Panasonic PT-LW80NTE

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Despite suffering from an ugly exterior and lucklustre inputs, the Panasonic PT-LW80NTE projector produces bright and colourful images.

Panasonic's unexcitingly named PT-LW80NTE isn't winning any beauty pageants. This machine is grey, boxy and big.

Input options on this projector are unexciting, but acceptable. You'll find two VGA ports, a now legacy serial port, a composite port and an S-Video port. There are also two in/out 3.5mm audio jacks.

However, as we see it, projectors are like nightclubs, Christmas presents and good wine — it's what's inside that counts.

The PT-LW80NTE is a LCD projector, which generally means good colours and poor contrast when compared to its principal rival, DLP. If you're a fiend for film quality, we'd recommend you go with a DLP. However, more recently the two competing technologies have increasingly converged in terms of quality.

One advantage of LCD projectors is that they produce nice bright colours, and our tests using DisplayMate Multimedia Edition indicate that the PT-LW80NTE does that just that. However, like the Toshiba TLP X200, also a 3LCD projector, the PTLW80NTE projector suffers from poor green reproduction when compared to blue and red.

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Another disadvantage of LCDs is that they struggle to produce true black, an issue which carries across to TVs and displays. This is because LCD displays are permanently backlit, and use tiny polarized molecules to block this backlighting to produce black. Think of it as drawing a curtain over a tiny light to produce a black pixel.

The net effect is that blacks come out looking like a very dull grey. While Panasonic does not list the contrast ratio of this projector, DisplayMate tests suggest it's likely to be less than 1000:1, which isn't great.

While we were disappointed by the blacks and contrast on the PT-LW80NTE, we couldn't forget that projectors are just like Jedi. What they lack on the dark side, they tend to make for on the light side.

At 3200 ANSI Lumens, the PT-LW80NTE is very bright. Projectors don't get much brighter unless you own a cinema, or want to pay the price of a small car. In addition, despite being so bright, the PT-LW80NTE doesn't seem to get to hot, nor it is particularly noisy. Both these features endear this projector to us.

We're mixed about the PT-LW80NTE. At AU$2529, it isn't cheap, and its array of legacy ports and lack of any fancy features like wireless don't stack up in its favour. However, PT-LW80NTE does the most important thing right — it produces a great image.

Panasonic gives the lamp life at 3000 hours, with a replacement cost of AU$450, putting running costs at 15 cents an hour. Business projectors come as low as 8 cents, and can be over 30 cents, meaning the PT-LW80NTE is average in terms of running costs.

Overall this makes Panasonic's PT-LW80NTE a reliable, if unremarkable business projector.