Review Price £2,900.00
Panasonic PT-AT6000E First Look
After suddenly finding ourselves snowed under with 3D projectors at the start of the year, it’s all gone suspiciously quiet in recent months. So much so that it came as a real surprise when an invitation last week to the ‘grand opening’ of Panasonic’s new home cinema room at the brand’s Bracknell HQ was accompanied by the suggestion that the room was going to be ‘christened’ with a brand new 3D projector.
Introducing the Panasonic AT6000E 3D Projector
Now that the week long embargo on the event is over (Panasonic didn’t want to steal any thunder from its big IFA launch), we can finally give you an idea of what we might be able to expect when the new PT-AT6000E projector goes on sale in September.
Aesthetically, the Panasonic PT-AT6000E 3D projector is very similar to the current AT5000E model. This doesn’t make it the prettiest projector in town by any means, but it’s serviceable enough for something that’s going to spend most of its time in the dark.
The Panasonic PT-AT6000E’s connections are outstanding, dominated as they are by three HDMI ports. It’s beyond us why so many projectors - even ultra expensive models like those from Sim2 - still insist on providing just two HDMIs, so hopefully the AT6000E will mark the start of a new trend.
What's more, the presence of a pair of 12V trigger jacks also implies that the AT6000E is hoping to carry favour with the custom install market.
When we reviewed the Panasonic PT-AT5000E we adored its 2D performance but felt that the image quality sacrifices in terms of brightness and crosstalk when shifting to 3D were tough to take. So it’s good to find Panasonic seemingly specifically addressing these concerns with the AT6000E, improving both its brightness and its handling of crosstalk’s ghosting artefacts.
The brightness is up to an impressive 2400 Lumens in fact, from the previous AT5000E’s 2000 Lumens. This is partly down to a new, more powerful lamp. But this is aided and abetted by an improved polariser, a better cooling system for the optical array, and a new lens coating.
As for crosstalk, it should be reduced by a new system for making sure the projector warms up faster, since crosstalk tends to be worse when the room and/or optical system is running cold. The AT6000E also delivers a significant contrast range boost, going up to a colossal 500,000:1 from the AT5000E’s 300,000:1.
Other improvements include an advanced gamma adjustment that lets you tweak the gamma curve at 15 points instead of nine, and the ability to use Panasonic’s Lens Adjustment feature - where the projector can save lens and zoom settings to suit different aspect ratios - with 3D as well as 2D. This very handy feature only worked with 2D on the AT5000E.
During our demo of the AT6000E, the most conspicuous improvement was in the brightness of 3D footage. Panasonic kept switching between the luminance level of the AT5000E and the new 2400Lumens of the AT6000E while watching a 3D clip from a new polar bear documentary called Ice Bear, and the difference in brightness was blindingly and winningly obvious.
Also impressive was how much more detail you could see in the AT6000E’s 3D images - a result partly of the extra brightness, and partly of a new improved version of Panasonic’s image processing, which is better able to emphasise detail without simultaneously boosting the appearance of noise.
Colours look improved in 3D too. This is partly a function of the brightness boost, but Panasonic has also introduced a new condenser lens designed to cut unwanted light frequencies out of the picture, resulting in purer, more controlled colours.
Not surprisingly the improvements mostly introduced to boost 3D performance also help the AT6000E produce a genuinely spectacular 2D performance, containing levels of contrast, detail and punch quite possibly not seen before at the AT6000E’s likely price level.
Not that we know exactly what that price level might be, mind you. Panasonic wouldn’t be drawn on its pricing plans yet. But given the level of improvement Panasonic has introduced, it could well cost more than the AT5000E.
For all its improvements, though, while watching a particularly ‘busy’ 3D clip from Transformers 3 we did still notice a little crosstalk in places, as well as finding motion a bit flickery and unnatural. This latter issue could be down to the particular motion processing system Panasonic was using for the demo, though.
The demo switch from a 2D clip of The Notebook to the 3D Transformers 3 clip still made us feel potently aware of the dramatic drop in brightness you get with 3D, despite the AT6000E’s greatly enhanced light output.
Nevertheless, on the evidence of what we’ve seen so far, Panasonic has made what was already a mighty fine projection engine in the AT5000 not just marginally, but considerably better for the AT6000. And that should hopefully give us plenty to smile about come the end of September.