The happy fact of life in the home theater world is that high performance home theater projectors get better and less expensive on almost a monthly basis. Furthermore this steady march forward in price/performance is occasionally punctuated by new products that represent significant steps forward in value to the consumer. Sometimes this is achieved by a notable improvement in one particular performance characteristic, such as contrast or onboard video processing. Then there are those products that incorporate a variety of improvements which collectively make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. The Panasonic AE700, currently selling at an estimated street price of $2,199, is just such a product.
Native Resolution: 1280x720
Brightness: 1000 ANSI lumens
Lens: Manual zoom/focus, with 2.0x zoom range
Connection ports: One each--HDMI, RGB (VGA), 3-RCA component, S-video, composite, 12V trigger
Lamp life: 3000 hours in high brightness mode (more in eco mode)
Weight: 7.9 lbs
Brightness. As with all home theater projectors, after calibration for video the AE700 puts out less light than the theoretical maximum 1000 ANSI lumen rating would indicate. There are so many calibration and operational variables on the AE700 that it is impractical to quote actual lumen outputs for each. In practical terms, the AE700 is capable of adequately illuminating screens up to 150" diagonal in a dark viewing room. However for best image quality we would limit image size to no more than 120" diagonal.
Contrast. The contrast rating of 2000:1 is a significant boost from the earlier AE500 model. It is due in part to the dynamic iris feature, and in part to dynamic gamma control, with both iris and gamma being reconfigured on a frame by frame basis as determined by the material being displayed. The combination of these features works remarkably well. Overall contrast performance is noticeably improved over previous generations of LCD projectors.
Manual zoom and focus. The AE700 is the first digital projector to offer a 2.0x zoom range on its manual zoom lens. This means that you can get a 100" diagonal image anywhere between 10 and 20 feet throw distance. At this writing, no other digital projector has such an extended zoom range. This is a significant competitive advantage, because it means that you can set it up in almost any size room without worrying about the cost and inconvenience of ceiling mounting. No matter what your room size, and what size of screen you want, the 2x zoom lens substantially improves the chances that the AE700 can be installed on a shelf or in a bookcase on the rear wall.
Horizontal and vertical lens shift. The AE700 provides the ability to move the lens up and down or to the sides to reposition the projected image on the wall. This is a key feature for ease of installation.
Five video inputs. The AE700 offers the new HDMI port, which means it is compatible with DVI (HDCP) outputs from DVD players or set top boxes that offer DVI output. Furthermore the connection panel has a PC input (15-pin VGA) for PC, HDTV, and analog RGB video, and a separate component video input (3-RCA) for HDTV and component video. Finally it has an S-video and composite video input, both of which should be used only for VCRs, video game boxes, laser disc players, and any sources for which component outputs are not available.
"Smooth Screen" technology. Panasonic has been at the forefront of reducing visible pixelation and the screendoor effect, two problems that have been traditionally regarded as weaknesses in LCD technology. On the AE700 the screendoor effect has been eliminated entirely from any normal viewing distance. Pixelation is suppressed to the point that it is not visible except upon close examination of the screen. However, pixelation artifacts can still appear on occasion.
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