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PT-AX200U Features & Comparisons

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I experienced a sense of deja vu when I opened up the PT-AX200U projector, took some photos and set it up in my theater room. The chassis and feel of the unit was nearly identical to the PT-AX100U I had reviewed last year. In fact, the only physical difference I noted immediately was the presence of an additional HDMI input on the connector panel – a welcome addition, but was there more under the hood of this LCD projector? As I knew from this year's demo at CEDIA there were indeed several new features of Panasonic's incremental but impressive projector update – not the least of which involved some tantalizing gaming-centric features.

Features and Favorites

While the Panasonic PT-AX200U isn't exactly a “from the ground up” rewrite of the prior AX100U model, there are several features worth noting, both old and new:

  • Light Harmonizer 2 with Ambient Light Sensor
    Instead of the “gamma jump” which occurred in the original Light Harmonizer system, the second iteration of this technology also configures Lamp Power output, Iris setting and even Sharpness to get the best possible results in ambient light conditions.
  • Smooth Screen Technology
    Smooth Screen makes this 720p projector look very much like 1080p, especially when viewed from close distances as is the case in my room (I like a BIG screen). Image softness doesn't seem to be an issue and the technology really is impressive, given the fact that any time you think about defocusing the edges of pixels you assume there will be a downside.
  • Dynamic Iris
    Finally, a Dynamic Iris system that doesn't sound like the final scene of the Terminator when he's reaching through the bars to get at Linda Hamilton. I can't stand noisy Iris systems and typically turn them off. Panasonic has solved this issue and they did it just for me... er, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
  • Vertical and Horizontal Lens Shift
    Lens shift on LCD projectors? That's old news. Yeah, tell that to DLP projectors at this price. It's cool, offers an incredible flexibility for installations and deserves to continue to be mentioned until all projection technologies incorporate it in products costing less than $2000.
  • Game Mode
    Saving the best for last, the PT-AX200U features a special “Game” mode which adjusts the internal processing (presumably bypassing some of the unneeded video processing) to improve video response (up to 3x) and reduce lag times during game play. We think this is a real propeller-head feature, but for those of you who game more than you sleep this is likely going to be a welcome addition. Tom Taylor, or Tsquared as he's known in the Major League Gaming community, demoed this feature at CEDIA this year. Being a professional gamer, I'll take it that it's significant to people who take their Xbox very seriously. According to Tom, the lag was all but gone and the system made gaming much more enjoyable.

Using the New Features

The most stand-out feature is the addition of Game mode. Not only does it reduce game lag time, but it also alters the gamma so that darker scenes (you know the ones that are very annoying to play when you don't have your room completely blacked out) are more revealing. I tested this out with Halo3 and the Game mode became my best friend almost instantly. Suddenly, I could see where I was going, even when there was a small amount of ambient light leaking into my theater room. The other notable addition is the presence of two HDMI inputs. While I must admit that I only run a single line to my projector (who wants to pay for dual 25-foot runs of HDMI?) this may be a nice thing for anyone looking to have discrete sources and unique calibration settings for each. I left Light Harmonizer off on the PT-AX100U, simply because it was more of a gimmick with only the ability to adjust Gamma settings. With the new version I actually enjoyed using it and the feature becomes much more practical.

Comparing the Panasonic PT-AX100U and the PT-AX200U

When we first reviewed this model's predecessor we did a comparison and it only seems fair to keep up the tradition. This time around the differences are much more difficult to spot, as this really is just an incremental change. Here’s a quick overview of differences:

PT-AX100U PT-AX200U
2000 ANSI lumens 2000 ANSI lumens
6000:1 (on/off) contrast ratio 6000:1 (on/off) contrast ratio
Dynamic Iris with Light Harmonizer (Gamma) System Dynamic Iris with Light Harmonizer 2 (Gamma + Sharpness + Lamp power + Iris) System
220W UHM lamp 220W UHM lamp
D-5 LCD panel D-5 LCD panel
290W power 290W power
Dynamic Iris Dynamic Iris
1 HDMI input 2 HDMI inputs
Backlit remote Backlit remote
Full 1080p/24/60 support Full 1080p/24/60 support
No Game mode Game mode
10.8lbs 10.8lbs
15.5” x 4.4” x 11.8” 15.5” x 4.4” x 11.8”
Starting MSRP: $2,999 Starting MSRP: $1,999

The remote controls are almost identical, except that the PT-AX200U replaces the Sleep button with a dynamic Function button that can be assigned to any number of functions, depending on your preference (I set mine to activate Game mode):

PT-AX100U-remote.jpg PT-AX200U-remote.jpg
PT-AX100U remote (left) and PT-AX200U remote (right)

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

TVJon posts on December 14, 2007 00:12
I have this PJ running in my almost-done media room. I like it a lot and have no issues with the machine. What I find most interesting (this is my first PJ) is how soft and low-resolution some of my old standard definition DVDs look on the “big screen.” I suppose that's what you get when you're actually looking what amounts to seven pixels per inch on a screen that's 8-feet across.. assuming 640 pixels horizontal resolution. The other thing watching on the big screen does is make me follow the rack focuses and notice soft camera shots more than I ever did on television.

The price you pay for watching DVDs REALLY big… and why I want to see the difference HD really makes.

TVJon
RTPBob posts on November 29, 2007 18:05
Hdmi 1.?

Does anyone know which level of HDMI the AX200U supports? I've been reading about the advantages of 1.3 but haven't been able to track down what level this projector supports.

Thanks,
Bob
Allan Rast posts on November 10, 2007 22:12
majorloser, post: 327349
So I take it you don't have any HDCP issues with the Dish-HD HDMI signal? If not, this might end up becoming my “spare” projector.


I “found” the review of this projector and followed the links to this forum. I am thinking of getting this projector to replace a 1995 vintage Sharp LCD projector. I also wonder about others having the HDCP issues.

I'm thinking of also getting the Denon 3808CI receiver. I bought one of the Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD players at Wal-Mart the day of the big sale.

Does this sound like a reasonable system to everyone? Thanks in advance for responses.
majorloser posts on November 07, 2007 15:36
TOADSKI, post: 326635
I bought this for my new dedicated theater, Dish HD is amazing I dont have a a HD DVD but but christmas is coming. i can watch this with lights on if needed.
the cons to me are the 120 ft power cord supplied with the machine I need a 1 ft cord. For once a company gives a really long cord and I dont need it.
It worked great right out of the box.

So I take it you don't have any HDCP issues with the Dish-HD HDMI signal? If not, this might end up becoming my “spare” projector.
Clint DeBoer posts on November 07, 2007 09:24
I'd be interested to hear from even more people who own this projector and see what they think or if they encountered any difficulties.
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