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Panasonic PT-AE4000U Review - 1080p Home Theater Video Projector

Panasonic PT-AE4000U 1080p Video Projector
Written by: Mike English

Verdict:  BUY!!! Panasonic pulls further ahead of the pack with the definitive value oriented, full featured sub $3K home theater projector. Colours are lifelike and vivid, and contrast levels are incredible with deep blacks and clean, accurate whites. The PT-AE4000U is a breeze to set up and install. Build quality is exceptional – it feels like a solid bit of good engineering. The PT-AE4000U is a watermark unit that sets the bar very high for an increasingly packed market.   

By the Numbers:

Panasonic PT-AE4000U Features:

-  1920x1080P, 1600 ANSI Lumens, 100,000:1 Advertised Contrast, 120Hz, 2:1 Optical Zoom, 40% Vertical , 100% Horizontal Optical lens shift, 3 x HDMI, 12V trigger, 22dB Eco Mode



  • Incredibly vivid, lifelike picture
  • Make sure you buy from a Panasonic authorized reseller
  • Incredible true contrast ratio
  • Unforgiving focus
  • Accurate easy to adjust lens shift
  • Large chassis, like other comparable projectors
  • Very easy and forgiving to install
  • Single IR Port on the front of the unit
  • Powerful, easy to use picture adjustment tools


  • Well set up, useable out of the box factory pre-sets


  • Bright while maintaining phenomenally deep black level


  • Loads of inputs


  • Feels and performs like you’d expect from a fine piece of Japanese engineering


  • Smooth screen pixel blending, resulting in a film like image texture


  • High performance optical system featuring top notch lens


  • Proprietary Double Drive High Precision LCD panels, exclusive to Panasonic


  • Power zoom and focus


  • Intelligent, comfortable remote


Panasonic PTAE4000U Overview:

Panasonic PTAE4000U Overview

Panasonic has collaborated with some Hollywood heavy hitters in developing the PT-AE4000U. The entire signal path has been optimized for HD Home Theater reproduction. The ultimate goal has been to realize the film maker’s vision in the comfort of your own home. The ad copy is pretty expansive – there’s a lot of it, but here’s the thing – they’ve got the chops to pull it off. Panasonic not only helped develop Blu-Ray technology, they’ve been involved in digital movie production from the beginning. In Hollywood. With some of the leading technicians and artists making movies today. It sounds trite but after playing with this projector extensively I can tell you it’s something that Panasonic actually pulls off. This projector is so good it goes beyond the numbers.

Here’s how to get started. Open the box. Plug it in. Attach a HD box or Blu-Ray player. Turn it on. 5 minutes, tops, and you’re watching one of the best projectors in it’s class doing it’s thing. Even right out of the box the PT-AE4000U flexes it’s muscle. Contrast was exceptional, with bright colourful images with a lot of pop. The menu system is simple yet highly functional. Deliberate care has been taken to provide a simple, easy to use interface that welcomes the first timer, yet is powerful enough for the advanced user, but more on that later.

I’m deliberately avoiding discussing the 2.35:1 “Anamorphic” zoom capabilities of the projector. In my opinion there’s only one way to properly execute the conversion, and that’s optically with an anamorphic lens. Instead this review concentrates exclusively on what 99.99% of users will do with this projector, and that’s 1080P, multiple formats, via HD cable / satellite and Blu-Ray.

Panasonic PT-AE4000U Home Theater Video Projector Set Up

Like most 3LCD projectors, Panasonic’s PT-AE4000U offers extensive flexibility during installation. The image may be shifted up or down, left or right, significantly, meaning you don’t even have to be close to screen center for a tight, square cornered image. Short version – it’s a real breeze to set up. Unlike Epson’s flimsy, wobbly lens shift system, the system used by Panasonic feels tight, precise and accurate. It’s a small thing that can have a significant effect on ease of installation.

My test PT-AE4000U was ceiling mounted, fed 1080P via Blu-Ray and 1080i by way of a satellite receiver. The screen used is a Draper Clarion with Veltex, 106” VA, with their 0.9 gain High Def Grey material. Test material includes Blu-Rays of “BBC’s Planet Earth”, “Baraka”, “Curse of the Golden Flower” and “Pearl Harbor” among others. The projector was approximately 2 feet above the screen at about a 14 feet throw. Because of the lens shift, no keystoning was required.

Panasonic PT-AE4000U Setup

Connectivity is impressive with 3 HDMI ports. Remember though, this isn’t really necessary – you should be running your video through a good HT receiver, and doing your switching at the receiver.

PT-AE4000U First Impressions

I’ve played with the older version, the PT-AE3000 and was quite impressed. However, I had reservations about the capability of the projector to show a good, sharp focus. I felt the smooth screen technology as implemented in the older model, actually a kind of micro-lens array, contributed to a soft look with the 3000. Not so with the PT-AE4000U. Focus was tight and crisp on details without any of the softness I was half expecting. Make no mistake though – this projector will let you know when the focus is not exact. You may see small flares or smudging of on-screen text. I’m not used to power zoom or focus in a projector in this price range. Finding it included on the PT-AE4000U was definitely a nice surprise, but it’s worth mentioning - don’t overdo it. A small tap on the remote is adequate for precise adjustments.

