If you judge a book by its cover you'll hate Panasonic's PT-AE2000E, which isn't so much plain as plain ugly, its square-edged sobriety a stark visual contrast to the curvaceous lines preferred by rivals such as InFocus and ThemeScene.
It's also an LCD projector, which once could have placed it at a theoretical disadvantage next to DLP (Digital Light Processing) rivals. LCD kit has often, in the past, suffered from an inability to display black with the same fidelity as DLP hardware, which has, in turn, crippled contrast performance.
But not any more. True, the PT-AE2000E's claimed contrast ratio (a whopping 16,000:1) is more than a tad fanciful, but it can still generate a beautifully rich, lustrous picture with exceptional depth and realism.
Brilliant to set up and install
Before we delve too far into picture considerations, let's talk set-up. Here, the Panasonic excels: it might be dull to look at but the sizeable chassis affords plenty of space for solid, stable and easily adjustable supporting feet, coupled to simple thumbwheel controls for vertical and horizontal lens shift.
Together with the backlit remote handset and clear on-screen menus, you're unlikely to find an easier projector to install at this price. It's even quiet, making it an ideal coffee-table-friendly 'occasional use' buy. The PT-AE2000E's complement of three HDMI inputs, all of which offer bang-up-to-date 1.3a support, means it's covered for almost any system expansion too.
Sharp edges, smooth motion
Thanks to its high resolution – this is a 1920x1080 'Full HD' design – and its sophisticated picture processing, the Panasonic is tailor-made for big-screen viewing. It looks superb showing Blu-ray discs, which is no surprise given Panny's fondness for the format, and of course it'll readily cope with 24fps signals.
Motion across the screen is always natural and stable, with nary a hint of judder or unsightly motion smearing. Handling of standard-definition TV and DVDs is almost as impressive, thanks to that depth and richness to the image coupled to its sharply drawn edges and lavishly textured colours.
In short, the PT-AE2000E is cheaper and better than its forebear, the PT-AE1000E, as well as being similarly easy to install and live with. If you're prepared to go to four figures for a projector, make it this one.