Panasonic PT-AT6000E 3D LCD Projector Review

It's the latest and greatest from Panasonic, we examine the PT-AT6000E

by Phil Hinton
Home AV Review

20

Highly Recommended
Panasonic PT-AT6000E 3D LCD Projector Review
SRP: £2,999.99

Introduction

It is easy to forget the past. We are all so obsessed with our High Definition lifestyles using tablets, smart phones and 3D on Blu-ray that we perhaps forget where we came from. Only a decade ago the mention of a HD projector under £20k would have been laughed at. As would the use of 3D and of course the smart phone. We have genuinely never had it so good as home cinema fans, as we do right now. It is easy to forget that if you wanted a high quality projector in your home, then, it would have been a CRT model the size of a Mini Metro. Your choice of movie source would have been either VHS, Laserdisc or the new DVD format that was still struggling to convince the public. Digital projectors were of course available with poor resolution, loud fans and black levels that were more like a lighter shade of grey. You could also forget about shadow detail and accurate colours.

But one company were, in 2000, developing a line of dedicated home cinema projectors that, thanks to some Hollywood input, would deliver images that looked decent with the available sources. Panasonic launched their first dedicated home cinema LCD model, the AE100 in late 2000 and have released 10 generations since then, leading up to the PT-AT5000E launched last year. Again, we seem to forget that this year’s model, the PT-AT6000E is Panasonic’s 11th generation of LCD projector since 2000 and that it comes from a very distinguished line of previous developments and advances in projector design. But, at the same time we also have to remember that the home cinema projector market has moved on in many areas with competition increasing every year. This year the Panasonic will have to be able to compete in the sub £3k market against JVC, Sony, Acer, BenQ and Epson to name just a few. As I said, as home cinema fans we have never had it so good for choice, features and price points. So the PT-AT6000E will have to produce the goods if it wants to stand out in an increasingly crowded market place.

Design, Set up and Connections

Those familiar with last year’s PT-AT5000E will see that the chassis design is identical for the PT-AT6000E with the same layout to the body shell. Obviously design and looks are a subjective choice, but the chassis here is ergonomic and nicely curved which is a big improvement over the old AE1000-4000 models we affectionately called ‘The Brick’. The lens is right of centre with the exhaust ports to the left hand side. Just to the right of the lens is a hidden compartment which houses the 3D IR transmitter and a joystick. For the lens shift you have to unscrew the joystick until you can move the lens easily. You then position and tighten to set your lens in the correct position. The problem we encountered is that this joystick, even when tight did tend to let the lens move over time. We tested the PT-AT6000 over three weeks and had to reset the lens shift to the screen at least four times. It would probably add to the projectors cost to have this motorised, but then again JVC manage that with their entry level models at the same price point, so it must be possible?

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

Focussing and zoom controls are thankfully motorised on the PT-AT6000E. The other important feature for the growing number of users with 2.35:1 scope screens is the lens memory zoom function. This allows you to save different zoom stops to fit various aspect ratios. With this year’s model you can use this function with 3D as well as 2D content and you can also remove the message which appears on screen telling you it is making the adjustment. For the Panasonic’s price point only the JVC X30 (and new X35) offers the same lens memory functionality. The new Sony VPL-HW50ES is completely manual and doesn’t have this function at the same price point. The amount of lens shift is generous, but with any projector installation you want to make sure it is positioned correctly from the outset, and never use the keystone correction. If you are not confident with the DIY approach you should try and find a dealer who will do it for you. Positioning the projector correctly to the screen is the most important part of the process.

Controlling the PT-AT6000E is the diminutive yet robust remote control. This is small enough to fit in the hand with ease and has most of the important functions just a button push away. As you will be using the projector in a completely black environment the remote is also backlit allowing easy use and access. With the remote being so small, we bet there will be times that it slips down the side of the sofa or lazyboy, so thankfully you can manually adjust the menu settings as well as zoom and focus on the right hand side of the chassis (looking from the front).

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

Moving around the rear of the PT-AT6000E we are greeted with identical connections as those found on the outgoing AT5000. We have three HDMI slots, one VGA, One set of Component inputs, composite video and S-Video. For installation use there are also two triggers and an RS232C port. The 3D Emitter is built into the front of the projector, but there is also an external (optional) transmitter that can be used in larger rooms or where the screen doesn’t bounce the signal correctly.

Features

One of the most positive attributes a manufacturer can display is a willingness to listen to the end user and use that feedback to improve a product. Whilst we awarded the PT-AT5000 a highly recommended badge, there were a few points we raised that have been corrected with the PT-AT6000E. Panasonic have also refined certain features and completely changed others to try and improve the performance level of the PT-AT6000E over the outgoing model.

