The Panasonic PT-AE7000 is a home theatre projector with a bright, efficient 2000 lumen lamp and a 3D-capable 1080p Full HD LCD panel, with a rated contrast ratio of 3,000,000:1. These specifications sound impressive, and that’s because they are: the AE7000 is an excellent performer.
Panasonic PT-AE7000: Design and setup
The big, black Panasonic PT-AE7000 looks simple and utilitarian from the front and from the top — and these are the angles you’ll be looking at if you mount the AE7000 on your home theatre room’s ceiling. The 2x zoom lens is offset to the right of the projector, and there are fan exhaust and intake vents on the front and right side.
Three labeled LED lights on the top of the projector display power and warnings for overheating or lamp failure. Apart from a Panasonic logo and Full HD 3D badge, there’s nothing else to see. Move around to the projector’s right, and you find a control pad with power button, menu button and navigational pad, and electronic zoom and focus controls for the lens.
As you zoom the lens to suit larger projection surfaces there is a reasonable amount of light fall-off, but we were always able to get an acceptably bright image in our testing. The lens and focus combination means the Panasonic AE7000 can display images of up to 300in in size, although we’d imagine most users won’t go larger than 150in.
For 3D projection, Panasonic has set the screen size limit at two thirds of the maximum. This is because the combination of 3D projection and 3D active shutter glasses reduces the brightness of the image significantly — it’s still more than bright enough on a small screen, but if you’re watching it at the maximum screen size in 3D you’ll want to have the PT-AE7000 set up in an entirely dark room.
The Panasonic PT-AE7000 has vertical and horizontal lens shift built into the lens setup, although at plus or minus 100 per cent vertical and 26 per cent horizontal it’s not as versatile as the BenQ W7000. Digital keystone adjustment of up to plus or minus 30 per cent is also built into the AE7000, allowing for non-ideal projector placements.
Panasonic PT-AE7000: Image quality and performance
The Panasonic PT-AE7000 projector is an excellent performer when it comes to non-3D image quality. When supplied with a high quality video source, it looks as good as any LED or plasma TV we’ve seen. We used a Blu-ray copy of The Dark Knight and Terminator: Salvation for the majority of our testing, but also dipped into Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 3D and The Matrix on DVD.
Contrast is a strong point of the AE7000: it’s able to produce images with deep blacks, richly toned colours and bright white highlights even when in it’s default settings. We didn’t see any need to alter its Cinema preset significantly apart from slightly lowering brightness to suit our dimmed room conditions.
Black levels, once the projector is set up to suit your room, are also very impressive. In a completely black room, dark areas of the projected image almost melt into the background — like a movie cinema, blacks generally look black but without compromising the brightness or contrast of well-lit areas.
Sharpness is also good when the AE7000 is displaying a Full HD video source. At our 150in screen size we were able to pick out the pores in Christian Bale’s sweaty face in Terminator: our benchmark for a high quality home theatre projector.
Changing to 3D mode and putting on a pair of Panasonic’s active shutter glasses does significantly impact the brightness of the image. In our dimmed room, the screen brightness was just enough for us to enjoy watching, but we preferred to watch in complete darkness with no ambient light. We think it will take another couple of generations of projector enhancements for large-screen 3D projection to be perfect for home use.
Brightness notwithstanding, we did notice good levels of clarity and appreciable ‘depth’ during our 3D watching tests. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs doesn’t have the same ‘pop’ as when we viewed it on an LG Cinema 3D LED TV using passive 3D glasses — this is purely because of that setup’s significant advantage in brightness levels, though. 3D images from the PT-AE7000 don’t display any significant cross-talk or blurriness even in scenes of fast motion.
We did notice the fan noise of the Panasonic PT-AE7000 when we were using it in maximum brightness mode, with the projector around 2m away from our watching and listening point. It’s a low hum and is easily drowned out when there’s any audio playing, but if possible we’d opt for the Eco mode, which dims brightness a little but makes the fan much quieter and barely audible during mid-movie silences.
Panasonic PT-AE7000: Conclusion
If you can manage to put the projector in its Eco mode to cut out most of the fan noise — or if you don’t mind turning up your movies a little louder to compensate — the Panasonic PT-AE7000 is able to produce extremely high quality projected images in both 2D and 3D mode. 3D is on the margin of being acceptably bright, though — we’d definitely recommend an entirely dark room if possible.