It’s good to see that even using the projector’s default settings it leaves all of its noise reduction routines completely off when it detects an HD input. Some of you will be less pleased to hear, though, that the default setting for the projector’s Motion processing is On.
However, before anyone has a nerd-rage meltdown about this, we’d say that the motion processing system is subtle enough not to be something anyone should really fear. Certainly with 24p Blu-rays it delivers just a touch more fluidity, so that pictures still look natural. And it does this without causing seemingly any significant unwanted side effects.
Of course, you could argue that if the impact of the Motion system is subtle, then you might as well turn it off. But so far as we’re concerned, the real point is that it does alter the image’s ‘lavour slightly without mucking things up, and thus offers users a genuine personal choice. And genuine, sensible choices are something we always like to see, however much they might upset a certain breed of AV enthusiast!
Adjusting various ‘banks’ of lights in our room, as well as throwing open the curtains proved a very interesting exercise. For the Light Harmoniser feature impressed us greatly with its ability to adapt the picture ‘on the hoof’ to all the different ambient light circumstances we threw at it. Very clever.
There is, though, a limitation to the Light Harmoniser’s abilities. For the nearer you get to darkness, the less effective the automatic adjustments seem to get. In particular, the projector makes no attempt to control the light levels in the picture any further than is possible by the dynamic iris. By which we mean it doesn’t actually adjust the light level being output by the lamp, meaning black levels never achieve the sort of depth likely to satisfy a serious movie fan.
Obviously a truly dynamic lamp output system is probably just not possible on a projector anything like as affordable as the AH1000E. But the projector does have an Eco lamp mode that runs the lamp at a lower level, so maybe the Light Harmoniser processing could have at least added that to its list of adjustment criteria?
Black with a touch of grey
Having said all that, it is, of course, hardly a major headache to turn the lamp into eco mode yourself if you want to improve the image’s black levels. However, as we’d feared - and perhaps inevitably - even using the eco setting the AH1000E’s black level reproduction isn’t particularly good. There’s clearly visible tell-tale greyness swimming around over parts of the picture that should be black, and dark parts of the picture tend to look rather hollow thanks to the projector struggling to resolve shadow details.
The projector does, thankfully, run a lot quieter with the lamp in Eco mode. But the noise level is still only around what we’d expect to hear now from a ‘normal’ home cinema projector running in high lamp mode.
At this point it’s high time we did a reality check. For really, no matter how many calibration options Panasonic had chucked at the AH1000E it was probably never going to be entirely realistic to expect it to perform equally brilliantly in both bright and dark conditions. Especially given how affordable it is.
While the die-hard movie fan in us might wish for more black level depth from the AH1000E, with our real-world head on the best we could reasonably have expected from such a deliberately casual projector would be that it works well in a typical family and friends viewing environment, can be used instantly without requiring lots of - or even any! - manual adjustments to suit different viewing conditions, yet also provides plenty of calibration tools and a fair dark-room performance for occasional ‘serious movie’ sessions.
And measured fairly against this real-world list, it’s actually hard to see how the AH1000E could have been much better. Certainly for our money it’s more flexible than the similarly-intentioned Runco LS-HB, and that costs nearly five times as much.