The light source has been upgraded to a 220W ‘Red Rich’ lamp. Using normal UHP lamps in a projector is standard but it has definite drawbacks when it comes to colour purity and energy. When measuring the spectrum of a UHP bulb you will find most of the energy produced is in the green and yellow spectrum and correlates with the brightness of the light being produced. Blue energy is about half the level of green and, Red is barely registered from most UHP lamps. The workaround that projector manufacturers use is to add filters to the light from the lamp to try and get the primary colours back to the correct energy mix. The problem with this approach is that by adding filters into the light path you start to cut down on the lumens (brightness) available. Add in a professional calibration to this equation and you find that much of the available light is thrown away to achieve an accurate image on screen. That’s not to say that all projectors are like this and throw away so much light that the image is too dark, but rather things could be improved by starting to fix these issues at the light source stage with the bulb. This is why Panasonic has developed the ‘Red Rich’ lamp. As the name suggests the lamp has been engineered to produce more red energy at the light source stage, which should mean that it retains a good amount of lumens without the need to stick dark filters into the light path to improve the red energy levels. Moving to a 220W lamp also has benefits for the level of brightness available for both 2D and 3D viewing with a claimed 2,400 lumens available.

Of course when you add a brighter and more powerful lamp you then have issues with how to keep it cool and at the same time retain image contrast and black levels. With this is mind Panasonic have redesigned the entire optical block in the PT-AT6000E. The design focusses on the cooling of the bulb and around the polarisation filters. Light is then channelled through a newly designed prism which has been coated with polarisers to improve light separation to maximise accuracy and purity of the light source, but retain a high lumens output. The PT-AT6000E also uses the latest 480Hz LCD panels with an advanced wide aperture and vertically aligned liquid crystal molecules with inorganic alignment layers. When there is no voltage applied the molecules are aligned with the glass substrate in such a way as to block as much light leakage through the panel as possible. The Pure Contrast Plates are designed to match the LCD panels and correct the passage of light. As such the contrast plates can block further light leakage from the panels. The Pure Colour Filter Pro system helps to further correct the light spectrum produced, improving the purity of the primary colours which is claimed to help the projector meet the Rec709 standard. The filter also uses an improved version of the sub iris system seen on last year’s model and it is claimed that this again improves the black levels even further.

The lens system employed by the PT-AT6000E is very similar to the outgoing model with 16 glass elements in 12 groups, including two large diameter aspherical lenses and two extra low dispersion lenses. The upshot of this is that Panasonic claim that the lens is carefully aligned so that there is a uniform sharpness up to the edges across the entire image.

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

Dynamic Iris systems can prove to be controversial. This Panasonic employs a system called Dynamic Iris Pro. Because of the way these systems work in adjusting the brightness of the image in a frame by frame manner they also adjust the gamma response of the image. Even if, like the PT-AT6000E you cannot see the actual movement of the iris in real time, you can see the effects of its use within mixed scene images on screen, where it clips detail to achieve a perceived better contrast level. It obviously comes down to the end user and their preference of how the image looks, over the more accurate fixed iris or native contrast of competing projectors. Panasonic say that their system adjusts the lamp power, iris and the gamma to create the new image frame by frame. We tested all the available settings on the Panasonic and the speed of the iris is certainly improved over previous incarnations. However, for image purity and correct gamma tracking we switched this off for overall assessment of the projector.

One of the longest running features of the Panasonic line of projectors over the years is the Smooth Screen technology. What the technology does is simply reduce the effect of seeing individual pixels on screen (the old chicken wire effect) and as such produces an image that still has all the detail visible and less chance of actually seeing the pixels. Some have claimed that this results in a soft image, but with the PT-AT6000E we didn’t see any evidence of a soft image. What it does help to achieve is what could be referred to as a more cinematic look to the image rather than a softer look, much like the inherent look of the JVC D-ILA machines. We hate using clichés, and some might claim that calling an image cinematic is one, but that is the best description of the look we could come up with.

There has recently been much talk on the forums about the little Darblet image processor and what it does to add in a perceived sharpness increase to images. Such features are very much like Marmite with image purists and film fans on one side saying it alters the image, so is therefore going against the idea of an image as close to standards as possible; and those who like what they see. The Detail Clarity Processor 4 on the PT-AT6000E acts in a similar fashion to the Darblet in that it uses video signal frequency to apply sharpening like effects to the image. It is claimed that the processor is clever enough to determine things like a shallow depth of field shot with intentional out of focus backgrounds and only add its effects to the correct area of the image, leaving the depth and out of focus areas alone. The default setting for this feature is +2 and we found that moving the control any higher resulted in some unnatural looking sharpening to film images. At the default position it was much more subdued and the effect was not that noticeable for the vast majority of the material we watched. The detail clarity processor will be a case of personal preference for users.

