Both projectors are manufactured in Japan, and benefit from Panasonic's strict quality control and vertical integration, with every step from research and development through to manufacturing taking place in the firm's Japanese plants.
Amongst the new features is a new 'Red Rich Lamp', which is compatible with the PT-AE3000E (although you can't use the predecessor's lamps in the new projector.) It promises better brightness by covering red shades better.
Handling: good lens-shift and energy-efficient--but loud
This range of projectors has a very unusual look, and the rectangular slab doesn't go unnoticed: some people find it awful, while others are reassured by its solidity. Ultimately, though, it's a question of taste, so we won't say any more on the matter here.
The elements on the inside are much more likely to gain unanimous support: energy consumption of 0 W (!) on standby and 177 W while working; very extensive lens-shift; motorised focus and zoom and a very rich range of inputs.
This projector's major weakness is how loud it is. There's a high-pitched whirr audible next to the projecting lens, and we measured noise levels of 28 dB, which is rather high for a projector at this level. The remote control is also rather minimalist, with few shortcuts.
Lens-shift on the PT-AE4000E: the dotted line represents the default projection zone, and the coloured squares show the furthest it can go in each direction.
Image Quality: very deep blacks and cracking 100 Hz mode
We tested the PT-AE4000E alongside the Mitsubishi HC6800. Putting them side by side, it's clear that Panasonic produces a more neutral image than Mitsubishi, whose projections tend to be a little dominated by purple. Less forgiving, the Panasonic projector will likely win the hearts of expert viewers; the general public--and that isn't meant pejoratively--will find more favour with with the HC6800 and its more striking image.
We measured black levels of 0.73 cd/m², which is much better than what we found on the HC6800. Moving from one to the produces a striking comparison, but the calculated contrast ratio is around the same because of the white levels produced by the PT-AE400E: it's at just 234 cd/m², compared to Mitsubishi's 453 cd/m². In reality, that means the Mitsubishi produces brighter images but with washed-out blacks, which isn't really what we're looking for.
Compare the Panasonic PT-AE4000E with other projectors in our Product Face-Off
Electronic noise is reasonably well-handled, as long as you turn correction up to maximum. Don't confuse this with the MPEG correction mode, which has no impact on noise levels.
Bright areas are displayed impeccably. Nothing is overexposed, and plenty of details are visible, even in the lightest parts of the frame.
Upscaling DVDs to 1080p is good quality. However, we did notice combing around some contours--on faces, for instance. Upscaling done directly on a PS3 produces as much detail but removes these artefacts and is therefore a much better bet.
Misaligned LCD matrices: although it's much less visible here than on the HC6800, the LCD matrices are still misaligned and can be spotted thanks to thin green and purple lines around white areas.
100 Hz and 3D modes: Panasonic had already told us that there would be no 3D on this projector. It does, however, get a 100 Hz mode. It's not easy to find though: you need to go into the 'Frame Creation' menu (no we don't understand either) and then choose form three different levels. It works even at the lowest setting and we recommend you turn it on. Even when it's turned off, though, movements are much more fluid than on the HC6800.