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Panasonic PT-AX100U Three-Panel 16:9 720p LCD Digital Projector

Part I

November, 2006

Darin Perrigo

 

Specifications:

 

● Resolution: WXGA (1280 x 720)

● Display Type: Three 0.7" PolySi LCD: 16:9
● Brightness: 2,000 ANSI Lumens; Lamp Life
    2,000 Hours; Replacement Lamp $395
● Contrast Ratio: 6,000:1 with Dynamic Iris and
    Switchable Colored Filter
● Lens: 2:1 Zoom Lens; f/1.9 - 3.1, f/21.7 mm -
    43.1 mm; Manual Zoom and Focus
● Lens Shift: Manual Optical Lens Shift (Vertical
    and Horizontal)
● Keystone Correction: Digital
300
● Inputs: HDMI with HDCP x 1, Computer RGB x
    1, Component Video x 1, S-Video x 1,
    Composite Video x 1, RS-232 x 1
● Dimensions: 4.4" H x 15.5" W x 11.8" D
● Weight: 10.8 Pounds
● MSRP: $2,999; $1,999 Street USA

Available from ProjectorPeople

Introduction

The PT-AX100U is a follow-on to Panasonic's successful PT-AE900U from the Fall of 2005 (which I have owned for over a year now). Both models are 720p LCD.

The Design

Spending some time with the AX100U has given me the impression that Panasonic has been listening to their customers. They've added some nice new features since last year's model.

One new feature with the AX100U is the ability to go bright in some modes while also having the capability to move an internal color filter into the light path. This allows for improved contrast ratio while maintaining accurate colors with some modes.

The new model also includes support for stretching 2.35:1 movies with 720p or 1080i input resolutions to the full 16:9 panel. This is useful for those with 2.35:1 screens and anamorphic lens accessories.

The SmoothScreen technology with the AX100U is also sharper than what I saw with the AE900U.

While the AX100U is larger than the AE900U, it is still small enough to be easily portable for many situations where that can come in handy, like using it for outdoor theater, using it in a different room, moving, shipping, etc.

With last year's model, there were many of us who purchased red filters to mount on the projector lens, in order to give more contrast ratio with balanced colors and to help give a more neutral gray for the darkest parts of the darkest images. UHP type lamps are generally stronger in blue and green than is called for by cinema standards, and the color filter chosen was meant to balance the colors optically. Those adding an external color filter would then calibrate the projector for the particular color filter they chose. One of the downsides of doing this is that it can be a hassle to remove or replace the filter and change the projector settings for different situations. So, many of us would just leave the filter in place the vast majority of the time.

Panasonic now has an internal color filter that will move into the color path when going from some of the modes designed for bright rooms to the modes designed for dark rooms, with calibration from the factory for each. And all of this at the touch of a button on the remote. The remote includes three buttons related to this feature. One marked, Theater Room, one marked, Living Room, and one marked Favorite where the user can store settings for three different modes. Pushing the Theater Room button will first switch to the last dark room setting (Cinema 1, Cinema 2, Video, or Natural), and then subsequent presses will cycle through the available dark room modes. And likewise for the Living Room button with modes generally more appropriate to brighter environments. These modes are Vivid Cinema, Normal, and Dynamic, each of which either keeps or takes the internal color filter out of the color path.

I generally switched between the Cinema 1 mode with the Theater Room button, and the Vivid Cinema and Normal modes with the Living Room button, but also ended up saving those three in the favorites. The projector has a feature called Light Harmonizer where the projector will sense the amount of light hitting it and will adjust the images a certain amount on the fly based on how much light it senses at any one time. However, I preferred to have modes for each situation without leaving headroom for the projector to make adjustments, and then to choose my own mode based on the lighting conditions in the room (and especially lighting conditions at the screen) and the current content I was watching. With the buttons provided on the remote, Panasonic has made this easy to do.

Overall, I found the remote and menus to be very useful and easy to use. While the remote doesn't include a lot of buttons, the ones that were included were mostly the main ones I would want. From the button for backlighting, to the dedicated buttons for the picture mode, to an aspect ratio button, to buttons for going straight to the picture adjustment menu or the color management menu, to general navigation buttons and then to the button for selecting the input, this pretty much covered the necessities.

Hitting the Input Select button brings up a graphic like shown below that the user can then navigate.

I think their use of graphics to show the physical makeup of each input is a nice touch that some will find useful. The input jacks on the back of the unit are shown in the photo below.

I found the menus to be pretty easy to use. Some of the menus can be seen below.
 

 

Click Here to Go to Part II.

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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