Panasonic PT-AT6000 projector review

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posted on Thursday, 30th August 2012 by Steve May

projectors  home cinema 

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Panasonic has taken the wraps off its new home theatre projector, the PT-AT6000. While the new model looks identical to it predecessor, it features a raft of picture improvements which effectively make it the best yet from the brand. At 2,400 ANSI lumens, it's also significantly brighter (the earlier PT-AT5000 was 2,000 lumens), and offers higher contrast (now rated at 500,000:1).

Inside CI
was invited to Panasonic for a pre-launch review, and we can confirm that the changes have made a big difference to the projector's 2D and 3D performance. Not only is are its Full HD images exceptionally dynamic, through 3D glasses it's 20 per cent brighter.

Panasonic PT-AT6000: 3D performance
It's not just improvements in brightness which make this new Panasonic stand out, it also delivers a more realistic 3D performance, thanks to the same 3D Motion Re-Mastering technology used on the brand's VT50 plasmas.

The Active Shutter 3D system, which works by sequentially opening and closing the shutter for each lens, creates a delay of 1/120 seconds between each eye; the mind compensates for this, but the result can be an unusual parallax effect, seen as a slight bulging warp in movement. It's known as the Mach Dvorak effect. Impossible to detect on 3D computer animation such as Ice Age, it's readily apparent on live action. In order to resolve the problem, the projector interpolates an image to compensate for that 1/120 second lag. Test footage reveals that certain moving images become smoother and more naturalistic.

The PT-AT6000 has a number of set up controls which will enable installers to dial-in an optimised 3D performance. A novel 3D Viewing Monitor depicts the amount of depth in a 3D image. It can be used to highlight positive and negative parallax within each image, with guidelines available to rein in effects, preventing them from becoming uncomfortable to watch.

Interestingly, Panasonic has discovered that crosstalk double imaging can vary depending on the ambient temperature of the viewing room, as this affects the liquid crystal panels in the projector. So there is now internal temperature management to maintain an ideal, zero-crosstalk environment. This trait has been observed on 3D LCD TVs for some time. Not only does it manifest itself as variable levels of performance, depending on the heat of the panels, but can also be see in the 3D uniformity of a single panel, where sections of the image exhibit subtle3D crosstalk effects because the liquid crystal is cooler at the centre of the screen than at the edges. This is the first time we've been aware of a company combating this in the home projection market.

The 3D eyeware emitter is built into the projector, and can cover up to 6m. However if you are installing the projector in a larger home theatre, an optional IR emitter is available. The PT-AT6000 is compatible with both Panasonic Active Shutter glasses and third party XPAND glasses.

Panasonic PT-AT6000: 2D HD performance
Of course, it's not just 3D performance which has been improved on the PT-AT6000. This projector is at its best with 2D hi-def. Images are ultra sharp, and exhibit excellent colour fidelity. There's also a real dynamic snap to its pictures. The projector's Advanced Gamma Adjustment has also been improved from nine to fifteen points; by using the Split-Adjust mode, installers can freeze a scene and make adjustments while comparing the original image side-by-side.

Panasonic has made some welcome tweaks to image clarity, with the fourth iteration of its Detail Clarity Processor. The problem with a regular sharpening engine, explains Rena Yotsu, senior coordinator of the management team responsible for the PT-AT6000, is that it sharps everything. "It brings out all the detail in everything, and the result is a flatter image as you lose depth. With DCP 4 sharpness enhancement is selective. We can bring out detail where it is meant to be seen, but on defocused scenes, we don't bring it out. This gives us fine detail without losing the sense of depth in the image."

The projector also offers more authentic reds, with an overall improvement in colour purity. According to Yotsu, this is down to "new condenser lens which allow us to cut unwanted light frequencies. The PT-ST5000 exhibited a little bit of the orange pigment in the red; here we can cut that out."

Panasonic PT-AT6000: Installation and calibration
Interestingly, during our session with the PT-AT6000, Rena Yotsu warned calibrators that it was a mistake to slavishly follow standards such as REC. 709 (the ITU-R technical standard for digital television which relates to issues such as colour space) when setting up and measuring a home theatre projector. 

REC.709 is a standard designed for a 42-inch monitor, explained Yotsu. The catch is that colour subjectively loses intensity when presented on a larger display. To compensate for this, Panasonic has its own preset, dubbed Cinema 1, which is a large screen colour match for REC-709. To guarantee its authenticity, the brand called upon a trio of Hollywood creatives to perform the matching at its PHL Hollywood Laboratory in LA. "We've been tuning our projectors in Hollywood with film makers since 2003," we're told.

The projector offers a 2x zoom and can project onto a 120-inch screen from between 3.6m to 7.2m; it comes with +/- 100 per cent vertical adjustment and +/- 26 per cent horizontal adjustment. It also sports a 2.35:1 Intelligent Lens Memory which automatically detects and switches lens and focus position depending on the aspect ratio. Connections include three HDMI inputs, RS232 port and a 12V trigger. The remote control is backlit.

The projector also offers a beefed up 220W Red Rich Lamp (the bulb on Panasonic's previous model was 200w UHP), and the brand's proprietary Smooth Screen technology to disguise the pixel grid structure.

Panasonic PT-AT6000: Verdict
Overall, we rate the PT-AT6000 as a superior home theatre projector, and one particularly suitable for custom installations. Performance is excellent and calibration options are considerable; zoom and lens shift options should accommodate most projects.

The PT-AT6000 is available now.
CI distribution is via AWE Europe. For more on AWE Europe visit our partner page.

Retail price: £3,200

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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