Mitsubishi HC5500 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z700
Here we take a look at the two least expensive current model 1080p projectors - the Mitsubishi HC5500, and how it compares to the Sanyo PLV-Z700, our Best In Class, Runner-Up award winner. Please note, the HC5500 review is an older one, and the images found here, tend to look way too contrasty (as noted in the original review). They were done before I finally settled on consistent techniques for doing images with my dSLR.
March 09 - Art Feierman
HC5500 vs. PLV-Z700 - An Overview
Here we have two 3LCD projectors, going head to head. The two are as different from each other as they are similar. Mitsubishi compromised placement flexibility to keep the price low, and that difference is one of the major differences. Brightness is another area where they significantly differ.
The Mitsubishi HC5500 comes with a two year warranty, while the Sanyo PLV-Z700 comes with three years.
When it comes to brightness the two projectors are very different. The Sanyo PLV-Z700 is a lot less bright in its "best" mode, than the HC5500 is, in its "best" mode. Please note that the PLV-Z700 has a bright "best" mode - not as good as their Pure Cinema, that is called Brilliant Cinema. Brilliant Cinema may not be as good as Pure, but it does do a very good job, and does increase brightness to slightly more than that of the HC5500's "best" mode.
When comparing the brightest modes, the Sanyo is the brighter of the two, with about 25% more lumens than the Mitsubishi. Consider all of that, and the Mitsubishi will generally have the advantage for those primarily, or solely interested in movie viewing, while those equally interested in movies, but also general HDTV and sports, will appreciate the additional "brightest" mode lumen count of the Sanyo PLV-Z700.
From a styling standpoint, the HC5500 is the more interesting design, although the PLV-Z700, while in a basic box shape, has a clean look, thanks to recessed lens, nice curved corners, and two tone front.
Placement flexibility differs greatly. The Sanyo PLV-Z700 has a 2:1 zoom lens while the HC5500 offers only a 1.2:1 zoom (an amount more typical of DLP projectors than 3LCD projectors).
Assuming a 100 inch diagonal 16:9 screen, the Sanyo can be placed a little closer - 9.8 feet, compared to the Mitsubishi projector's 10.5 feet. The real difference, though is how far back you can place them with the zoom lens in full telephoto. The Sanyo can be placed an even 20 feet back. By comparison, the HC5500 a mere 12.8 feet.
This means that while the HC5500 does have vertical lens shift, it really isn't practical to shelf mount it in most rooms, as your rear wall will be too far back. If you do choose an especially large screen relative the depth of the room, it might reach, but don't count on it, without checking measurements. Speaking of lens shift, the HC5500 has a lot less lens shift range. Basically the highest the HC5500 can be placed is even with the top of your screen surface, while the Sanyo PLV-Z700 can be as much as 24.5 inches above the top (for that 100 inch diagonal screen).
Bottom line, no contest in placement flexibility, the Sanyo is the clear winner. Of course, if the HC5500 will work in your room, (ceiling mounted most likely), the way you want it to, then it doesn't matter, does it?
The PLV-Z700 and HC5500 have their control panels on the top, and their inputs (and outputs) located in the back. Both projectors have two HDMI 1.3 inputs, the industry standard. The PLV-Z700 sports two component video inputs, compared to one for the Mitsubishi, but few people are using those anymore. Mitsubishi does offer a 12volt screen trigger, for controlling a motorized screen. The Sanyo lacks that, but most motorized screens today, offer remote controls, either standard or optionally, so it's a minor point, and only that if your screen is motorized.
Below, first image, is the Mitsubishi HC5500 input panel, and below, the Sanyo PLV-Z700's input panel.
Comparing the Projectors Picture Quality
Black level performance:
I had described the PLV-Z700's black levels by saying I was "slightly disappointed, not bad, mind you". By comparison, the Mitsubishi did slightly better, but not significantly so. I described the HC5500 as "a touch better than the Sanyo" and "typical of this group".
I did not have these two projectors in-house at the same time, therefore no side-by-side photos.
Below are two pairs of images. In both cases, the Sanyo PLV-Z700 image is first. While observing the first pair, the Starship image from The Fifth Element, note that the Sanyo image is overall a bit brighter. As a result, you'll have to mentally compensate to figure out how much difference in blacks there really is. Our own experience says that it's notably slighter than the blacks seen here. In the second pair, it is the reverse. The Sanyo image is a bit darker (the reason you see less stars).
