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Our love of all things full HD has led us in recent times to concentrate predominantly on high-spec, high-cost projectors. So we figured it was high time we got our hands on a more affordable projection solution for a change. And without doubt the most instantly intriguing model around right now is Panasonic's PT-AX200E: an HD Ready LCD projector going for the princely sum of £758.95.
What makes the AX200E so interesting is the fact that it's from Panasonic - a brand with way more home projector experience than most of its rivals, and which has put that experience to great use in the past with some truly outstanding products. So provided Panasonic hasn't had to make too many compromises to keep costs low, the AX200E could be a bit of a star.
Not that it looks particularly star-like, mind. Its off-white colour scheme looks a touch drab, and its design is distinctly lacking in flourishes. It's also surprisingly large for a budget unit, occupying quite a chunk of your coffee table. Here's hoping the extra size has been put to good use with the optical engine and/or some sort of system for reducing cooling fan noise.
The AX200E's connection panel is pretty well stocked for a projector under £800. Two HDMIs dominate proceedings - one more than I might have expected for so little money, even in today's digitally-obsessed climate.
There's also the inevitable component video input for analogue HD content (as required by the HD Ready specification), S-video and composite video options, a D-Sub PC port, and a serial jack. In an ideal world there might have been a 12v trigger jack for driving an electronic screen, but then we guess anyone spending this little on a projector might very well be considering just projecting it onto a white wall.
One excellent Panasonic tradition carried on by the AX200E concerns its ease of use. It's actually one of the simplest projectors to set up you will ever come across, thanks to an inspired front-mounted joystick that allows you to shift the image up, down, left or right. There's further assistance from a very healthy 2x zoom that helps you adapt the image to a wide variety of room sizes; and a remarkably simple, backlit remote control.