Panasonic PT-AE1000 Review
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Following hot on the heels of JVC's HD1 is the Panasonic PT-AE1000 offering full HD resolution as well as some nifty image calibration tools...
A projector tuned by the picture experts in Hollywood is an appealing prospect. Add to that a full waveform monitor to see exactly what is happening within the image and allowing accurate set up, and it would appear that the Panasonic PT-AE1000E is an enthusiast’s dream. So have Panasonic released the last word in HD projection?
The PT-AE1000E introduces a number of new features to the companies projector lines as well as offering a sleek and good looking unit. The case is unusually wider than it is long and measures 460 x 130 x 300 mm (w x h x d) and weights in at roughly 7.2 kg (15.9 lbs.) The only colour available is a black satin finish which is ideal for a projector; in fact any projector not available in black rather defeats one of the end objectives of light controlled environments. The lens unit is centrally placed on the front plate with input and output air vents either side. This is a similar design to the JVC HD1 we reviewed last month and allows shelf mounting if desired as all the air is expelled from the front of the unit.
The lens system employed is a new design by Panasonic and is made up with 16 lens elements in 12 parts, including two large-diameter aspherical lenses and two high-performance ED (extra low dispersion) lenses. This coupled with a clear prism which processes the primary colours, controls any diffused reflection inside the unit reducing the chromatic aberrations that can cause colour deviation. In basic terms this new layout makes sure that colours are as accurate as possible and the projector can achieve a higher contrast ratio. Panasonic claim 11000:1 contrast from the unit, but we will come back to that later.
The PT-AE 1000E uses the C2FINE HD LCD panels which offer a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. These produce what the company claims is a better than normal black performance. In simple terms the alignment of the pixels when there is no voltage present are perpendicular to the glass substrate, so there is no light leakage and the substrate remains black. This in theory allows no light to pass thus giving an almost perfect black performance – well on paper anyway. The projector also employs a dynamic iris control to improve the black levels even further. However you may like me, ask the question of why, if in fact the new pixel structure is supposed to produce true on/off blacks, why employ an iris?
Using an UHM lamp the projector also employs a special colour filter in the optical path to improve the colour purity of the primaries and achieve a better black performance. Panasonic claim that by using this filter the primaries can almost achieve the digital cinema specifications laid down in SMPTE DC28. Looking at our test results below, you can see that this is not quite the case in practice, but it is always encouraging that manufacturers at least try to strive for more realistic colour production and calibration.
The unit also employs a unique pixel configuration to help reduce the age old LCD problem of the Chicken wire effect. Called ‘smooth screen’ the patented use of crystal double refraction helps smooth the lines between individual pixels, helping the unit produce a more three dimensional image. During use I never once noticed any problems with the chicken wire effect, and the image remained sharp at all times.
On the top of the unit are the lens shift controls which are easy to use and set correctly. These are positioned towards the front plate and have three finger holes to allow easy operation. To the left of the unit (looking from the front) is a side door revealing manual controls for all the projectors functions.
In all the projector is logically laid out in terms of inputs and controls and remains sleek in its design, this is a good looking unit and a far cry from the days of the grey data based boxes.
Setting the projector up was a breeze and took about 5 minutes filling a seven and a half foot wide screen from around 11 feet back. Firing up the unit revealed it had no hours on the clock, so we could conclude it was indeed a brand new machine.
Taking a look around the menus is pleasing with the amount of options available for accurate picture tuning. There are also seven preset colour options available as default on the projector and the manual suggests that these can be used for watching a variety of material. You have the usual options like dynamic for increased image brightness in room that is not light controlled, through to settings like colour 2 which track the digital cinema specifications. As always when it comes to picture set up we would advocate a proper calibration and the Panasonic certainly has all the controls necessary to allow a very accurate calibration. The colour 1 setting is the closest to the D65 (6500k) setting and colour space for HD material, so this is what we would use as a starting point for our calibration later. One other feature which caught my attention was the waveform monitor.
So what are our final thoughts on the Panasonic PT-AE1000? The unit has all the sought after features an enthusiast would want - great processing, aspect control, colour management controls, ease of use and good build quality. It also has the nifty waveform monitor which is a great learning tool for people to see exactly what picture controls do to the image; and for setting contrast and brightness it excels. It is not the most accurate monitor, and attempting to fully calibrate the projector with this has been proven not to work. However it is always encouraging to see manufacturers adding these types of features to their products, and long may it continue.
What lets this machine down is the lacklustre black performance, which even when compared to other LCD machines in its class (and below), is a disappointment. Had the contrast level and shadow detail been there this projector would have received a reference status badge. It does everything else in terms of picture perfectly well after a professional calibration, with stunningly realistic colours and good sharpness levels as well as a distinct lack of screen door effect. The iris was maybe a bad idea here as well. I just couldn’t live with the noise and jerkiness of its operation and the fact it takes detail and depth out of the image, going totally against what it is supposed to do. In our opinion leave the iris and all the noise reduction technologies turned off and get a proper calibration to achieve the very best this projector offers.
So to round off, the Panasonic has forgettable blacks, yet does everything else extremely well and should be considered for audition if you are looking to go full HD with your next projector – recommended.
Review by Phil Hinton
After an hour of using the monitor I was happy that I could not do anymore to improve the information using the controls available, so what were my conclusions?
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Suggested price: £3,495
Reviewed 25th June, 2007 by Phil Hinton
To get the best out of your TV or projector, consider getting it calibrated.
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