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70 Panasonic PT-AE3000 ➜ £2,200 Approx ➜ www.panasonic.co.uk
The centrally-mounted lens can create a 3.8m image from as little as 4.5m away
Home Cinema Choice April 2009
Panasonic pushes the PJ envelope By offering more features and tweaks than most of its rivals, Panasonic’s PTAE3000 has turned Martin Pipe’s head. But will it turn yours?
anasonic clambered on board the Full HD projector bandwagon years ago with the well-received LCD-based PTAE1000. Last year saw its successor, the identically-styled but improved AE2000. This is now in turn being replaced by the AE3000 – which, in physical terms, looks not unlike what’s gone before. A rectangular black box of almost militaristic appearance, the AE3000’s straight lines are broken by the chrome-ringed and respectablyranged (ƒ22.4 - 44.8mm) motorised zoom-lens, plus two top-mounted dials for vertical and horizontal lens-shift. Not even the control panel dares intrude; while just about every parameter can be adjusted without the backlit handset, on-body keys are hidden under a flap that can be closed for most of the time. That’s pretty much in line with the Panasonic PT-AE2000, as are the generous AV inputs. You get three HDMIs (capable of accepting anything from 480p to 1080p24), two HD-ready components, analogue VGA for the large-screen gaming via your PC, plus composite and S-video for legacy video kit hookup. Impressive and beyond much of the competition but, as with the manufacturer’s new range of DVD/HDD recorders, this is merely par for the course for Panasonic. So is the company resting on its laurels? Well, no. There are some welcome innovations, particularly a set of three lens memories. To each of these you can save, and recall later, different permutations of zoom, focus, horizontal and vertical
shift. If you have an adjustable-mask screen with 4:3, 16:9 and 2.35:1 modes, then the AE3000 can be optimised for them. That’s right: borderless CinemaScope without the need for an anamorphic lens! The caveat is that potential definition is lost, because the PJ’s full 1920 x 1080 resolution is not being utilised. Okay, you won’t get the performance of a true anamorphic lens – such as that sold by a third-party company for use with JVC’s D-ILA models. But those adjunctive optics do wedge up a PJ’s asking price. It’s nevertheless lamentable that the AE3000 doesn’t have a 12V trigger output for triggering screens directly (a pretty basic requirement). However, you do get a serial port that allows the projector (as well as the screen and AV equipment) to be controlled by the touch-panel installations normally associated with high-end installers.
Home cinema It can be seen from the throw distances that the lens has been engineered with realistic domestic environments in mind. To achieve a 3.8m 16:9 diagonal, for example, the projector and screen can be between 4.5m and 9m apart. These figures are only slightly different for 2.35:1 projection. The contrast ratio has been upped to a claimed 60,000:1 (from the AE2000’s alreadyimpressive 16,000:1) thanks to a combination of the new lens, a dynamic iris and something called ‘Pure Contrast Plate’ technology
AV/CV Product: Full-HD LCD projector bursting with proprietary technology Positioning: Flagship of Panasonic’s home-cinema range; its third-gen 1080p product Peers: InFocus IN83; Sony VPL-VW40; Mitsubishi HC6500
(which is said to block unwanted light from the projection path). Under the bonnet, the video processing has also received a fair amount of attention. Like its predecessor, the AE3000 incorporates Panasonic’s proprietary 100Hz Motion Picture Pro, which analyses adjacent frames in order to create new ones via interpolation. 50Hz and 60Hz signals are doubled to 100Hz and 120Hz respectively – the basic idea is to reduce motion judder. Yet something new is the PJ’s Detail Clarity Processor 2, which claims to apply sharpness-correction to only the areas of the picture where it would be beneficial.
