Panasonic PT-AR100E home theatre projector

This Panasonic projector is a big screen for your living room, even with the lights on

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Panasonic PT-AR100E
  • Panasonic PT-AR100E
  • Panasonic PT-AR100E
  • Panasonic PT-AR100E

Pros

  • Bright 2800 lumen lamp
  • Very good colour presets
  • Good image quality

Cons

  • Contrast could be higher
  • No 3D or frame smoothing

Bottom Line

Designed to be used in brighter environments than the range-topping PT-AE7000, Panasonic’s PT-AR100E makes a compromise between contrast, black levels and image brightness. It does a good job - it’s one of the best projectors we’ve seen for watching movies in a room that’s anything other than pitch-black.

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The Panasonic PT-AR100E is a projector aimed at the same market that buys big-screen TVs like the 65in Panasonic VT30A, the 60in Sharp LE835X (and its 70in LE735X counterpart), and the 65in Sony HX925. It’s designed to be used in your living room, whether you’ve got the lights on or not — with a lamp that’s rated at a bright 2800 lumens, it can handle displaying a movie when your living room is well lit.

Panasonic PT-AR100E: Design and features

Panasonic makes two home theatre projectors: the PT-AR100E, designed for casual viewers and enthusiasts alike, and the decidedly more high-end PT-AE7000 — meant for cinema room installations complete with black-out curtains and high-end sound system. Both projectors are laid out similarly, with an offset lens and front fan vent, but the PT-AR100E is finished in a matt white.

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The lens setup of the Panasonic PT-AR100E is almost perfect. There’s a very generous range of motion in the integrated lens shift mechanism, and the 2x range of the zoom lens means the projector can be set up in a small or large room with a similarly small or large screen size. Our test conditions were at the lower end of the projector’s throw range of 1.16m - 18.08m and screen size of 1.02m - 7.62m, but there’s plenty of adjustability for larger viewing spaces.

Our one gripe is the lack of any extra-fine adjustment in the zoom and focus rings — it’s all manual, so unless you’ve got a partner checking whether the image is perfectly focused and zoomed, you’ll need to make a guess and check it on the screen. We would have liked motor-driven fine focus adjustment or a second focus ring for extra-fine adjustment.

The Panasonic PT-AR100E has a few nifty features designed to optimise its video without any input by the user, in a range of lighting conditions: namely Dynamic Iris Pro, which adjusts brightness as well as gamma curve 60 times per second to react to whatever’s being displayed. Also in the mix are built-in ambient light and colour sensors that detect room and projection surface settings to better display video with the correct brightness and white balance. A split-image mode compares settings so that users can choose the most pleasing image and see the impact of their changes.

Buttons are hidden off to the side of the PT-AR100E, and are laid out in a familiar directional pad. You won’t need to use these apart from the projector’s initial setup — the backlit remote control that comes bundled with the projector can change video inputs and navigate menus when necessary.

Panasonic PT-AR100E: Performance and video quality

The Panasonic PT-AR100E strikes a good compromise between brightness and contrast — the two factors that each projector has to balance in order to suit the environment in which it is used. Hardcore home theatre projectors can maximise black levels, dynamic range and image contrast by sacrificing overall brightness, where business projectors need the highest possible brightness for sun-lit boardroom presentations at the cost of colour accuracy and deep blacks.

The Panasonic PT-AR100E has an impressive 2800 lumens of brightness from its lamp — enough to display bright colours alongside reasonably deep black levels when the room is lit by a bright fluorescent light. Obviously the black levels aren’t as deep as when the room is darker, but for anything other than serious movie-watching it’s more than capable and is easily better-looking than a budget or mid-range LCD or LED television.

The Panasonic’s built-in sensors make it easy to change from watching in a bright room to a dark one — the projector optimises itself when the Dynamic Iris Pro setting is used, so viewers can switch from watching TV in a bright room to dimming the lights and watching a movie with no projector fiddling required. Also impressive are the video presets, which do a great job of switching colours, contrast and processing to suit the input of a movie, game, or fast-moving TV show. We generally left the Panasonic PT-AR100E in the Cinema preset for our movie watching and switched to Game when we gave it a test run on our Xbox 360 Slim.

At 50,000:1 native (full on to full off), the contrast ratio of the Panasonic PT-AR100E means it can display some pretty subtle variations on-screen in the right environment. Using the Panasonic PT-AR100E in a darkened room, we were impressed with the range of detail we could find in dark and bright scenes. It’s not perfectly on par with a dedicated dark-room home theatre projector, but it is a lot more versatile for a minimal trade-off in image quality. As we’ve seen in previous Panasonic models like the Panasonic PT-AE3000 home theatre projector, the PT-AR100E’s lens is excellent. It’s extremely sharp across the entire frame, even at maximum and minimum zoom levels.

Panasonic hasn’t included any kind of 3D technology or frame interpolation in the PT-AR100E — those are restricted to the higher-end PT-AE7000. This might be a disappointment to the kind of buyer that obsessively compares specifications between different models and different manufacturers, but in our viewing we didn’t ever wish for either feature. The PT-AR100E generally handles fast motion well, especially in the Game mode, so we didn’t see any significant image break-up, and we’re still not sold on 3D.

Panasonic PT-AR100E: Conclusion

Unless you intend to use it as a dedicated cinema-room-only projector — there are better models for that, including Panasonic’s own AE7000 — the Panasonic PT-AR100E is an impressive projector. It’s the best compromise we’ve seen yet in terms of producing a bright and vibrant image while still maintaining good black levels and contrast in a wide range of lighting conditions.

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