Into the light

GCN Lab Review: Panasonic projector delivers bright, uniform light, but some details get lost

We used an imaging benchmark suite from DisplayMate Technologies to test the PT-F100NTU projector. The suite generates specific, highly detailed images that pinpoint flaws in image uniformity, white saturation, pixel consistency, color registration and color accuracy.



The comprehensive DisplayMate benchmark suite can test LCD or CRT monitors, LCD TVs, digital light processing projectors, plasma monitors and even printers. Visit www.displaymate.com for more information.



We also recorded the brightness of images at 10 feet from the lens using an LX-101 lux meter from Lutron Technologies. Measured in lumens, readings were taken in the center of the screen and also at the corners. A drop of more than 100 lumens from center to corner is visible to the naked eye. We ran the DisplayMate benchmarks on a fairly standard Dell Optiplex GX200 series desktop with an ATI Radeon X300 video card.

PANASONIC'S PT-F100NTU projector offers a glorious, auditorium- size beacon of light. But the projector's strength is also its weakness: This same radiance has a tendency to wash out fine details.

It's a hefty LCD projector, weighing 13.7 pounds. Unless it has its own rolling cart, you'd likely want to set up this unit in a conference room and leave it there rather than move it from room to room.

One of the projector's main drawbacks showed up right away: The PT-F100NTU doesn't have a digital video input, only analog. We had to use a digital converter, which fortunately we had in the GCN Lab. But if you were setting it up for a presentation to your agency director in half an hour, you might have to scramble to find a digital converter. Given that 90 percent of the projectors on the market have a digital input, the lack of one on this high-end unit seems glaring. There are S-video and component inputs, however, so you can hook it up to a video source fairly easily.

We performed the DisplayMate Technologies benchmark tests 10 feet from the lens. The projector offers a uniform splash of light across the screen. The lumens in the center of the screen measured 1,200, and the corners rated 1,150 lumens, a difference of only 50, far less than is noticeable with the naked eye.

The Panasonic had a bit of trouble displaying very fine details. The D i s p l a y M a t e benchmarks for pixel detail were fuzzy in spots. Some of the pixels bled into others, and some of the extremely fine detail was lost on a black field.

One place the Panasonic excelled was in the gray-field tests. The projection showed no swirly, moir' effect.

We also ran a shades-of-gray test, which shows the degree to which you can see a light image on a dark background. We could still see the image at 3 percent, which is good.

In the reverse scenario, detecting a black image on a light screen, the projector didn't fare quite as well. We stopped seeing the image at Level 245, which is 5 percent below peak white. Because the Panasonic pumps out so much brilliant light, it tended to slightly wash out midrange images on a light background.

The dark screen test also showed no stuck pixels ' errant, rogue dots that stick out on a black field.

The Panasonic had some trouble with the color stepping test, which measures the intensity of colors on the screen. The Panasonic's strength ' its bountiful light source ' was again its Achilles' heel. The bright light tended to blur very fine steps in color intensity.

The colors themselves, however, won us over with their true hues and intensity. The red was clear, and the blue was vivid. The white was clear and crisp. But the green came out too yellowish, almost chartreuse.

The Panasonic performed well when displaying fonts. Text was readable down to nine points.

This projector will work well with text-heavy presentations, even if your audience is full of aging baby boomers whose eyes aren't what they used to be.

The projector was slightly off on the registration test, which detects the color registration on moving images.

The unit is optimized for displaying data, not videos. It will brighten the gloomiest conference room, but it's not a home entertainment center.

Panasonic has set the price of the PT-F100NTU at $4,099. If your job requires presentations involving nuanced details such as detecting art forgeries or counterfeit bills, this is not the projector for you. If, however, you need a powerful conference room projector that lets the audience read Power- Point slides or Excel charts from the back row, this will suit your needs admirably.

Panasonic Projector Systems, (888) 411-1996, www.panasonic.com/projector

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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