Anyone who has seriously looked into home theatre projectors in the last decade will be familiar with Panasonic’s flagships such as the PT-AE3000 and PT-AE4000. Noted for their color accuracy, brightness and lack of chicken-wire effect present in many other LCD projectors, they were often cited as the best home theatre projectors in the sub – $10,000 range despite costing around half that amount.
Here now to continue this fine tradition is the PT-AE7000. Panasonic has been busy in the two year hiatus since the PT-AE4000, as this new model boasts super high speed 480Hz 3D technology. The significance of this figure is it tackled the two biggest complaints about 3D technology: crosstalk and brightness drop.
For comparison, a 240Hz 3D screen or projector will display a black screen 50 percent of the time – these dark moments need to be injected between image frames when the shutters in the 3D glasses switch between the left and right lens – whereas at 480Hz the screen is only black for 25 percent of the time, which allows a much brighter image. Panasonic also has its own proprietary 3D Overdrive Technology which analyses and enhances the 3D video signal to reduce crosstalk.
Physically the PT-AE7000 is a whopper compared to older Panasonic models and other midrange protectors. This shouldn’t be an issue unless you plan on moving your projector around a lot, which ideally you would not be doing as you really want to set up a dedicated space for a home theatre projector to maximize image quality and overall enjoyment of the experience.
Speaking of installation, you get a lot of placement flexibility thanks to the lens shift feature and 2x zoom lens. Lens shift allows you to manually more the image up or down by 100 percent of the picture size, or 25 percent to the lest or right (slightly narrowed from the 50 present horizontal shift on older Panasonic models), while the 2x zoom lens will give you a maximum throw distance of about six meters. At this distance you can still project onto a screen as small as 100-inch but you will lose a lot of brightness with the lens fully zoomed in.
Once you are set up and running you get several different picture modes to choose from. I found normal to be the best all-around mode (albeit with the color turned down a few notches just as a matter of personal preference as it delivers a bright image with accurate colors and very little washout.
In a properly configured room with no ambient light or bright walls nearby to bounce light off, Cinema 1 mode produced the most natural image with beautiful skin tones and deep blacks, whilst Cinema 2 is much the same but with a punchier brightness level. Rec907 mode is tuned to industry video standards but certain colors are perceived as more dull on larger screens so it isn’t really suited for projector viewing.
Dynamic mode should be used as a last resort if you are trying to view something in an environment with high levels of ambient light, as it basically just cranks up brightness and contrast at the expense of color fidelity and definition.
Lastly, game mode switched off a lot of image processing to reduce input lag – the latency between pushing a button on your controller or mouse and seeing the resulting action on screen. I could still detect a minor amount of input lag in this mode so I wouldn’t recommend if for fast – paced first person shooter games but for general gaming it was fine. In fact the cinematic experience of Battlefield 3 was significantly enhanced compared to playing on my 21.5-inch LCD monitor.
The first movie I used for testing (as always) was the 3D and 2D Blu-ray versions of Avatar. I would love to say that I finally enjoy watching 3D material, but sadly that is not the case despite the PT-AE7000 delivering the best home 3d experience I have had to date. The 3D image was bright and crosstalk suppression was immaculate, yet I still personally cannot tolerate 3D viewing for more than an hour or so. Whether this is a shortcoming of mine or the technology is yet to be decided but given that my experience varies wildly between devices I am going to lean towards the latter for now.
Happily, switching back to 2D mode absolutely blew me away. I can honestly say that watching Avatar at 1080P on a 120-inch screen though the PT-Ae7000 has been the best home theatre experience I have ever had, period. Pixel structure was non-existent (Panasonic’s Smooth Screen technology has always been good in this regard), colors were exactly how I remembered them from the cinema and black levels were nice and low to give a deep, vibrant image.
One other feature worth mentioning at this point is Frame Creation. This is Panasonic’s motion compensation technology which also featured on the two earlier models. Modes 1 and 2 create subtle jitter-free experiences with negligible artefacting while Mode 3 delivers motion which is so smooth it is actually a bit disconcerting with some material – basically it makes everything look like it was filmed and shown at 60 frames per second or more, which is fine for TV, sports and live content but can detract from the cinematic experience for movies.
In high brightness scenes with the lamp at full power the fan started to spin up quite audibly but in eco mode (which actually looks better in a darkened room anyway) the unit was virtually silent. The backlit remote is small and easy to use and the 3D glasses that shop with the projector are not as geeky as some that I have seen.
On the rear of the projector you get three HDMI inputs and one each of VGE, component, composite, and SVHS, plus two 12v trigger/3D shutter outputs. Some network connectivity wouldn’t have gone amiss but most home theatre players and receivers have this feature so that shouldn’t cause issue for anyone. Overall I enjoyed the PT-AE7000 as much as the older Panasonic models and then some. It has a slightly higher asking price than its predecessors but I believe it is worth every penny and still sits competitively in the market in its price point.