Shootout: Panasonic PT-AE4000U, LG CF181D and InFocus SP8602

This morning we had an impromptu shootout of our top offerings in each display category. We compared the Panasonic PT-AE4000U (LCD, 1600 lumens, 100,000:1 contrast ratio), LG CF181D (LCoS, 1800 lumens 35,000:1 contrast ratio) and the InFocus SP8602 (DLP, 1300 lumens 30,000:1 contrast ratio).

In the video below, the Panasonic is on top, the InFocus on the bottom left and the LG on the bottom right. Please note, this was a very impromptu shootout. We happened to have three awesome 1080p projectors in the same room and couldn’t resist the opportunity to compare LCoS, LCD and DLP displays. You’ll notice at times the screen is leaning against the wall, which causes a keystone effect and naturally softens the focus of the Panasonic projector.

Our initial impressions:

  • We were really amazed with the brightness and contrast of the LG CF181D. It was so bright, in fact, it may appear blown-out on the video.
  • We had to play with the LG‘s color settings to match the Panasonic and InFocus. The “warm” mode delivered the most life-like colors.
  • At 120 hz, the InFocus delivered amazing motion. However, our overly-sensitive eyes picked up a few rainbows during certain action scenes.

What do you see?

Call 1-888-248-0675 to talk to a Projector Expert about the shootout.

P.S. – From 1:43 on, the shootout was filmed with the new Cisco Flip Ultra HD camera. Want one? Call a Projector Expert.

High End 1080p Home Theater Projectors Compared

As you wish, readers! That’s our motto!

We have had many requests to see the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB and the Panasonic PT-AE4000U head-to-head, so we’ve put together a video comparison just for you! We are also including a lesser known (perhaps ‘underdog’) DLP projector; the Vivitek H5080 to the shootout.

So, let’s start with the video (view it here or below). Then we will move on to some additional analysis of what we saw in our shootout.

Video Timeline Breakdown : Hammer Time

  • 0:00 – 0:21 – Introduction to yellow shirt
  • 0:22 – 0:40 – Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB overview
  • 0:45 – 1:00 – Vivitek H5080 overview
  • 1:00 – 1:20 – Panasonic PT-AE4000U overview
  • 1:20 – 2:00 – Three projectors compared for color in default dynamic range
  • 2:05 – 3:15 – Lens shift and zoom capability, and additional features on Panasonic PT-AE4000U
  • 3:15 – 3:40 – Close up video from the Panasonic PT-AE4000U
  • 3:40 – 5:30 – Lens shift and zoom capability on the Vivitek H5080
  • 5:30 – 6:00 – Close up video from the Vivitek H5080
  • 6:00 – 6:40 – Lens shift and zoom capability and features on the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB
  • 7:00 – 7:25 – Close up video from the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB

High End 1080p Projectors : Pros and Cons

As you can see, Rodney looks ravishing in yellow! And he’s given a nice rundown on the primary differences between the three projectors. Feel free to share your own opinions below, and here is a cheat sheet for shoppers of pros and cons between the three 1080p projectors.

Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB projector review

Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB

Pros: 2-year warranty with no specified hour limitation*, 120hz, THX color mode, (best in class) 200:000:1 contrast ratio, broader zoom range than Panasonic AE4000 and H5080

Cons: Manual (but not cumbersome) lens shift and zoom, x2 HDMI inputs (versus x3) , mid range MAP price at $2499 ($200 rebate may apply. See here for latest promotions and best price.)

* There is no specified limit to the number of hours you can use the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB within the 2-year warranty period. This won’t be an issue for most users, but to those who use the projector over 2000 hours in the first year or two, it can provide some peace of mind. The Panasonic AE4000 has a 1 year warranty standard, with an additional year of warranty with mail in rebate. Both the AE4000U and the 8500 UB have a 90-day lamp warranty. Vivitek offers just 30 days on the lamp and 1 year on the projector.

Vivitek H5080 projector review

Vivitek H5080

Pros: Two (2) optional lenses available for short or long throw if needed, DLP technology (a plus for some buyers) with lens shift (not common on a DLP projector), very good color out of the box.

Cons: 60hz, 25000:1 contrast (lower than AE4000U and HC 8500 UB), limited lens shift and zoom, cumbersome lens shift controls, highest MAP price at $2999.

