Aside from requests for free gadgets, one of the most popular questions in the Stuff mailbag is ‘should I buy a projector or a new TV?’

Normally a large telly is seen as an alternative to a projector – a top-notch 46in or 50in set would be in the same price bracket. But when you see the PT-AE3000 in action, it's a good reminder that a TV, no matter how good, really can't match the home-cinema experience that a projector gives.

Setup is a cinch

What's more, this is probably the easiest projector to set up that we've ever come across. That means we're enjoying the brilliant images quicker than you can say 1920x1080 resolution (this LCD projector has that under its bonnet, too).

Two click-wheel style controls give you total control of the image. One shifts the projector left, right, up and down, and the other gives you access to the powered zoom and focus controls. In a matter of seconds, you're in business.

Along with the necessary 1080p resolution and easy set-up, there's not a great deal more for a projector to worry about in terms of specifications.

The PT-AE3000 has three HDMI inputs, Panasonic's 100Hz motion processing and plenty of other picture adjustments, too. Also worth noting is that it's quiet in operation, although it does run fairly warm.

Sublime HD

The picture it conjures is also, frankly, eye-popping. Colours are full-bodied, bold and punchy where needed, and it’s equally adept at realistic skintones that pack in plenty of detail.

We chose 'mode 1' when it came to motion processing, to ensure a smooth but natural delivery. While upscaled DVD doesn’t impress in the same way as HD, you only have to rein in our expectations a touch before you’re hit by sharp, insightful, colourful pictures.

So, a lesson: never judge a projector by its decidedly dull exterior. This Panasonic is a supremely clever and brilliantly capable piece of kit.

Stuff says... 

Panasonic PT-AE3000 review

Simple to use and with superb results – a hugely persuasive argument for taking the big-screen plunge