Panasonic’s projectors have long offered impressive feature sets for their money, and this continues with knobs on with the AE4000.
Let’s start with a few simple quoted specifications. Namely a very promising contrast ratio of 100,000:1 (up from the AE3000’s 60,000:1), an inevitable full HD native resolution, a high brightness level of 1,600 Lumens, and Panasonic’s innovative Intelligent Lens Memory.
This feature, introduced on the AE3000, allows you to calibrate and then store lens settings (including zoom and focus, obviously) for optimal showing of 4:3, 16:9 and 2.35:1 aspect ratio sources. The latter CinemaScope setting will, of course, be of huge interest to home cinema fans - though you will need a 2.35:1-ratio screen rather than the more common 16:9 shape if you want to get the most out of this feature.
It’s probably sensible at this point to cover the key feature differences between the AE4000 and its predecessor, beyond the already-mentioned contrast boost.
These start with the AE4000‘s red-rich lamp - a proprietary new high pressure affair reckoned to put out as much as 50 per cent more red light than the lamp found in the AE3000. Why do this? Chiefly because it helps the AE4000 make flesh tones look more realistic than they did on the AE3000. Also, although I hadn’t particularly been troubled by any weakness in the reds when I reviewed the AE3000, it does appear that the reds of, say, the English King’s colours in Braveheart look more dynamic on the AE4000, giving the image a more balanced colour finish.
Panasonic also claims that the red lamp helps deliver a brighter picture while you’re using the AE4000’s Cinema and colour presets, even though the overall maximum quoted brightness level is still the same as the AE3000‘s, at 1,600 Lumens.
Next, the AE4000 also carries Detail Clarity Processor 3 vs the version 2 sported by the AE3000. This processor is designed to make the picture look sharper and more detailed, with the big - and certainly welcome - improvement being that you can now adjust the potency of the system to suit your tastes. Purists may, of course, like to ignore this tool altogether, but I personally suggest that you at least give it a go, for reasons that will become apparent later.
Purists might also baulk at another of the AE4000’s improvements - an enhanced frame interpolation system. This has three modes rather than the AE3000’s two, with the extra mode applying improved processing algorithms and power to pretty much completely obliterate judder. In fact, as well as being truly liquid in their fluidity, pictures using Mode 3 also display remarkably few side effects from the processing. The other two modes reduce judder too, but less aggressively.
The reason for having so many modes is simply that the ultra-fluid look delivered by Mode 3 just won’t suit everyone’s tastes, for while what it does is technically pretty amazing, it arguably stops pictures from looking like they’re films any more.