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LCD projectors have been getting cheaper and cheaper over the past year or so. They have certainly moved into a price range which makes them look much more affordable as a second display device. You wouldn’t want to watch TV on one of these, but for gaming and DVDs they are magnificent and so on that note, Panasonic have been kind enough to let me take a look at the PTAE200.

Specification


[*]Native 16:9 wide-screen 525p LCD panel
[*]High resolution 858 x 484 pixels x 3 (R, G, B)
[*]700 ANSI lumens brightness
[*]700:1 contrast ratio
[*]6 picture mode (Cinema 1, Cinema 2, Music, Dynamic, Sports, Normal)
[*]Vertical keystone correction
[*]SD Memory Card slot
[*]Quiet 28 dB
[*]Colour temperature adjustable
[*]Back-lit multi-function wireless remote controller
[*]28 cm x 27.9 cm x 8.5 cm
[*]2.9 kg
[*]Inputs - S-video, RCA, D-SUB (PC input) Component

Panasonic PTAE200

Installation


Not everyone has a huge house, with a separate room to dedicate to home cinema goodness and this has left these people without the 6 foot picture they desire. However since LCD projectors are small, it is actually quite easy to have one packed away and then just placed on a small table when it is required for use. This might not be ideal, but it is the best I can do at the moment. Other than that, installation is a doddle. The projector has a useful set on menus in which it can be set up as a desktop projector (i.e. the correct way up) or as a roof mounted device (i.e. upside down). This dual method of mounting gives more versatility in its placement. Then it is just a case of dragging a cable across the floor from either the DVD player or amplifier (depending on how your setup works) and plugging it in and hey presto, huge image.

There are several geometry menus which are of course a great use, but I felt there were not enough options at times. The viewing image was fine, but the surround to this did not have straight borders. More on this later.

Aesthetics


It is a silver box. Not especially pretty but not purposefully ugly in its conception. A sleek face plate and fairly in descript lines make it an average looking piece of kit. A lot of people will be happy in this as it is not always something attention should be drawn to, and with its darkish colour it tends to be able to hide out of the way quite easily. Nothing too special here really, but in this case, it is a lot less of a problem. The audience will be more drawn to the huge image on the wall rather than the tiny box of magic in front of it.

Ergonomics


Again, this is not as important as with other home cinema components such as receivers. However the PTAE200 has a selection of buttons on top of it which I can happily say, that other than the power button I did not touch one. This is because the remote control supplied is great. Thought has been put into this tiny device with the inclusion of an inbuilt light. A quick touch of the LIGHT button and all the buttons on the handset glow for a few seconds and then this light turns off if not used. This is great as when using the projector, it is highly likely the room will be pitch black. One thing I did notice is that the projector kicks out quite a lot of heat and therefore it is inadvisable to put anything behind the exhaust port. Other than that, it is very simple to use with decent on screen menus, even with memory settings so that it is possible to save perhaps a gaming and a DVD profile if required.

Panasonic PTAE200

Video


This is where it is at. Might I digress slightly. Upon informing my wife that I wanted a projector I had to fight through torrent after torrent of “not in this flat” and “there is no where for a screen” however, it only took me to show her Finding Nemo and Pirates of the Caribbean and she forgot all about the complaints of before. And that is because a 6 foot image of Orlando Bloom is apparently, excellent viewing. After showing her this, she even started telling her parents how great it was, and after they came round to have a look and visit, they started looking at where they could project an image in their house. That is how good this system is. Well, that is how good it is to my family who are not exactly cinema connoisseurs (my wife is becoming educated in these matters however – not through choice mind!).

So it is impressive, as I have said but how good exactly is it? Well to put it shortly, it is not as good as a standard CRT television. However it is a two to three times bigger image. Rated at 700 Ansi Lumens this projector requires a pretty dark room to give the best viewing – and this means either using it at night, with the lights off or purchasing a black out blind for your windows. This is something some people might find hard. However, it is worth it. The picture itself is slightly green as is a trait with all LCD projectors. The device comes with a menu option to try and reduce the amount of green in the image however there is only so much that is possible using this. The best bet for any LCD projector is to purchase a certain colour gel to go in front of the lens. This is fairly common practise in the world of LCD projection. The level of green is however quite low and at first I did not notice it, until I used the CRT as well as the projector and compared the images. Flesh tones in particular are affected by this inherent problem. It is easily solvable however and certainly nothing to worry about. Detail levels are not as good as a standard CRT either (I say standard, but I am comparing it with a high quality television and do not know what this is like in comparison to a lower quality model). Watching a film on the projector, I did not notice the lack of detail in certain parts however comparing it to the CRT showed there was a certain level of elements missing from the projection. As I mentioned earlier the widescreen picture might have good geometry, but the projector itself seems to project a larger image so that there are boarders on the image. These are not very noticeable in bright scenes, but a little distracting in darker scenes.

At first I started using the projector with a standard S-Video connection which was good, with rich bold colours however it was also fairly soft. Again in comparison to a CRT, the sharpness was not as defined. However using a component connection really helped the picture to become sharper. It is possible to see the pixels if you stand close to it, and the infamous chicken wire effect is visible in certain lights but it is certainly liveable with. For gaming this really adds to the feel of the games. With F-Zero it makes the racing experience even better, and Samba de Amigo is heaps more fun when the screen is that large.

Overall


This is a hard one. When released this projector had quite a hefty price tag at around £1400 however it considered to be a good buy for its comparably good picture. Now the newer models are coming out, and this model is dropping in price considerably. I have seen it for as low as £650 and at that price it truly is a steal. Of course the PTAE300 is not too much more expensive am since that has just arrived for review, I would possible wait for that to come down to a price you can afford, but if you really can’t wait this projector takes DVDs and video games to a whole new level. Just remember you need a very dark room to get the full effect.


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