These are exciting times for home cinema fans. For as well as brilliantly promising but also affordable new 3D-capable projectors from JVC, Sony and Epson heading our way in the coming weeks, today we’ve got our hands on the first of the new projector ‘wave’: the Panasonic PT-AT6000E (often listed as the Panasonic PT-AT6000).
The Panasonic PT-AT6000E follows on from 2011’s well-received Panasonic PT-AT5000E, but the extent to which it advances on its predecessor is impressive.
Perhaps the single most important enhancement is that the Panasonic PT-AT6000E uses a new 220W red-rich lamp that raises light output to 2,400 Lumens - a 20 per cent increase over the Panasonic PT-AT5000E. This could go a very long way to tackling the lack of brightness noted with the AT5000E’s 3D pictures. Such a boost in brightness could have a significant impact on 2D pictures too, of course - especially as the light output rise is accompanied by a healthy-looking rise in the Panasonic PT-AT6000E’s claimed contrast ratio, which hits 500,000:1 versus the AT5000E’s 300,000:1.
These two improvements alone should be enough to help the Panasonic PT-AT6000E produce markedly punchier and more dynamic pictures than those of the Panasonic PT-AT5000E - a projector which itself won praise for its dynamism, at least with 2D playback.
The amount of technology the Panasonic PT-AT6000E applies to its pictures is actually pretty staggering for a projector we’ve seen selling for £2,900. For starters, Panasonic has completely redesigned its lamp module, so that it can better dissipate the extra heat generated by the more powerful 220W lamp without simply making the projector’s fans run harder (and thus more noisily).
Panasonic has also introduced new condenser lenses with special coatings designed to boost colour response by cutting out all unwanted light frequencies, while a new Pure Contrast Plate system in conjunction with an improved dynamic iris are largely responsible for the boosted contrast figure noted earlier.
There’s a new version of Panasonic’s Detail Clarity Processor within the Panasonic PT-AT6000E too. This claims to be much more intelligent than usual sharpness-boosting engines in that rather than just boosting the sharpness of the whole image - which can actually reduce an image’s depth - the Detail Clarity Processor figures out which parts of a source image are using softness to create an illusion of depth, and leaves them relatively alone. This sort of ‘non-universal’ approach to sharpness boosting is particularly important with very high-brightness projectors like the Panasonic PT-AT6000E.
The Panasonic PT-AT6000E also goes the extra mile to suit AV enthusiasts by including among its picture presets a Rec709 setting that gives you the exact colour spec of the industry HD TV standard. Though, as an interesting counter to the notion that slavishly following ‘industry standards’ always delivers the best picture results, Panasonic has found that the Rec709 settings - which are based, after all, on 42-inch HD monitors, not projectors - didn’t work quite right in a projection situation. As a result, the brand has provided a suitably tweaked version in the shape of the projector’s Cinema 1 preset.
Focussing on the work done to boost the Panasonic PT-AT6000E’s 3D performance, as well as the key brightness boost already covered, Panasonic has introduced a new temperature control system to tackle the way 3D crosstalk ghosting tends to be worse before projectors get fully warmed up. Also introduced to the AT6000E is the same 3D motion remaster system Panasonic launched on its 2012 TVs. This does a subtle but welcome job of removing the ‘bulging’ effect that fast motion can cause when watching 3D.
The Panasonic AT6000E is equipped with LCD panels designed to run at 480Hz to boost 3D performance, and which use vertically aligned liquid crystal molecules with inorganic alignment layers to minimise accidental light leakage and thus boost contrast.
Then there’s the almost crazy amount of fine tuning adjustments for both 3D and 2D content included within the Panasonic PT-AT6000E’s intimidating onscreen menus. Trying to go through every tweak on offer would take us all day, and would also in our opinion be rather pointless, as it’s our belief that many of the subtler adjustments on offer will never be touched by the vast majority of users.