Another controversial area for image purists is the issue of frame interpolation. Almost every system we have tested here at AVForums adds smoothness to film images that make them look unnatural and processed, even in the lowest settings. However, where such systems can be used to good effect is with video material, such as sports broadcasts. The PT-AT6000E employs the Frame Creation 2 system which is claimed to be double speed interpolation. With 24p material four frames are calculated and interpolated for each existing (original) frame which equals a 120Hz or 5 times display. This sounds impressive as it involves big numbers, but the effect on screen is a perfect example of what we have all come to call the ‘Soap Opera’ look. Film just looks completely unnatural and too smooth.

A good example I like to use to test such systems in the Blu-ray of Star Trek (2009) where on the bridge of the Enterprise, Kirk is fighting with Spock over control of the ship. In normal 24p playback, with no interpolation, the hand held camera and lens flares add excitement and danger as it wobbles around with the motion of the ship and the kinetic energy of the way the fight is shot and edited. Add in the Frame Creation system and suddenly that kinetic energy and the intentional wobbly camera are gone. It is like the camera now resides on a tripod such is the smoothness of the image and all the energy and intention of that scene is gone. It feels like it was shot on a £500 consumer camcorder, on a tripod, and with million dollar lighting of the scene. This is clearly not how the film is intended to look.

However, when moving to video based content there is an argument that frame interpolation can be useful. This is again down to the personal preference of the end user of the Panasonic. We tried the system with some HD football coverage from Sky and at the lowest setting the frame creation system did add some subtle smoothness without too many artefacts. Again, we come back to that Marmite point of view and how the individual will use the system in the end.

3D Features

The first thing to note about the 3D features on the projector is the fact that it ships with no 3D goggles in the box. The other important point to also consider is that the PT-AT6000E still uses IR glasses for its 3D playback and as such, owners of 2012 Panasonic TVs will not be able to use their RF glasses with this projector. Panasonic recommends that you use the TY-EW3D3ME glasses which retail for £80 approximately. We have had discussions with the UK office and they did hint that authorised retailers may be running some special offers in the near future which includes bundling the glasses with the projector, but we have no firm details of that just yet, so check with your dealer when you demo the unit.

Last year we struggled to get the PT-AT5000 IR emitter to bounce off our projection screen and sync with the glasses. The screen we use is acoustically transparent and has a gain of 0.9 and it appeared that the built-in emitter just wasn’t strong enough to cope with that set up and we ended up using the optional outboard unit to sync with the glasses. Thankfully with the PT-AT6000E this was not the case and we managed to get the unit to sync with the glasses without having to revert to the outboard option. We also didn’t find any issues with sync during our 3D sessions with the specified glasses.

Whilst we didn’t have the PT-AT5000E to hand when we reviewed the PT-AT6000E, we did attend a launch event recently at the new Panasonic Home Cinema demo facilities in Bracknell. The cinema was well designed and had great light control so the room didn’t reflect too much light back onto the screen. In these surroundings we were given a side by side demonstration between the projectors in 3D mode. In this demo it was clear that the PT-AT6000E was brighter than the old model by about 15% to 20% to our eyes in that room. Back in our testing room we had a JVC X90 to hand and the PT-AT6000E was again about 15% brighter than the JVC in our testing. However, saying all that the switch from 2D to 3D viewing does see a big drop in brightness as you would expect, especially when using one of the more accurate picture modes.

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

For those with scope screens that want to enjoy their scope 3D films, the projector, this year, allows for full use of the lens memory functionality and all the calibration tools with separate profile memories to save your settings.

Have you heard about the Mach-Dvorak effect? Basically what this describes is a flaw with active shutter 3D where by opening and closing the shutter for the left and right eyes there is a slight delay of 1/120 of a second between each eye. Because of this when you get motion on the screen, due to the delay both eyes see the same image, instead of the image expected to be seen by the second eye in the next advanced point. This means that the brain becomes confused as it is not seeing an object moving as it expects and it creates an unnatural parallax. To compensate for this the 3D Motion Re-master feature interpolates an image that compensates for the 1/120 of a seconds delay and thus the eyes are fed images that the brain expects to see with movement. I have to be honest and admit I haven’t ever really noticed this effect during viewing sessions with 3D films and whilst a recent demo we were shown did highlight what the feature does, I didn’t really find any material on Blu-ray that highlighted it in the same manner. The fact that using this feature did introduce some visible artefacts that were not present during 3D viewing with it switched off, we decided to leave at that - switched off.