Panasonic PT-AE4000U projector review

Panasonic PT-AE4000U

Pros: Power zoom, lens shift, and focus, very good zoom and lens shift range, preset for recognizing aspect ratios (video from AVForums explains feature here), 100,000:1 very good contrast ratio, lowest MAP price at $1999.

Cons: Slightly red color space out of the box (possibly due to red rich lamp technology), warranty limited to just 2000 hours of use.

[ For a complete comparison chart of specs, click here ]

Projector Shootout : In Person Opinions

During the shootout, our Projector Experts shared their opinions about the three head-to-head. We were given a demo Vivitek H5080 projector that several took home – out of the goodness of their hearts – to review. The H5080 won over over most all of those who took it home. One or two even reported that it was among the best DLP home theater projector they have seen to date.

In our shootout, the Vivitek H5080 got the most positive reviews of the three for color representation with out of box settings. The H5080 was also lauded for its 120hz-like clarity, even though it’s a 60hz unit. There were others who gave the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB the nod (including myself) for color. Color wise, most felt the Panasonic PT-AE4000U was pushing red (possibly because of the ‘red rich’ lamp technology). Whatever the out of the box settings were, all three are fine tuneable, including a “THX” mode on the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB and a bunch of tweak-friendly features on the Panasonic PT-AE4000U.

As for features, the Panasonic PT-AE4000U, has all the right moves. Power zoom and lens shift are nice features to have (even though some may only use them once) and the menu includes lots of tools for tweakers. It also featured the widest lens shift range, though it appeared to be second to the Epson HC 8500 UB on the zoom range. The THX setting also looks nice on the Epson 8500 UB, and will be a plus for some buyers. If you have a very short or very long room, the Vivitek is one of the only home theater projectors in this price range that offers optional lenses.

Panasonic PT-AE4000U, Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB, and Vivitek H5080: All Good

The short story, as it usually is, the that the average home theater buyer would be happy with the picture quality of any of the three high end home theater projectors we included above. The decision for most buyers will probably come down to the more technical elements like throw distance, and desired features like 60hz or 120hz frame rate, number of HDMI inputs, or a coolness factor like power zoom and lens shift. And for those who are flexible about features, at least you have this low rez youtube video to help you choose! No problem. You are welcome!

Projector Showroom Updates Coming Soon!

We will soon be adding the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB, BenQ W1000, and the Optoma HD20 to our showroom. Also the new brand new LG Electronics CF181D has just been added to our site as well as the showroom.

Home Theater Buyers Guide

[ this is a reprint of our Projector People Post home theater tech story ]

Happy Snowfellow

Ho! Ho! Ho! The Holidays are here again! And the decade will end on a particularly joyous year for the home theater enthusiast on a budget. Why? Well, you could say it’s because our best selling new projectors are aggressively priced right out of the gate. Or you might also say it’s because there is so much wonderful HD content out there. Or maybe it’s just because the newest projectors produce the best looking video you’ve ever seen on a 120-inch screen. Whatever reason resonates, this is a great year for big screen, home theater projection. So, let’s move on to some of our usual holiday buyers guide. You’ll get some tips for saving money, and fast and easy tech information that’ll help you pick the best home theater projector for you.

Projector People : Savings Places

Before we get into our technical guide, here are a few pages that might lead to savings for you. Our demo projector inventory (usually very limited use projectors), rebates and promotions, Deal of the Day, and other specials we may featured are linked below.

SAVINGS TIP: Due to manufacturer regulations, authorized resellers have to be a little creative in order to offer you our best price. So add your projector to your cart to see the lowest prices on most projectors. Or, request a quick quote for a Sanyo product to see the lowest price. Packages are also a good way to find additional savings. Call for the most up to date pricing or to create a custom package.

Projector Brightness

As usual, we will start with brightness. Brightness is an important specification, but not much has changed over the past year. In general, dedicated home theaters (ceiling mounted projector in a room with controlled lighting) are still your best space for achieving a flawless image, even with a low lumen projector. Media rooms, backyard theaters, converted garages and basements will most likely require a projector with more brightness to get the best image. But really, about any new home theater projector is going to be bright enough in most environments. Still, we have put together a chart for brightness in general conditions. Call a Projector Expert if you have special considerations in your space.

