Established wisdom/market forces tend to paint LCD projectors into a budget-only corner, from where they're expected to deliver adequate but uninspiring picture quality for peanuts, leaving DLP, SXRD and D-ILA projectors to slug it out over the premium portion of the home cinema market. So it's a brave manufacturer these days which has the balls to push LCD technology as a premium projection technology.
Yet that's exactly what Panasonic is doing with the PT-AE3000. For this sequel to one of LCD's leading lights, the PT-AE2000, seems to leave precious few stones unturned in its quest for AV glory.
The first thing that gives away the AE3000's high-grade expectations is its price. At north of two grand, it's way more expensive than most LCD projectors we've seen in recent months.
Also suggestive of inner goodness is the AE3000's size. With a width of 460mm and depth of 300mm, it really does eat up a chunk of your coffee table. But then so do Sony's VPL-VW10 and JVC's HD350 - and regular readers will know how much I liked those models.
My only early complaint is that the AE3000 doesn't wear its size particularly well. For while Panasonic may have hoped that its harshly angled bodywork, matt finish and grille-effect fascia would look modern and serious, to my tastes it just looks a bit clumsy and unimaginative.
Putting a smile back on my face fast is the discovery on the AE3000's rear of three v1.3 HDMI inputs - one more than we commonly find with even the most high level projector. Even SIM2's mighty C3X 1080 only managed two, for heaven's sake - and that cost £23k!
Also potentially handy are two component video inputs rather than the typical one, a D-Sub PC input, and a serial port for integrating the projector into an external control system.
It's when you start delving into the deepest recesses of the AE3000's onscreen menus, though, that things really get exciting. For the level of flexibility contained there is outrageous for a machine costing just £2,145, shaming many projectors costing twice as much.