at a very respectable 1600 lumens. Panasonic doesn’t indicate how long the lamp will last, but according to other home theater projectors’ information, the average lifespan is 3,000 to 4,000 hours. Expect the lamp to dim towards the end of the lifecycle. Depending on how often you watch it during the week, say 30-40 hours, the lamp should last anywhere between two and three years.
Panasonic also includes a red-rich lamp, giving the AE4000U home theater projector better overall reds than previous iterations of Panasonic projectors. In the past, the reds looked good but not great, while the red-rich lamp makes reds look more normal, and also helps out with colors similar to red (orange, pink, flesh tones, etc.).
The lamp is very important, but it’s not just the light that makes a good image. Each factor that goes into producing a quality picture is important. There are lots of small 720p units that have more powerful lamps and lumens, but their image quality isn't nearly as good because they lack 1080p resolution, great color, contrast ratio and more.
Other picture specs worth mentioning include 16 x 9 widescreen aspect ratio and support of 2.35:1 cinematic widescreen for certain movies. The projected distance (throw) is a fantastic 45 inches to 711 inches, with a screen size (diagonal) of 40 to 300 inches. Basically, you can use this home theater projector anywhere from a small room to a decent-size auditorium. If you try to make the screen any larger than 300 inches, image quality will diminish rapidly.
The interface, located at the rear of the Panasonic AE4000U home theater projector, is where all the cables are connected, includes HDMI (for the best digital experience), Composite (RCA, A/V), Component, S-Video, Analog RGB, RS-232c (to connect to any sort of home theater automation), +12 V Trigger and VGA.
With VGA, you should be able to connect it to a computer for any sort of presentation. This can lend application in a business or educational setting; however, the projector is large and not easily turned into a portable unit.
As we've already mentioned, this device is big and bulky. It is 18 3/32 inches wide, 11 25/32 inches deep and 5 3/32 inches high, while it weighs in at a hefty 16.09 pounds. It’s very similar in size to the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 8100 LCD Projector but a bit smaller and lighter than the Sony Bravia SXRD 1080p Home Theater Projector.
Help & Support
Panasonic’s tech support is well-respected, and they offer a one-year warranty, though we found that if you register your product, it becomes a two-year warranty. However, they only cover it for up to 2,000 hours or two years, whichever comes first. That’s similar to a standard car warranty: three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. An extended warranty can be purchased through a third party. This is about average with the warranties of other home theater projectors.
The Panasonic PT-AE4000U LCD Projector is a fantastic unit that’s very expensive, which is why it comes in second place on our list of home theater projectors, as we mentioned above. This is always a big deciding factor when it comes to making any electronics purchases. However, if cost isn’t too big of an issue, the AE4000U is definitely worth a closer look.