Panasonic PT-AE700E

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Panasonic PT-AE700E

Pros

  • Joystick control, quiet, brilliant picture

Cons

  • A little large

Bottom Line

A wonderful projector that packs together some of the best qualities of DLP and LCD technology, for under $4000. What more could you ask for?

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 5 stores)

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Panasonic's PT-AE700E LCD projector has more tricks up its sleeve than $3899 should rightly buy. Successor to the highly regarded PT-AE500, the PT-AE700E, is a high-definition (its native resolution is 1280 x 720) projector that has impressed us immensely.

The first thing worth pointing out is the little joystick right next to the lens. This is used to control the optical lens shift mechanism that moves the entire lens barrel both vertically and horizontally in order to obtain perfect image alignment with the screen, without having to wiggle the whole projector. It's a great addition to the feature set, and it's worth noting that it moves along both the horizontal and vertical axes--most projectors only support vertical movement if any. Using the lens shift along with digital keystone correction and the 2X optical zoom means off-centre projection is easy, which is a boon for the sometimes imperfect home theatres our lounge rooms can make.

The PT-AE700E is also remarkably quiet (the notebook I'm writing this on makes more noise) and reasonably compact, although it's far from being the smallest projector we've seen. But the most important part--image quality--is the PT-AE700E's greatest asset.

We tried a number of DVDs to test the many different types of video the projector is likely to come up against in its lifetime, and the PT-AE700E performed admirably across the board. Animated films like Monsters Inc showed off an expansive colour palette and didn't have to resort to over-saturating things to provide bright, rich colours. The contrast and skin tones in live action movies were simply outstanding. Mystic River, for example, looked sharp and natural with tons of detail, and lines on actors' faces were clearly visible. And this was just using the S-Video connection; plug in using the component or HDMI inputs and it gets even better.

Smooth Screen technology all but eliminates the 'flyscreen' effect common to LCD projectors; it works well, providing beautifully smooth yet sharp imagery.

A number of preset image modes are on hand to adjust the overall look of the picture, or, if you prefer to tinker, the Panasonic offers the amazing ability to colour correct more than a billion colours with Cinema Colour Correction (CCM). Contrast (another typically poor aspect of an LCD's performance) is very good, thanks to Panasonic's Dynamic Iris technology, which gives us better blacks without losing detail.

The upshot of all this new-fangled technology is simple: sublime image quality. Contrast, detail and colour are all top notch and as a longtime fan of DLP projectors I can honestly say this is the first--and so far only--LCD projector I'd choose over a DLP for home theatre use in this price bracket. It has superb picture quality, great features and is a bargain for big screen movie-watching.

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