Other 3D features include a parallax viewing monitor which allows you to view 3D material with a visible monitor showing how much positive and negative parallax is within the 3D film you are watching. Within this display is a safe zone that was developed by the 3D @ Home Consortium to ensure a comfortable 3D viewing experience. You can switch to a black and white display and see the negative and positive parallax in red and blue colours on screen and you can also assess that both eye views are also colour correct by seeing them side by side and making adjustments.

Menus

The menu system on the PT-AT6000E is comprehensive and well laid out and is almost identical to previous models' menus. There is nothing fancy about the design and layout, although you can change this by selecting a choice of other finishes and colours or sticking with the default.

The first adjustment to make in the picture control menus is the Picture Mode setting. The PT-AT6000E sample we were given was a brand new production stock model with zero hours on the bulb and in a sealed box. It hadn’t been used by anyone else and when switched on it defaulted to the ‘Normal’ picture mode. It was easy to see that this setting was very blue and bright with garish colours. Other options we have available are Dynamic, D-Cinema, Rec709, Cinema 1, Cinema 2 and Games, which did reduce input lag to 36ms.
The picture controls are broken up into two different pages. The first has all the front panel controls including access to the dynamic iris setting, a basic colour temperature slider (which we advise leaving alone), access to the Waveform monitor (depending on picture mode), the split adjust feature which allows on the fly and by eye adjustment of the image and Picture Memory allows you to store your settings for various picture modes. The advanced menu selection takes you to, well, the advanced menu page.

In the advanced menu we have access to a fully manual Gamma adjustment tool which you can use in a simple high, mid and low configuration or you can go fully advanced into a 15 point adjustment menu. Below this we have the two point white balance controls which are quite coarse in use along with two noise reduction settings, the frame creation options and access to the colour management system. Also here is the control for the detail clarity processing settings.

The set up options on the Panasonic are numerous but thankfully most of them are the type of controls you set once and forget. In terms of calibration we are given a very decent set of options to get the greyscale and colour gamut correct. It should be noted that the CMS system is still set up incorrectly with the two box options. We have discussed this at length with Panasonic and their engineers and while disappointed that the PT-AT6000E has the same broken set up that was on the PT-AT5000 which we went into detail about in our feedback, thankfully there is a workaround that is accurate. We hope that Panasonic will take on board the feedback yet again as the high-end Viera TV line up has a much better CMS layout and easier usability.

Out of the Box Measurements

We let the PT-AT6000E soak using looped video signals (and some film viewing) for just under 100 hours to gain a realistic view of how the projector will perform in the real world when out-of-the-box and after calibration. We noticed a small drop off in lamp brightness in measured figures of 8% which is very good.

Panasonic heavily promote their Cinema 1 preset as the best out of the box picture mode to watch films. They claim that on a big screen Rec709 (the industry standard for the colour gamut of Blu-ray) is not ideal and that using this mode which has been adjusted by a few Hollywood professionals is the best option. Now, we don’t technically agree with what Panasonic claim here as we would suggest that a calibrated image to the Rec709 standards will offer the closest to what is intended and an image that matches the material we will be watching. But we also have an open mind to new ideas so let’s see how the Cinema 1 preset measures up.

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

Starting with the Greyscale we can see that the results, whilst not totally accurate, are also not that bad for an out of the box setting. Red is low, with green high and blue tracking the closest to our desired level. Gamma also dips at the higher stimulus points which does cause some wash out in the image. During on-screen viewing this results in a slight green tinge in the brighter areas of the image.

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

The CIE results which plot the colour points in relation to our desired Rec709 co-ordinates show that we have large errors. The overall gamut is too wide with oversaturation of red and yellow in particular and a large green hue error. Plus blue is also oversaturated. Luminance levels (i.e. the brightness of the colours) are also high for blue and red. In practice viewing material in the Cinema 1 preset provides an image that is overly strong in relation to skin tones and the main primary’s (although green is a little more tamed over red and blue). We can see why the Hollywood tuned preset looks like this as it hits some points that are available in a DCI spec image (or old 35mm) which has a wider gamut than Rec709. But as we are in the Rec709 world with Blu-ray we want to reproduce that standard and not add what isn’t there, which is exactly what this preset is doing.

Rec709 Preset Choosing the Rec709 option should produce the most accurate out of the box setting on the PT-AT6000E. Certainly on last year’s model this option did get very close and provided a good mode for end users who couldn’t quite stretch to getting a calibration done straight away. So is it the same story this year?