PTAE4000U First Impressions

About the remote – it’s small, ergonomic, without a dizzying array of buttons so typical on other projectors in this class. It’s exceptionally well laid out with a pleasant backlight that’s quite visible, yet won’t assault your eyes when you activate it even after your eyes have adjusted. Another nice detail is that the soft backlight activates by pressing any button, instead of having to fumble around in the dark for the Backlight button, a la Epson. It should be law that all remotes work like Panasonic’s. Another nice touch is the “FUNCTION” button. You can assign a variety of commands to this button.

As I’ve said, set up is a breeze. The evaluation PT-AE4000U is part of a Control 4 automation system, so the projector’s 12V trigger out isn’t used. Small thing – the PT-AE4000U does not have a rear IR port. This means that with our C4 system covering up the IR port on the front of the projector, using the projector remote can be hit or miss. This won’t be a concern with 99.99 percent of installations, but it’s worth mentioning.

Like other comparable projectors, the PT-AE4000 is a large projector, but the Percheron projector mount we used was perfect right out of the box. Basically, if you’ve bought a good mount you should have no problem hanging this projector.

So how’s it look? First on the schedule was BBC’s Planet Earth, which I use a lot. This is worth mentioning because I’ve seen the content on a variety of different projectors over the years and I’m very familiar with it as a result. I bounced through a few pre-sets and settled on Normal picture mode. “From Pole to Pole” is my go-to demo material, and wow. The dark opening, with the penguins huddling in a bunch is very dark – I’ve always felt it was weak opening material; I’ve never liked the way it looked on any projector, not all the way. On the PT-AE4000U it was like I was seeing it for the first time. It’s as if a film was peeled off the picture. Everything was fresh. I had an “aha” moment when I realized that what I was seeing was more like what the film’s producers were seeing when they opened with it. From there the whites of the snow fields to the lush purple, yellow and greens of a flowering Mount Fuji were perfectly rendered, with an extra pop that really made the images jump out at me. Again, it was like I was really seeing the image for the first time.

BBC Planet Earth
"BBC's Planet Earth"

I’m not a big fan of frame interpolation, aka 120Hz image processing. It has minimal effect of 60fps material, like HDTV, and can render a beautifully shot action scene, like the duel between the Emperor and his Son in “Curse of the Golden Flower” looking like it was pulled from a day time soap opera. That being said there is a spooky clarity that comes with it when done well, and the PT-AE4000U does it as well as it can be done. There’s no tearing or folding of the 120Hz processed image that I’ve come to expect. There’s no smearing or darkening of edge detail, as with some other units. Instead, it’s yet another feature well executed by Panasonic on this projector.

Getting the Most out of a Good Thing

Goodies, toys, features, whatever you want to call them, the PT-AE4000U comes with a lot of them. There are so many ways to tweak the picture it’s impossible to describe them all. Instead I’ll pick a few of my favorites.

Most of your adjustments will likely be done using the Picture tab on the Main Menu. It’s a slider system I’m beginning to favour over numeric systems. I used the following settings. Note that these settings apply to this one projector, in this individual room, using a wide ranging selection of source material, referenced above.

Picture Mode  Normal
Contrast  +9
Brightness  -13
Color  0
Tint  -7
Sharpness 0
Color Temperature +2
Dynamic Iris  On

Panasonic PT-AE4000U Picture Menu
PT-AE4000U Picture Menu

Now how did I arrive at these numbers? Panasonic has included a powerful group of tools to help you get the most out of your PT-AE4000U. Most useful for me are the R G B Y Waveform monitors. These neat tools allow you to monitor, real time, the actual red, green, blue and brightness content of your source material, and make educated adjustments. You’ll see an actual waveform of, for instance, the B or Blue channel, based on the source material, and use this to make adjustments to how Blue is displayed by your projector, in your room. To get the most out of this feature, you really need to familiarize yourself with your source material. Tweaking this way isn’t hard to do, but definitely requires some familiarity with the source material and the projector itself.

Luminance (“Y”) Channel Waveform Monitor in action!
Luminance (“Y”) Channel Waveform Monitor in action!

Curse of the Golden Flower
“Curse of the Golden Flower”

Curse of the Golden Flower - Green Channel Waveform Monitor
“Curse of the Golden Flower” Green Channel Waveform Monitor

Don’t feel like being quite so geeky? Bring up the Split Adjust mode, and modify the picture using a before and after still shot shown side by side on the screen. It’s quick and easy, and gives you a literal representation of your adjustments, with something to compare it to. Very, very nice.

These are very high end features on a mid-range projector. In fact I’ve never seen these functions this well executed outside of a TV studio. I’m amazed that Panasonic has included these kinds of tools on a projector at this price point.

The PT-AE4000U Bottom Line

There are simply so many good things to say about the Panasonic PT-AE4000U that it’s really best for you to experience it for yourself. Don’t be put off by the apparent complexity of the projector – it’s simple and easy to use. There are a lot of features included for power users that your regular Joe will likely never use or have to use. The picture modes are really well executed and should provide enough good settings to use the projector is a variety of light and room conditions. Given the price point, ease of installation and the phenomenal out of box performance, this may be the best overall projector on the market. Combine the incredible array of tools for the power user, with exceptional build quality, and Panasonic may have made their best home theater projector yet.

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