Panasonic PT-AE700u Projector Overview
A year ago, Sanyo and Panasonic slugged it out with their popular Z2 and L500u, both selling for around $2000. As I write this (10/04), it looks like we have a rematch, with Sanyo's forthcoming Z3 and this new Panasonic AE700U. Since these new projectors are likely to both be best sellers, look for my Z3 review next month, where I likely will comment on which projector comes out on top.
This is the first of a new breed of affordable projectors, and so far looks to be "best of class" as a result it earns a Hot Product Award. I expect there will be at least one or two other new HT projectors coming to market in the price range that will rival the Panasonic AE700U projector and also earn the award.
The Panasonic AE700U offers many significant improvements over its predecessor, including the addition of optical lens shift for easier placement (a feature the Sanyo offered), a new, zoom lens with tremendous range - again simplifying placement, and a claimed best contrast of 2000:1, approaching that of DLP projectors, and a significant improvement from last year's 1300:1. Panasonic continues to use its digital reality circuitry to enhance contrast, along with an electronic iris that continuously adjust the lens from frame to frame, to improve black levels and dynamic range.
In addition, Panasonic's new LCD's have a dramatically reduced pixel structure, effectively eliminating the "screendoor effect", so that you cannot see the pixels at any normal viewing distance.
It all comes down to the final question. How good is the image quality? This Panasonic projector using 3 LCDs goes a long way toward the goal of closing the gap between lower cost LCD and more expensive DLP projectors. The DLP projectors that have the same resolution (1280x720), typically sell from $4000 to $13,000, and they still produce an overall better more "film-like" picture than the Panasonic, but the performance for the money is down right impressive.