Panasonic's Highly Affordable 1080p Projector

if you thought you couldn't afford a high quality 1080p projector– think again. Panasonic's new PT-AE4000U just lowered the bar, on price, but not quality. This LCD projector retails for $2499, though some say it can be found for less, even from authorized dealers for hundreds less. Consciously designed for smaller home theaters, the PT-AE1000U can project a 120-inch image from as little as 11 to as much as 24 feet away. You sure can't get that in a flat panel display for a mere $2.5k.

Panasonic incorporated the new Red-Rich Lamp, which increases the luminance efficiency of the projector, to achieve 150% brighter Cinema Picture modes compared to the previous PT-AE3000. Prior to the development of the Red-Rich Lamp, much brightness was lost to attain the desired color purity/balance for the rich color reproduction of Cinema Picture modes due to the lack of red luminance. The newly engineered lamp successfully adds red luminance, and enables the projector to produce brighter images with excellent colors. Rated at 1,600 lumens, the PT-AE4000 is plenty bright for the average home theater.

For maximum clarity and sharpness of full-HD images, the PT-AE4000U was outfitted with an advanced optical system employing a full-HD-optimized lens unit comprised of 16 lens elements in 12 groups, including two large-diameter aspherical lenses and two high-performance ED (extralow dispersion) lenses. Each lens is carefully aligned to assure a uniform focusing balance from the center to the edges of the screen.

The double-speed display (120 Hz or 100 Hz) greatly improves the clarity of motion images. Panasonic's Frame Creation interpolates one new frame for each existing frame by analyzing the characteristics of the adjacent frames to reproduce sharp and clear images for fast moving scenes in sports and action movies. For 24p signal input, three frames are calculated and interpolated for each existing frame, to enable 4x speed (96-Hz) display. There are four modes (mode 1, mode 2, mode 3, and off) to choose from.

The Point Color Correction mode allows you to pick a point in the image and adjust that color without affecting the neighboring colors, so it is easy to get just the right color equalization in hue, luminance and saturation. The Six Color Correction mode enables independent adjustment of red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and yellow. Making adjustments on the fly has never been easier either. You can freeze any scene you wish, and then make adjustments while easily comparing the original image and the adjusted image side-by-side.

The PT-AE4000U features the Pure Contrast Plate, which uses a newly engineered crystalline material that is carefully matched to the characteristics of the LCD panels to effectively correct the passage of light exiting the panels. This enables the projector to block unwanted light leakage and successfully increases the dynamic range. It works together with the dynamic iris to achieve a remarkable contrast ratio of 100,000:1. The advantage being the PT-AE4000U works well in environments with high ambient light such as a living room.

To achieve a wide dynamic range, a fifth generation intelligent iris system was placed in the PT-AE4000U. It analyzes the brightness level of each image using a histogram, then adjusts the lamp power, iris and gamma curve accordingly to create the ideal image. The adjustments are made virtually frame by frame.

In the past, projector installation was considered a serious downside. However, as projectors become more affordable it's less likely consumers will pay to have them installed. So, manufacturers are looking at ways they can make projectors virtually plug and play. Well, not quite but certainly far more flexible with simplified set up procedures. For instance, the PT-AE4000U provides wide lens shift for easy mounting almost anyway – the back wall , the ceiling – and it can even be a little off center.

Perhaps, the most advanced feature in the PT-AE4000U, which is something you won't even find in many projectors for thousands more, is the Intelligent Lens Memory. Up to six settings can be stored in the Lens Memory, including zoom and focus positions for projecting in the normal 16:9 or 4:3 image ratio, and wide cinema projection settings. These memories can be recalled manually or can be set for automatic switching. The projector is able to detect 2.35:1 and 16:9 source and retrieve the stored setting automatically. This Lens Memory function lets you easily enjoy images with different image ratios on the new wide 2.35:1 screens for an immersive movie theater-like experience.

Own other Panasonic gear? When you have other Panasonic VIERA Link-ready equipment, projection can be started by using only the remote control unit of the PT-AE4000, regardless of whether the source is a Blu-ray Disc or a TV program stored on an HD recorder. This eliminates the need for hassling with several remote controls. Course, you can easily program the PT-AE4000U to a universal remote to eliminate all that remote control clutter.

The PT-AE4000U will be available in late October and is the perfect gift idea for the whole family this coming holiday season.