Performance In performance terms, I feel the AE3000 outclasses last year’s model. Compared to some rival machines, detail is subtle rather than ‘in-yer-face’. This does, however, help to mask fine grain. Chapter 39 of the Spider-Man 3 Blu-ray (viewed in 1080p24) contains a scene in which photographic rival Eddie Brock prays for Peter Parker’s demise. On the cathedral wall directly in front is a religious mosaic, and it’s possible here to clearly distinguish the individual tiles. On the other hand, some of the Sandman’s trickier textures elsewhere in the movie are not quite as obvious as they are with competing projectors. Spidey 3’s cinematic eye-candy represents a visual workout for any display. Yet the AE3000 copes admirably with anything this movie can throw at it. The presentation of colours – after calibration – is fresh April 2009 Home Cinema Choice
72 Reviews ➜ Specifications
HD Ready: yes up to 1080p24 HDMI: yes three v1.3 HDMI Component video: yes two inputs PC input: yes one VGA input Resolution: 1920 x 1080 Brightness (claimed): 1,600 ANSI lumens Contrast ratio (claimed): 60,000:1 Dimensions:460(w) x 130(h) x 300(d)mm Weight: 7.3kg Other features: 3 x LCD panels; on-board test pattern generator; userdefined colour profile; motorised x2 zoom lens with manual horizontal/ vertical lens shift; 3 x lens memories; iris control; 100Hz Motion Picture Pro; digital noise reduction; digital keystone correction; RS232 serial port; lamp life 2,000 hours; 22dB running noise (eco mode)
➜ Tech Labs
Box of tricks: It may have all the panache of a biscuit tin, but the PT-AE3000 packs a host of user-friendly features
and lucid, yet natural. Blood, flesh, sky, Central Park vegetation and explosive fire have seldom looked better in the electronic world. And
being LCD, there’s none of the residual ‘rainbow effect’ of modern singlechip DLPs. The strong black levels are remarkable for the price although I doubt the AE3000 wins awards for ultimate brightness. Still, it’s difficult to fault the shadow detail; the AE3000 can coax recognisable form from scenes reduced to a dark mush by lesser projectors. The auto-iris system performs better than expected, with none of the seismic shifts in black-level like those seen on, say, Mitsubishi’s HC5000. Despite this, I preferred to leave the feature off. Call me a traditionalist, but this is quite a complement to the PJ’s native black level. Movement from 1080p24 Blu-ray and SkyHD’s 1080i50 alike is surprisingly smooth, with no judder to speak of. Regular DVDs and digital TV stand up to large-screen treatment well, with a similarly-striking portrayal of colours, believable greyscale and depth. These standard-def sources are upscaled well, nothing being added and nothing taken away. Regrettably, though, you’re at the mercy of the source’s deinterlacing prowess if HDMI is used.
Feature-packed While pictures are excellent, there’s plenty of scope for calibration. A wide Home Cinema Choice April 2009
range of installer-friendly settings are present, which our Tech Labs used to generate a near perfect white balance and colour gamut. Also offered are pattern-generator and waveform monitors. With the latter, you can determine whether your source equipment/software is up to scratch (in terms of black level and peak-whites, for example) and identify faults (such as a faulty component connection) before blaming the projector. Handy. Equally useful is the ‘split-screen’ facility, for before/after picture comparisons. With so many tweaks available, this becomes invaluable. Indeed, I suspect that the AE3000 sets a new record for £2K PJs. In addition to the usual adjustments are colour temperature, gamma, independent adjustment of contrast and brightness for the R, G and B channels, noise reduction, picturepositioning and overscan. Dynamic iris, x.v.Colour support, Detail Clarity and more can be disabled, if they’re not required or prove objectionable.
Quietly confident The AE3000 is a great all-rounder. Install it wisely, and you’ll find that the pictures it produces are immensely satisfying. Connectivity and configurability are excellent, and it operates like a ghost – 22dB in eco mode. In short, one of the most desirable projectors in its category. Shame about the minor caveats, though
Pre-calibration colour temperature on the Panasonic was hot at 9223K (Point A), due to a very low Red of 68% (Point B), but manual adjustment, though quite radical, rendered near-perfect results Before calibration Colour temperature: 9,223K RGB: 68/107/123 Luminance: 51,734fL Contrast ratio: 5392:1 After calibration Colour temperature: 6,507K (user) RGB: 100/100/100 Luminance: 45,225fL Contrast ratio: 1748:1
Verdict Panasonic PT-AE3000 £2,200 Approx Price check: www.techradar.com/503174 Highs: Good black level, contrast and colours; flexibility; quiet running Lows: Needs tweaking for best results; no 12v screen-triggering, won’t accept 480/576i via HDMI Performance: Design: Features:
By offering more features and tweaks than most of its rivals, Panasonic's PT-AE3000 will turn heads. Will it turn yours? - First reviewed in...