Panasonic PT-AE1000 £3500

26th Feb 2007 | 00:00

Panasonic PT-AE1000

An LCD projector that offers the joys of Full HD resolution

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

An LCD offering that squeezes out superb Full HD performance for the price

Like:

<p>Flawless picture performance</p><p>Reasonable price</p>

Dislike:

<p>Optimum brightness and black levels can't co-exist</p><p>LCD still slightly limited compared with top-end DLP</p>

The benefits of having a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution display become easier to see the bigger the HD picture you're watching. So it follows that Full HD's most natural home is the projector world.

But what technology serves the format best? For those hunting value, LCD has traditionally delivered the best savings - and it's no different with Panasonic's 1920 x 1080 resolution PT-AE1000.

Listed at £3,500, it's around the same price as Sony's cheapest Full HD SXRD model, the VW50 Pearl; a grand less than JVC's Full HD D-ILA model; and a whopping £1.5k less than the cheapest DLP Full HD model, Optoma's HD81.

But just how well does Panasonic's eye-catcher actually compare?

Its matt black body and chunky design are unrepentantly industrial, and its connections are functional too; twin HDMIs, component video input, D-Sub PC inputs and even a Scart. It's debatable how useful Scart really is on an HD projector these days, but I'd still rather have it than not.

As well as introducing Full HD LCD panels for the AE1000, Panasonic has completely redesigned the projector's optical system to boost contrast (a mighty 11000:1 is claimed) and brightness (to 1100 ANSI Lumens).

One or the other

There is, of course, a specification caveat. The deepest black level can only be achieved with the help of an auto-iris that reduces the amount of light emitted through the lens when showing dark scenes. So you can't get high brightness and a good black level at the same time.

As you would expected at this price, build quality is high. The Panasonic AE1000 uses an aspherical glass lens system to reduce light dispersion, so the picture should look more vivid, along with next-generation LCD panels with inorganic, vertically-aligned liquid crystals for enhanced black level performance and longer life.

Meanwhile, a new Pure Colour Filter generously promises to produce richer red, green and blue primaries, resulting in deeper blacks and a wider colour gamut.

Panasonic's proprietary Smooth Screen technology is once again used to tackle LCD technology's traditional chicken wire effect - a common bugbear amongst projector enthusiasts.

In use the projector is both versatile and sophisticated. On-screen menus offer a variety of performance features, including image presets, gamma adjustments, MPEG and standard noise reduction; a low-lamp mode; and an option to show the picture without any overscan, for 1:1 pixel mapping of 1920 x 1080 sources.

During the course of my audition I viewed a majority of HD materials and was never less than bowled over.

The single greatest strength of the picture is its superlative subtlety. It portrays immaculately the most minute of colour shifts and the gentlest of colour gradations, as well as delivering outstanding amounts of shadow detailing in dark picture areas.

Colour fidelity is extremely natural. I spotted not even the faintest trace of LCD's chicken wire effect, or any other types of distraction come to that, be it grain, dot crawl, or jagged edges.

The Panasonic's black level is very good too. During an HD playout of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, the movie's opening sequence looked suitably black and vast, rather than grey and flat. JVC's DLA-HD1 and some strong DLP contenders can do even deeper, richer blacks, but the AE1000 is excellent for such an affordable model.

The AE1000's 1080p performance is a knock-out, in that it delivers a sense of the extra fluidity that can differentiate 1080p material from its 1080i cousin. But I didn't feel that moving objects look significantly sharper during 1080p playback.

The projector was auditioned with a variety of HD sources, and looked at its best when fed Blu-ray from a Panasonic player. The texture and detail evidenced by operatic diva Katherine Jenkins (on the Blu-ray demo disc) is almost holographic.

I think that in terms of absolute sharpness, some of the more expensive projectors on the market trump the AE1000, but there's nothing that compares for the price. It delivers plenty of big-screen HD bang for your buck.

The AE1000 is unquestionably a superb projector - the best LCD yet from the Panasonic brand - and clearly delivers the benefits of Full HD with the outstanding subtlety of its gradations and shadow detail. Its complete freedom from pixellation or noise will dispell any doubts that LCD can't cut it at the top of the projector Premiership.

Personally, I can't wait to see it in a shoot-out against comparative models like the JVC DLA-HD1 and Sony Pearl. That would be a clash of the titans worth buying a ticket to watch!

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