Home Theater Projector Brightness Recommendations
Room Type Recommended Brightness
Small Theaters* 900 – 1500 lumens (or more)
Large Theaters** 1200 – 2000 lumens (or more)
Outdoor Theaters 1500 lumens (or more)
Media Rooms*** 2000 lumens (or more)

* Dedicated space with controlled lighting and a screen under 100-inches.
** Dedicated space with controlled lighting and a screen over 100-inches.
*** A media room as defined here is a space with windows that is used for multi-purpose entertaining.

SAVINGS TIP: If you see higher lumen ratings on a low priced projector, there is usually going to be a trade off for contrast, video processing and/or optics. When buying, ponder the importance of image quality versus image brightness. Do you want a flawless image in a dedicated space? Or a more flexible media room projector that will work with the lights on? The more expensive projectors will offer you both brightness and image quality, but may lack portability. Ask a Projector Expert for more about what is right for your viewing habits.

The Reigning Resolution


Last year we said ‘if you can afford 1080p HD, then get 1080p HD.’ This year, there are plenty of ‘budget’ 1080p options. So the question becomes, entry level (low priced) 1080p or high end (higher priced) 1080p projection? Our 720p category has all but disappeared, with just one or two strong products left on the market. So, the answer to which resolution is right for you, is in most cases 1080p. No chart needed for that. However, there are certainly more questions to be asked about the technical differences between high and low-end 1080p projectors. For that, I am going to share a few blog entries where we cover the details in depth.

Three Helpful Blog Entries

Compare Three $999 High Resolution Projectors
BenQ W1000, Optoma HD20, and Vivitek H1080FD featured in this article. Brightness, contrast, and more are explored. Click here to read »

Compare Three High End 1080p Projectors
Panasonic PT-AE4000U, Epson Home Cinema 8500UB, and BenQ W6000 discussed within. Brightness, contrast, and more are explored. Click here to read »

Compare Entry Level $999 1080p to High End HD Projectors
Video comparison and information about the differences between the two categories. Click here to read »

Price Breakthroughs This Year

This has been a breakthrough year for low prices in home theater projection. Projectors have broken two price barriers. Entry level true HD 1080p home theater now under $1000 (at $999) and high-end home theater for as low as $1999. That’s good news for buyers that have been watching and waiting for lower prices. For those who prefer suggested products mentioned directly, here’s a quick breakdown of products in the three home theater categories.

    Entry Level Home Theater : $999

Mid Level Home Theater : $1199 – $1499

High End Home Theater : $1999 – $2499


Video of Home Theater Projectors

If you’d rather just see the projector in action, we’ve got some video for you. We have recently added the Panasonic PT-AE4000U, BenQ W6000, and Vivitek H1080FD to our Home Theater Showroom. We’ve also taken some video of the Vivitek H1080FD, Panasonic PT-AE4000U (low quality), and Optoma HD20. We will be adding more as soon as we have a chance to do some head-to-head shootouts.

For more video, visit us on YouTube or test new projectors in our Home Theater Demo Room.

Panasonic PT-AE4000U : In Stock and Ready to Ship!


[ First shipment of Panasonic PT-AE4000U’s are here! ]

If you aren’t already following us on Twitter, or Facebook, then you may not know that our first shipment of the new Panasonic PT-AE4000U has just arrived!

We’ve got a couple truckloads full of them, so we are happy to report that all of our customers who pre-ordered their AE4000U should have theirs on the way to them before the end of the week – aka today or tomorrow.

One of our Facebook fans is already planning his first movie night with new J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie (available November 17th on Blu-Ray and DVD)!

If you don’t already know about the new Panasonic PT-AE4000U, then we have some stuff for you to read. Just a few weeks ago we didn’t even know if it would be available in the U.S. Then, we found out it would be coming here, and we dropped the price on the old AE3000U and sold through our remaining inventory in short order.

Also popular, the Epson Home Cinema 8500 UB and the BenQ W6000, can be compared here. Also, we had a Panasonic representative here a few weeks ago, here’s some not so good video of her AE4000U presentation.

Alright, so now you are up to speed on the Panasonic PT-AE4000U. Now all you have to do is wait a few days for yours to roll in – or upgrade your shipping ASAP and have it for Halloween.

And just for fun… here is some video of the unloading – because we have iPhones, a Flickr account (we won’t bother YouTube with this one), and are very excited

[ The first truck this morning, almost unloaded ]