There are only three projectors in the entry level price category, with the Mitsubishi HC4900 and the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 seeming to slug it out for the lowest price, depending on the promo of the month. Definitely more expensive, is the Panasonic PT-AE2000U.
Out of the Box Projector Performance
Both of these projectors are what I would describe as very good consumer projectors, appealing to most home theater projector buyers, but not the hard core enthusiasts. The enthusiast doesn't mind, and more often, looks forward to 'tweaking" their new projector, for color accuracy, black levels, and more, while most folks just want one that works well, "out of the box."
Both of these projectors actually do a very good job out of the box, in terms of color accuracy, however, I would have to give the advantage to the Panasonic. Glancing back at my original reviews and commentary, I typically described the PT-AE2000U as very good, and the HC4900 as good. To provide perspective, there is, I think, only 4 projectors out of the twenty in the whole comparison, that I describe as excellent, and three are JVC projectors selling for roughly $5000 and up.
Of course, if you are "into it" both projectors can be improved upon slightly. For more on that see the calibration section of the original reviews.
In "best" mode, the PT-AE2000U is notably brighter than its predecessor, the PT-AE1000U, and can now be considered just average in brightness among all of the home theater projectors in this review. We measured it at 388 lumens.
By comparison, the Mitsubishi is significantly brighter, with a measured 688 lumens, making it by far, the brightest of all the 3LCD projectors tested, and brighter than all but a handful of "light canons" most of them between two and five times the price.
Things change though, when you need maximum lumens. In that case, these two projectors are much closer together, with the Panasonic having a slight advantage, with 1019 lumens compared to the Mitsubishi's 962 lumens. Considering the measurement accuracy, and other points like how many hours were on the projectors when I received them. Let's just say, that in brightest mode they are a tie.
That difference in "best" mode, though is very significant, and certainly gives the HC4900 projector a big advantage for the "family room" crowd, those without the ability to fully darken their rooms even in the evening. For that matter, also those who want a little light on, even when movie watching (that would include my wife).
Another group that will favor the HC4900 are those who are primarily movie watchers, but want very large screens - say 120" diagonal and up, where the Panasonic simply runs out of steam. In best mode, the HC4900 can easily handle my own 128" diagonal screen, but the Panasonic, is probably not a good choice for anything above 110". By the same measure, the Mitsubishi is probably too bright for anything below 100" diagonal if you want anything even remotely resembling "blacks".
The Panasonic, as I said, is average, in "best" mode, or perhaps just below that - I normally say 400-450 lumens. Coming up 12 lumens short, is well within the margin of error.