Yes, yes, we know the Olympics has led to the rejuvenation of an impoverished part of London and - supposedly! - a revamp of an aging, inefficient public transport system. But tech geeks that we unashamedly are, we’re currently more excited about one of the Olympics’ more ‘minor’ side effects: the appearance of a new Panasonic projector.
Panasonic - which is, of course, one of the sponsors of the London Olympic Games - has got so excited by the thought of households across the UK wanting to watch the Olympic events on a bigger screen than a normal TV that they’ve come up with the PT-AH1000E: a high-brightness ‘casual theatre’ projector designed for use in bright, social room environments yet which can allegedly also be converted into a serious lights-down movie machine.
How it looks
The AH1000E’s high-brightness charms aren’t obvious from its design, mind you. In fact, despite pumping out 800 Lumens more than the 2000 Lumens delivered by Panasonic’s excellent ‘serious’ PT-AT5000E home cinema projector, the AH1000E’s chassis looks more or less the same as that of its illustrious sibling. Certainly the dimensions and basic shape all match up.
However, the AH1000E is white rather than black (a sensible decision for a projector intended for normal living spaces, where white ceilings are commonplace). Plus it features a pop-up top cover for easy access to the compartment for the 280W lamp. A lamp which, it turns out, is newly developed for the AH1000E and uses Panasonic’s Red-Rich technology for boosting LCD projections’s customarily flat red tones.
Unlike the AT5000E, the AH1000E does not play 3D. So while the 2000 Lumens of the AT5000E was mostly used for combatting the darkening effect of active shutter 3D glasses, the 2800 Lumens of the AH1000E are all for combatting the potential light - natural or artificial - that the projector may have to contend with in a normal living room environment.
Easy does it
It’s pleasing to find as we go about setting the AH1000E up that Panasonic really seems to understand the needs of a more casual projector audience. For instance, the x2 optical zoom provided makes it easy to adapt the projector to almost any room size. Also mostly brilliant in concept is the little joystick - tucked under a slide-off panel next to the lens - that provides a no-brainer means of shifting the image left, right, up and down to get it positioned correctly on your screen without having to resort to dreaded keystone correction.
There are limitations to the amount of movement the joystick delivers, and its mechanical structure means you sometimes find the image moving diagonally rather than straight up/down or left/right as you want it to. But for the most part the joystick is a great way of simplifying set up for the casual users the AH1000E is self-consciously aimed at.
Panasonic has even gone so far as to try and save casual users from having to worry about the projector’s picture settings. For tucked away on its feature list is the groovily-named Light Harmonizer 3. This automatically analyses the projector’s surroundings using integrated ambient light and colour sensors, and adjust the image’s white balance and gamma curve settings - among other things - accordingly. Obviously we’ll come back to this system later.
More potentially telling automation of the picture producing process comes from the AH1000E’s dynamic iris, which adjusts the amount of light let out of the lens according to the demands of the material being shown. The flexibility or otherwise of the dynamic iris could play a critical role in how well the projector adapts to both bright and dark room viewing.