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

As with the Cinema 1 results above, the Rec709 greyscale tracking is average in its result, which again has a slight green tinge seen in normal viewing at the mid to high brightness levels. Although blue looks high at the low end on the graph, we didn’t see any obvious blue tint within the darker reaches of the image and the blacks. Gamma tracks well to the 2.2 curve we used for testing, although end users could up this to 2.4 or higher using the gamma tools if desired.

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

It is the CIE results that have us a little disappointed, given last year’s good results in the same preset on the AT5000. We have contacted Panasonic and asked for an explanation of why our result here has an oversaturated green and our guess is the use of the brighter lamp. Apart from the green error most of the other colour points are closer than the Cinema 1 preset to being correct, but still not absolutely perfect. It is a shame that there is such a large green error in the Rec709 mode but on comparison to other results we have seen, it appears not to be a fault with our sample here. After all that is said and done, we did find that if you have to settle on one out of the box preset, we found the green error (and other smaller errors) did not overly distract and would perhaps be fine for causal users use before a professional calibration – which we strongly recommend.

Calibrated Results

The PT-AT6000E does include most of the tools a professional calibrator will require to get the projector looking its most accurate to the standards. The Colour Management System used is still the one that we have complained about for at least three years. It works, but only when using a specific workaround. However, with that in mind we set about trying to get the best possible image from the Panasonic that matches what we will be watching on Blu-ray.

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

Starting with the greyscale and we have controls to perform a two point adjustment to get the tracking correct for our colour temperature. Like previous models we did fine the white balance controls to be on the coarse side when attempting to make minor adjustments, but we did manage to get a very nice result with DeltaE errors of 1 or below, which means we are hitting our target of D65 and you will not be able to see any colour tinge in the grayscale during viewing. Gamma also performed well at our chosen 2.2 curve but as above, if users want a higher gamma curve they can use the gamma tool provided. This is a very good result.

Panasonic PT-AT6000E

Moving to the colour gamut we used the provided CMS system and with the workaround managed to get the best possible results, given a few slight issues. Firstly blue was not going to play ball due to the native gamut of the unit and no matter how hard we tried, in the end we had to find a suitable compromised level. Thankfully we see fewer errors in the blue spectrum when watching actual content on screen, so we made sure we got the luminance level as close as possible and then reduced errors. The only other issue we had while working on the colour gamut was magenta and the results of it having to track in some way with the wayward blue. This meant that we couldn’t fully correct the slight hue and saturation errors in tracking without messing up the luminance levels. We decided to again compromise here and get the luminance as correct as possible as well as trying to get the least amount of errors in hue and saturation. However, in dissecting everything here for completeness, during actual film and TV viewing with the results above, we doubt any viewer would notice the errors we have remaining unless they had an instant reference point. In other words, we didn’t have any issues with the results here in getting the most out of our viewing material.

Brightness and Video Processing Tests

As Panasonic are boasting about the new brightness levels and 220W lamp we thought we would test this out. Now, please remember that most of our testing of projectors is done measuring from the projector to eliminate as much as possible the room and screen effects from the results. After all it is the projector we are testing. All these tests are done in pitch black conditions. Note: All viewing tests of content and assessment is done after calibrating the projector to our viewing room. This is a complete bat cave with no stray light, very dark non-reflective walls and ceiling and on to a 110” 2.37:1 scope screen with enlighter 4K AT material and a gain of 0.9. We had aged the bulb by just under 100 hours.

To get anywhere close to the PT-AT6000E’s claimed 2400 lumens we had to put the projector in to the Dynamic and full lamp mode. Even then we measured 1800 lumens approximately in our test environment (this is important, it may be higher or lower in other test environments so please keep that in mind when assessing these figures). In the calibrated mode we managed around 810 Lumens. This is far more realistic of a projector which is maximised for accurate and comfortable viewing to the picture standards and surroundings. The PT-AT6000E also managed to perform well moved briefly to our white walled living room with some light control as a comparison. It would suit many rooms that cannot be completely blacked out and still perform to a high level.

Moving to picture processing we ran the usual suite of test discs and also film material to check both Standard Definition and High Definition performance with varied materials. The PT-AT6000E had excellent scaling results with no issues found with ringing or halos. Deinterlacing was also passed with flying colours. Cadence detection was also a pass for both 3:2 and 2:2 without any issues. As this is an LCD projector we did find that in the scrolling bar tests the result was only just under 400 lines. Obviously this improved with the use of Frame Creation to close to 900 lines at the expense of adding some artefacts to the scrolling lines. However, as stated in the viewing tests we didn’t find any real issues with image blur in normal use, but this may be an issue for some users, so get a demo. HD tests were also passed with flying colours and the Panasonic gave us no cause for concern in all the standard tests. The only issue we did find, but which was a rare occurrence was a slight judder in 3D mode with faster pans of the camera or fast movement. However, again, it wasn’t anything that caused us any real concerns.

