Panasonic PT-AE900U LCD Projector Page 3
Though Panasonic suggested that the problem was with the Pioneer DVD player, it is our policy to report on all such problems we experience, if for no other reason than to warn users who might have incompatible gear. In all fairness to Pioneer, we have used this DVD player's HDMI outputs with projectors from Sony, Sharp, Yamaha, Optoma, BenQ (2 models) Faroudja, and Fujitsu with no such problem. In fairness to Panasonic, however, here is their response from the chief engineer on the PT-AE900U project (in translation from Japanese). It does provide interesting and useful information about HDMI, and might also explain why the Panasonic failed to respond with a watchable image to the HDMI signal from the Kaleidescape System:
We bought couple of Pioneer DVD players (model DV59AVi/region-1) to investigate the phenomenon. We found the player has moments (very short term) where HDMI format info is off. PT-AE900 finds it and reacts based on the HDMI rule as follows. In the specification of HDMI, there is a rule as: When HDMI signal is lacking the format info, which is continuously required, display should regard that the signal is DVI=RGB format. We checked and found the said model of Pioneer DVD player continues to supply YUV format signal even when the moment where the HDMI signal form info is off. PT-AE900 changes display format to RGB according to the HDMI specification even [when the] DV59AVi continues supplying YUV format. This causes the phenomenon you pointed out.It is therefore possible that the PT-AE900U is adhering closely to the HDMI spec whereas other the displays we have used have adjusted their response time—knowingly or inadvertently—for sources that might be less tightly specified. Panasonic's design choice is clearly defensible, but it also means that you should take extra precautions to confirm that the projector will work properly with your HDMI sources before purchase. HDMI is still a moving target in some respects.
Yamaha projector which we also purchased and tested seems like unable to react for the source problem because of the response speed.
M. Yamano Panasonic
It's perhaps a bit unfair to the Panasonic to compare it with more expensive projectors, but even with a DVD source, upmarket DLP projectors like the Sharp XV-Z12000 Mark II and the Yamaha DPX-1200 were clearly superior in important ways, with deeper blacks and images that were both sharper and smoother. The Panasonic looked a little grainy in comparison, particularly on dark scenes. But it did not exhibit an obvious screen door problem, even when viewed very close to the screen—a benefit that can be credited to Panasonic's Smooth Screen technique, designed to obscure the lines separating the pixels.
But those other projectors are four times the price of the Panasonic. While I did not have the competitive Sony VPL-HS51 LCD projector on hand for direct comparison, I lived with that projector for months and intimately remember its characteristics. When I commented on Pete Putman's review of the PT-AE700U (viewed on an 80-inch wide, 16:9 Stewart FireHawk screen rather than the Studiotek 130) I noted:
Compared to the Sony VPL-HS51, the Panasonic had slightly richer color (together with more useful and intuitive color adjustments), significantly better gray scale tracking, a brighter image, and a less visible pixel pattern (the LCD screen door effect). The Sony had far better contrast with much deeper blacks and better shadow detail, was quieter in its Low lamp setting (which produced more than adequate light output), and threw a sharper image. The Panasonic's Smooth Picture feature did not result in a soft image per se, but the projector never looked quite as crisp as the Sony. I did not find pixel visibility to be a problem with either projector from a viewing distance of about three times screen height (just under two times screen width).The only thing I would change about that comparison, now vs. the PT-AE900U, is the comment on noise. In its Low lamp setting, the new Panasonic is almost dead quiet—certainly as quiet as I recall from the Sony. And the noise in the projector's High lamp setting is still relatively unobtrusive.
$3200 may sound like a lot of money for a video display to those accustomed to buying a $500 TV every 10 years. But in the world of front projection, it's relatively cheap. You can go cheaper, but at this price level you definitely get what you pay for.
And with the Panasonic you get a lot—a compact, quiet projector with fine color, solid black levels, no DLP rainbows, and a range of adjustments that is the equal of projectors costing several times as much. It definitely deserves a close look.
Highs and Lows
Film-like images with fine subjective color
Nearly silent operation (in Low lamp mode)
Non-defeatable sharpness enhancement in 480i and 480p
Some softness and grain
May not be compatible with some HDMI sources