Panasonic PT-AX100 £1000
11th Apr 2007 | 23:00
Panasonic provides both price and performance to please
The AX100 is fairly large by budget projector standards, but is still reasonably easy on the eye thanks to a fetching white finish.
Connectivity is functional. That's to say, you get solitary examples of the key HDMI, component and VGA PC inputs, alongside the usual composite and S-video efforts and a serial port.
Considering how affordable it is, the AX100 has a healthy set of features. Not least among these is the latest version of Panasonic's SmoothScreen processing, designed to do away with LCD technology's traditional Chicken Wire pixellation effect.
Then there's a new Pure Colour Filter specially developed to improve colour production accuracy in films, and a new Light Harmonizer that senses the amount of ambient light in your room and adjusts the picture accordingly.
The projector's optical arrangement claims a 6000:1 contrast ratio (achieved via the inevitable auto iris system) joined with a phenomenally high maximum brightness claim of 2000 Lumens - all delivered from three 1280 x 720 LCD panels.
The AX100 is adaptable to different room requirements too, thanks to a big optical zoom of x2, vertical and horizontal image shift via a joystick on the projector's front panel, and the room/screen size flexibility made possible by the 2000 Lumen output.
Also notable for a sub-£1k projector is the AX100's ability to accept a 1080p feed - including the 1080p/24fps mode finding favour on Blu-ray discs these days. Naturally though, there's little benefit in this as the native resolution of 1280 x 720.
More for your money
Given the modest price tag, the AX100 is a great performer. Particularly good is its suppression of chicken wire distortion. Thanks to the SmoothScreen technology, the only time I saw even the slightest hint of any chicken wire effect was while watching extremely bright footage such as Viva Pinata on the Xbox 360. And even when I did see it, it was extremely subtle.
Virtually every source I threw at it - even a composite video feed - is shown with near-flawless smoothness and fluidity compared with the jerkiness and blurring common in the budget LCD world. This fluidity is especially notable with 1080p play back.
The AX100's colours are impressive, too. The supreme naturalism of tones - even tricky skin tones like those during the giant insect attack in King Kong - is a joy to behold, and again sets the AX100 in a class of its own for its price point. But Xbox 360 games like the aforementioned Viva Pinata and Kameo also look scintillatingly rich and vibrant, proving both the quality of the projector's innate colour handling and the astuteness of the auto-iris system.
Of course, a projector as cheap as the AX100 doesn't come completely without compromise. For instance, while its black level response is certainly good, there is a touch more greyness over dark areas than with the other projectors in our group. Also while standard definition pictures actually look far more impressive than expected, high definition images (especially 1080p) aren't quite as crisp and sharp as we'd ideally like. But you didn't seriously expect perfection for this price, did you?!
The PT-AX100 offers far more flexibility and performance than you've any right to even dream of for under a grand.