2D Picture Quality

As mentioned above the PT-AT6000E ships in the default ‘Normal’ picture mode, but this is far from an ideal setting to use out of the box. Colours are oversaturated and the white balance is overly blue making skin tones and whites look odd. Meanwhile the ‘Cinema 1’ setting is a picture mode with an interesting story behind it. Panasonic within their PR documentation and presentations focus heavily on the Hollywood Tuned angle of this mode. They have used the help of some Hollywood cinematographers and colourists to produce a preset based on the standard Rec709 colour gamut, but enhanced, as they put it, for the bigger projected image. The problem with this is pretty obvious when looking at the colour gamut and the resulting image on screen, as it is following a look for 35mm film or DCI spec.

Meaning that they may have started with the Rec709 look but have added in more colour to change the look back to something they are used to working with, and which doesn’t match 8bit video colour like Rec709. Panasonic’s claim that Rec709 standards are only good for 50 inch TVs and not large projected images is also technically inaccurate. It is the standard for Blu-ray (and very close to PAL) and works at any screen size once calibrated. Cinema 1 and D-Cinema which follows the DCI spec for the colour gamut would only work if the mastered material we watch was mastered at that colour space, when at the moment it just adds what is not supposed to be there on Blu-ray or other sources.

Even the Rec709 named picture mode is not quite correct out-of-the-box on the PT-AT6000E as it introduces a very oversaturated Green to the gamut. This is disappointing as last year’s PT-AT5000 performed far better in this regard. It is also a plus point for the JVC X30 and Sony HW50 when compared as they get closer to looking correct out of the box. It looks like the addition of the brighter lamp in the Panasonic this year is the reason for this large error as all the other colour points fall in almost the same spots to the PT-AT5000. This would certainly account for the wide green point as seen in the test results area of this review. For out-of-the-box assessment we chose the Rec709 picture preset and set the other controls to the room conditions.

We soaked the PT-AT6000E for just under 100 hours before doing any serious testing and measuring of the unit. So, this gave us the opportunity to sit back and watch a few movies when not playing looped video to put hours on the bulb. Some favourite scenes we like to use to test black levels, shadow detail and colour response are King Kong (2005) and Moulin Rouge (2001).

We started our out-of-the-box viewing session with the Dynamic Iris switched on and checked at various settings to see how it performed. With chapter 48 of Kong the scene takes place at night in the New York street when the beast finds Ann Darrow. The only sources of light are those on the buildings and lamp posts and there is a deliberate golden haze to the scene. We have watched this same scene on so many different TVs and projectors that finding an issue with how it looks is pretty easy. Using the DI it was obvious, even on the lowest setting, that blacks were being clipped and removed shadow detail that should be seen on the Apes fur. When walking down the dark street with cars parked outside the buildings, we should also be able to make out detail in the brick work and there is a nice depth to the image.

Again with the DI in use this changed the look with blacks appearing to be dark but again with detail clipped. We moved back to the start of the scene and this time switched the DI off which presented the native performance of the projector. Here blacks were still nice and deep but we finally had the shadow detail back again and the gamma didn’t shift meaning we had a nice uniform feel to the shadows and details on the walls of the buildings. Black levels are not as deep as the JVC’s but that doesn’t mean they are not impressive. This is the best black level performance we have ever seen on a Panasonic projector, which helped produce a solid image that could convey a nice depth when required, which excellent shadow details.

Colours were also pretty accurate, even with an oversaturated green coming into play; it was never over the top and didn’t interfere with the natural look of skin tones. Staying with Kong and moving to the dance on the ice, the background is filled with primary coloured lights hanging from the trees in central park. Again the PT-AT6000E handled this scene with ease producing deep shadows and good balance with the primary colours and at no time did we see any colour tint to the darker areas of the image. Skin tones of the soldiers firing on Kong were also impressive with plenty of detail and natural complexions. The same was true when switching over to the Elephant Melody scene in Moulin rouge. Golds and deep reds on the roof where Kidman and McGregor are singing look rich and well detailed. The background matte painting effects add good depth and the projector manages to pull out details in the shadows as well as producing the colourful colour pallet of the scene in a realistic manner. Most users would be very happy with the performance on offer in the out of the box Rec709 picture mode. Our only concern was with some football footage we watched where greens were a little too strong when compared to an accurate image.

