To be fair to DLP, though, the AE2000's 16,000:1 contrast ratio is not a native figure, relying instead on a common LCD technique whereby the lamp output is reduced automatically when a dark scene is detected by the projector's processors. This reduction in brightness leads to improved black level response, but also means the picture can be prone to over-obvious brightness ‘jumps'. Plus you'll never find the AE2000 producing its maximum brightness and contrast values at one and the same time.
That maximum brightness figure, incidentally, is a handy 1,500 Lumens - a very high number for a projector in the sub-£2k category.
One further important feature of the AE2000's optical system is something called Smooth Screen technology. This uses a proprietary Panasonic optical arrangement to ‘smooth away' LCD's tendency to reveal the individual pixel structure of its LCD panel in the form of a grid-like effect in the final image.
We've seen Smooth Screen deliver good results in the past, though it has to be said that we're not entirely sure it's necessary on a full HD projector, as we'd expect the pixels to be so densely packed together as to negate the ‘gridding' problem in the first place.
Joining the Smooth Screen optical system in working to improve the AE2000's pictures are a quartet of other significant tricks. First up, colour processing is a high-powered 16-bit affair, which should ensure that colour blends look perfectly smooth, avoiding the ‘striped' appearance you sometimes see at the affordable end of the projection market.
Also on hand for colours is a Cinema Colour Management utility that enables the user to correct and tweak colours to a finer, more extensive degree than what was possible with the AE1000. What's more, the changes you make using Colour Management can be viewed as a graph, so that you can follow at a glance the path of your actions.
Yet more colour enhancement is promised by the projector's Pure Colour Filter Pro technology, which employs fine optical adjustments to deliver apparently greater purity in the reproduction of the red, green and blue ‘primary' video colours (as well as deeper blacks and a generally wider colour space). Finally you get a Detail Clarity Processor that does exactly what it says on the tin.
Heading at last into the AE2000's performance, I predictably find much to like. Yet there are also just enough problems to prevent me from giving it a totally unreserved recommendation. Kicking off the good stuff is the AE2000's Smooth Screen system. If this system has had a fault in the past, it's that it's shown a tendency to reduce the picture's sharpness. But here it really does smooth away any trace of the so-called LCD ‘chicken wire effect', while still leaving quality HD sources such as The Prestige on Blu-ray looking terrifically sharp and detailed.