With next-generation devices like Samsung's BD-P1000 Blu-ray player (reviewed here), Toshiba's HD-E1 and HD-XE1 HD DVD players and Sony's PlayStation 3 (previewed here) moving from prototype to product, television buyers have been eyeing up 'Full HD' screens that support 1080p, the smoothest and most detailed of the hi-def signals. Equivalent projectors, however, seem to have been overlooked by all but the most hardcore enthusiasts.
This is probably due to the lack of dedicated demonstration rooms to let you find out what you're missing. But as any film buff will tell you, nothing comes closer to a cinematic experience than watching your favourite flick on a super-sized screen. For the same price as a 50-inch plasma or LCD (£3,500), Panasonic's latest PT-AE1000E can display a full 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution image up to 100 inches in size from only 3m away. If size matters, do the maths.
Unusually at this level, the projector relies on LCD technology, featuring Panasonic's heavily praised C2Fine LCD panel. The biggest criticism of LCD projectors is that they're susceptible to the so-called 'chickenwire effect', a visible lattice superimposed on the screen from the LCD panel. Panasonic claims to have eliminated this problem using its Smooth Screen technology, which reduces the gaps between pixels to remove the lines.
There's other advanced technology to hand too, including the latest Cinema Works Pro engine with a 14-bit processing circuit and the Dynamic Iris system. This analyses the brightness levels of each image and adjusts the power lamp, iris and gamma curve accordingly.
Panasonic claims a class-leading contrast ratio of 11,000:1, although a brightness rating of 1,100 Lumens means you'll need a dedicated, darkened room to provoke the best performance. Connectivity is also impressive with dual HDMI and component inputs, and even a Scart terminal for standard-definition uses.
The PT-AE1000E will be available from mid-November. -RA