Moving to our calibrated settings and going back to the same scenes mentioned above we noticed a little more detail in the shadows and colours were even more accurate in appearance with superb skin tones. Detail levels were superb from the Panasonic and the even at the far edges of the screen we saw no loss in sharpness to the image. If we were being critical there was evidence of lighter corners during the darkest of scenes which did stand out now and again. We also found that during very bright scenes, when looking at our Universal Monsters boxset version of Dracula (B&W), there was a very slight red tinge on the right hand side of the image. It was difficult to see and to be honest it was only because we were doing some close up critical viewing that we even noticed it. We checked to make sure this was not caused by any adjustment we had made and have to conclude it was a uniformity issue, but again it was very slight and not noticeable to an extent that it jumped out at us. It could be that this issue was related to just this sample and without checking another we cannot say for sure if this will affect all PT-AT6000E samples. We only mention it here to be complete in our assessment as it really is a very slight issue.

We know it can be called a cliché but the Panasonic really does produce a very smooth cinematic image that has heaps of detail present with superb colour performance. The lack of visible pixels certainly helps to achieve this and those who own cinemascope screens are also in for a treat with the memory zoom functionality. Watching Prometheus on our 10 foot scope screen using the zoom function is what home cinema is all about. The visual impact of the wide image with excellent motion, strong blacks and colour pallet made what is a technical tour de force of film making an epic experience (shame about the story line). Even on such a wide screen and in calibrated mode the brightness level of the PT-AT6000 is excellent with 2D images and we are confident it could manage at least another couple of feet in screen size with ease. Calibrated brightness was approximately 810 lumens (in our surroundings and set up) which is good for an LCD model. Our only wish was that black levels and dynamic range could be a little better and more in line with the JVC standard, but let us also be clear in stating this is the best Panasonic we have seen yet for 2D projection in our bat cave.

Adding in ambient light to the equation and as you would guess the image starts to wash out with shadow details and blacks suffering the most. Panasonic claim that the projector is capable of 2400 lumens and they are almost accurate with that claim in the dynamic picture mode, but take it from us you wouldn’t want to watch anything in this picture mode, bright as it may be. In an environment with light coloured surfaces, but otherwise well controlled for light in the room and hitting the screen, the Panasonic performs admirably in calibrated mode producing an image that will match the other models in its price point, with just a slightly raised black point and slight lack of low level shadow detail. Certainly at the price point the PT-AT6000E makes a lot of all-round sense in the picture stakes and we were very impressed with its calibrated performance which is a marked improvement on even last year’s PT-AT5000, which surprised us. In terms of panel convergence we didn’t notice any obvious issues and white text looked perfect at normal viewing distances. Only getting up close to the screen did we notice any colour fringing on the edges of text. Again this is not seen at normal viewing distances, so it caused us no concerns. Lens sharpness is excellent and uniform.

3D Picture Quality

We have to expect that when introducing 3D glasses to a projection system we are going to throw away a very large percentage of the light coming from the screen. Unlike 3D TVs which start with a far higher lumens count on a small image area, moving to a 3D projector may initially be quite a shock for some, with the loss of image brightness when moving from 2D viewing. But in a suitably dark room it is easy to let your eyes adjust to the dimmer image, which let’s face it is larger than you will ever get on a TV (at anywhere near this price point). It really is a catch 22 in the projection design world to make a projector that will excel with 2D images producing excellent blacks and then expect to get huge levels of light available in 3D mode.

Some of the brightest 3D projectors we have seen have had to make some big compromises in the 2D image department, especially black levels and dynamic range, and even the £30k Sim2 Lumix with its light cannon figures has to compromise some of its 2D potential to be an all-rounder. However, that is not to say that the PT-AT6000E is an overly dim projector in 3D mode. As mentioned above it is brighter than the current high-end JVC. The new glasses let enough light through to give a comfortable and huge 3D image and they are certainly more comfortable that the first generation of goggles. We are of course also taking about using the projector in the most accurate of the picture modes in 3D viewing. It will go brighter by choosing something like dynamic and high lamp mode, but you will suffer from colour balance issues and the noise level of the cooling fans are increased. Unless you are going to go to the trouble of calibrating the 3D picture modes, we found Cinema 1 actually made a pretty good effort at producing an image that was fairly accurate for most viewers and that was bright enough.

