Summary: Pros, Con's and Typical Capabilities.
Wow! For $2000 and change this is one excellent projector. I am most impressed by the dramatic improvement over the older L500u (AE500u). I still see some of the older model still advertised for a few hundred less, but this is a huge improvement. As of this writing, despite some problems relating to noise and vertical banding, it looks to be the best projector on the market at its price point. (Ed. note: Within a few weeks we should have received and reviewed the new Sanyo Z3, which should be the major competitor at this price point. Shortly after that I will publish a direct comparison.)
Does it outperform more expensive DLP projectors? No it doesn't, at least not overall, but it certainly is the closest a low cost LCD projector has come to matching the $4000 - $10000+ DLP models.
Panasonic's electronics and iris system seem to perform spectacularly, with richer, (if not as accurate) night scene work than even the more expensive DLP's. That is contrast appears good, but the color dynamics seem to be pushed, so that details and objects stand out extremely well. I have yet to see this to be a problem even if it is less than truly accurate. (If we were talking speakers here, I would say that the speakers sounded fantastic, but they were less accurate than some others).
I believe it is extremely important to calibrate the projector when you get it. This is not rocket science. For ease of use, I recommend the Avia disk. it is straightforward but will take you about an hour, mostly figuring out how the disk is organized, since it will also calibrate your sound system, etc. (A very good $50 investment.) I think the calibration is in order because of the slight shift to yellow I seem to find on fleshtones on many settings. (Sure, you can eyeball it, but unless you know your colors, you are likely to improve somethings while changing others that you didn't intend to.
The Panasonic AE700u is a great, affordable projector in the 1280x720 resolution class, and should certainly be near the top of your shopping list. As you look below, you will note there are some serious issues under "Con's" but they are mostly, easily correctable.
- Overall excellent picture quality
- Extremely good on dark scenes
- Best contrast yet from an LCD projector anywhere near its price (spec'd at 2000:1)
- Plenty of inputs
- Lens shift
- 2:1 zoom lens for lots of placement flexibility
- Lots of menu control of colors and settings
- User defined settings
- More powerful than most, it does well on larger screens even in its darker modes
- Noise in the picture (it is controllable with the noise reduction menu option)
- Vertical banding - not a good thing but rarely annoying
- Colors seem off a bit without calibration, in many of the color modes
- Warranty only 1 year (2 year additional is available from Direct Panasonic dealers only.
- Remote control
- Styling - its a "box"
The Panasonic AE700u earns a Hot Product Award, for the Home Theater Catagory $2000-$3000 (selling price) projectors. It is an excellent value!