The day home theatre projectors cease being big black/grey/silver/white boxes and transform into a design statements, this writer will eat his hat*. Given the darkness required for this projector to shine (sorry), it handily ships with a remote control featuring orange backlit buttons, as well as a full set of controls on the side of the unit.
Given the AU$4000-plus asking price, it's probably safe to assume that anyone buying this projector has (or will have) some serious kit in their home entertainment room. To that end, the AE7000 does without a set of built-in speakers, a TV tuner or anything that isn't directly related to projecting images onto a screen.
In terms of inputs, the projector features three HDMI ports, a connector each for D-Sub VGA and serial cables, a set of component and composite jacks, and an S-Video port. Rounding off the suite of plugs and ports at the rear of the projector are connections for an optional external 3D IR transmitter and triggers.
To help you configure the unit to your tastes there's a buffet of configuration options, everything from the bog standard contrast, bright and colour through to gamma adjustment, noise reduction, a waveform monitor and vertical keystone shifting (the latter is disabled entirely when the projector is displaying 3D content).
Mechanical controls allow for the adjustment of zoom, focus and beam angle, but the two former settings can also be tweaked from a distance via digital controls. Display output can be flipped for either front or rear projection set-ups.
It's disappointing, though, that for such a pricey 3D-capable unit the PT-AE7000E doesn't come with any bundled active 3D glasses.
Spend a bit of time tweaking or calibrating — for a unit like the PT-AE7000E, money spent on a professional calibrator would be a sound investment — and you'll be amply rewarded. The LCD projector and its 200W "red rich" lamp generates colours that are rich and blacks that are almost truly that. With a claimed 2000-lumen output, this Panasonic works acceptably in rooms that aren't perfectly dark. The PT-AE7000E is rated for screens sized between 40- and 300-inch diagonally, and it requires anywhere from 1.16m to 18.08m of space between the screen and projector.
On our 100-inch screen, images proved to be as crisp and sharp as the Blu-ray gods had intended. This sharpness does lead to some moire patterns — whip out Mission Impossible 3 and skip to the bridge scene if you doubt us — but only those in possession of eagle eyes will care.
Panning shots, especially those thick with detail, suffer from more choppiness than we'd like. That may tempt you into turning frame creation on, but we'd advise against it. Flick it to the most aggressive setting and controlled panning shots become delectably smooth. The ounce of flesh extracted consists mainly of fuzzy pixel halos around fast-moving objects and jerky cam sequences, which suffer from a disturbingly wide vertical band of super-sized artefacting on both edges. Turn frame creation aggressiveness down and the bad points subside, but then so too does panning smoothness.
If you're not using the projector in a perfectly dark room, you might be tempted to enable dynamic picture mode. While we can live with this mode's slightly grey black in exchange for a brighter, punchier picture, it's hard to ignore the constant changes in brightness, especially when watching movies.
As far as 3D goes, the PT-AE700E does as a good a job as we've seen from home theatre equipment. This is partly down to the large potential screen size, but also thanks to the 480Hz LCD display that goes some way to relieving issues with crosstalk. For those keen on 3D, but too flint to shell out for 3D Blu-ray titles, there's a built-in 2D to 3D converter that handles scenes with an easily discerned fore- and backgrounds decently.
Watching HD sport, such as NFL or Formula One, is a joy as the Panasonic is able to deliver both detail and motion simultaneously. SD content, such as much of what we see on free-to-air TV, is soft but acceptable. In normal usage, the bulb is said to last for 4000 or 5000 hours in eco mode; replacements will be priced around the AU$500 mark.
Panasonic's first 3D projector, the Osaka-built PT-AE7000E, doesn't disappoint except for the distracting judder on panning shots.
*The writer of this article rarely, if ever, wears hats.