In terms of 3D viewing the most important points that users will need to know about is [tip=crosstalk]crosstalk[/tip] performance. We found that the PT-AT6000E produced a very respectful 3D image that was for the most part free from any crosstalk issues. Even with some of the more challenging of tests (Despicable Me for example) the Panasonic held up well with only the slightest of issues. This was also true of the well-known warming up period (we would always advise at least a 30 minute warm up period with a projector for critical movie viewing, but there are those who want to jump straight in). We did find that 3D motion was good but were less impressed with the 3D Motion Re-master which seemed to add a few more artefacts to the image. We also noticed some slight judder on faster pans within some scenes in 3D, but nothing that should distract too much in general viewing. Overall the PT-AT6000E produces a compelling 3D performance with good brightness levels in accurate picture settings and the new glasses are comfortable over long viewing periods.

Verdict

9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Pros

  • Strong black level performance from an LCD projector
  • Excellent calibrated picture performance
  • Excellent brightness levels in 2D mode without compromising black level performance
  • Flexible connectivity
  • Very good video processing performance
  • Good lens performance and a nice sharp image with no visible pixel structure visible
  • Very good 3D performance
  • Quiet operation in Eco Lamp mode

Cons

  • No 3D glasses included at price point
  • Fans are loud in Normal Lamp mode
  • Manual lens shift can move over time
  • We need more accurate picture modes out of the box

Panasonic PT-AT6000E 3D LCD Projector Review

Panasonic have kept the chassis design of the PT-AT6000E the same as last year’s departing model, but they have also added some new tricks underneath the bonnet. Included this year is the new 220W ‘Red Rich’ lamp which comes with it a promise of brighter images, especially in 3D mode. The unit has enough source connections for even the most demanding of home cinema fans, yet not including 3D glasses at this price point is a little mean in our opinion. Set up is easy enough but we would like to see motorised lens shift controls over the rather fiddly manual joy stick control on offer here. On the plus side the zoom and focus controls are motorised and the lens memory functionality is again included for scope screen users. Improvements this year with the lens memory mean that it can be used in 3D modes, it is faster than previous versions in making the adjustments and you can also remove the ‘processing’ message from the screen. One of the major highlights of the Panasonic is the fact it can be used with a large scope screen and with no visible pixel structure thanks to smooth screen technology, it offers a truly stunning immersive cinematic performance.

A slight disappointment with this year’s model is the lack of any completely accurate out-of-the-box picture presets, with even the Rec709 mode suffering from an oversaturated Green. However, in actual viewing this doesn’t necessarily distract and most users would be happy enough. But thankfully for those who want accuracy the projector can be calibrated to a high degree. We still have the odd Colour Management System carried over from previous models which requires a workaround to make sure the colour calibration is accurate. It is something we have fed back over a few years now and was even fed back direct to engineers at a recent Panasonic launch event. The CMS works as it is, but we hope it is improved in the future. We also get a new Gamma editor control this year which can help with subtle adjustments. There are plenty of new features added to the PT-AT6000E for both 2D and 3D playback. These are explored in depth in the main review below.

Once calibrated the PT-AT6000E offered some of the best 2D images we have ever seen from a Panasonic LCD projector. Black levels and shadow detail are very impressive and a big step up on last years model. With the Dynamic iris switched off we were able to obtain a stable gamma which helped shadow detail without any signs of clipping. Colour performance was also excellent in calibrated modes, with strong primaries and excellent gradation. Skin tones were very well rendered and image depth where required was excellent. As with any LCD projector there is an amount of image blur of fast moving objects and pans, but actual motion within the frame was free from judder. There are Frame Interpolation modes available which improve this side of things, but it really is a Marmite experience and as film fans we were happy leaving it switched off and accepting the slight LCD drawbacks which never really take you out of the film.
3D performance is also very good and although we did see some very occasional instances of crosstalk with some difficult scenes and material, it was never distracting and we had to go looking for it. The new glasses (not included and costing £80 a pair) offer a nice amount of light through and are comfortable to wear over extended periods of viewing. However, even with the brighter lamp used in this year’s projector and the fact it was brighter than the top end JVC we were using at the time of testing in 3D, some may still be disappointed that you lose much of the projectors light output when putting the glasses on.

At this price point and given the incredibly tough market the PT-AT6000E is competing in, we think Panasonic has a winner on their hands. The 2D performance is excellent with strong black levels, good shadow detailing and accurate colour after calibration. It is also very strong with 3D playback and being a little brighter than last year, it should cope well in less than perfect cinema rooms. Even with the high performance competition available in the £3000 and under market at the moment, the PT-AT6000E demands your demo attention and we highly recommend you check it out!

Highly Recommended

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black levels

.
9

Colour Accuracy

.
.
8

Greyscale Accuracy

.
9

Image Uniformity

.
9

Video Processing

.
9

2D Picture Quality

.
9

3D Picture Quality

.
9

Features

.
9

Ease Of Use

.
9

Build Quality

.
.
8

Value For Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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