Once again, a slight advantage goes to the HC5500, which we described as "particularly good", while the PLV-Z700 was merely "very good". The bottom line is that the Mitsubishi HC5500 has a slight advantage in both areas. The differences in black levels, please keep in mind, are slight - insignificant, say, compared to either of these entry level projectors going up against any of the UHC (ultra-high-contrast) projectors like the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, Mitsubishi HC7000, Panasonic PT-AE3000, and Epson Home Cinema 6500UB.
In the satellite images below, the left image is the HC5500, the PLV-Z700 is on the right. Keep in mind, again, that all the HC5500 images are too contrasty, due to the settings used at that time. All that extra contrast does "distort" the final images you see, including hiding a lot of shadow detail that was present.
Below the satellite images is the train scene from Casino Royale, Sanyo first.
Color accuracy - Skin Tones and Overall:
Both projectors are comparable in terms of skin tones. No clear winner. In terms of overall color accuracy, the two are equally tight, in terms of adhering to the ideal 6500K. Neither projector had a shift in color temperature of more than 170K over the range from 30 IRE (dark gray) to 100 IRE (white). Again, no clear winner.
Overall Look and Feel of the Picture:
The Sanyo: "Once we got the PLV-Z700 calibrated, it started looking really good. Skin tones turned out to be extremely good overall, although in low lit scenes, it seemed they shifted just a little bit too much to red." All together the Sanyo has a really nice final picture with a bit of "wow" to the image. It tends to look right - a good thing!
In the HC5500 review, I commented, relating to overall image quality: "Let's say that the Mitsubishi HC5500 is a very good consumer model. It may not appeal to the hard core HT enthusiast, but should please just about everyone else."
These two projectors are not too different. From a personal preference standpoint I do slightly prefer the PLV-Z700 for movie watching, at least if you have a smaller screen, so it doesn't run out of lumens in its Creative Cinema mode. Remember, I didn't have both projectors here at the same time, and that the HC5500 was the first of the "new" projectors reviewed in the 2nd half of 2008, so was compared with older projectors. Both are very typical of the 3LCD projectors out there. The Mitsubishi has a slight advantage on darker scenes, thanks to the slightly better black levels, but, for general viewing, the extra lumens in the brighter modes, and otherwise comparable performance, the PLV-Z700 has a touch more wow factor.
A few general images. The first three are PLV-Z700, the lower three, the HC5500 projector.
Bottom Line - Image Quality
The Mitsubishi HC5500 and Sanyo PLV-Z700 are close enough in image quality, to pretty much make image quality differences a minor point in the decsions process for most people. And that's despite a slight advantage in black levels for the Mitsubishi. For most, other factors will be the deciding point - price, brightness in different modes depending on your room and viewing preferences, placement flexibility, etc. Still, if you like "pop and wow", the Sanyo is the stronger of the two, except on dark scenes where the black level advantage favors the Mitsubishi.
PLV-Z700 vs. HC5500 Projector Brightness
I touched on this earlier. In their very best modes, the Mitsubishi HC5500 is significantly brighter. That said, I did most of my viewing with a calibrated "creative" cinema mode, on the Sanyo PLV-Z700. I should explain. Sanyo has a number of features, dynamic irises, contrast enhancement, etc. In Pure Cinema (the theoretical best), most of that is not in use. Make changes in the user area, and you essentially have moved to "Creative Cinema". The way I had the User area setup, the PLV-Z700 was outputting just under 400 lumens, about 50% more than Pure. That's the setup my comments are based upon. Even with that big boost in brightness, however, the Mitsubishi HC5500 after calibration was still a good 10% or more brighter. In brightest mode, though, things reverse. The HC5500 produced a measured, below average 764 lumens, while the Sanyo PLV-Z700 was more than 20% brighter (though strictly average), at 943 lumens. Bottom line, the Sanyo is, from a brightness standpoint, the better choice for those viewing a wide range of content, especially if dealing with some ambient light when viewing HDTV and sports.
On the other hand, if you are just into movies, the Mitsubishi has the lumens to go a size larger in screen, or just offer a little more punch, on the same sized screen.
What about sharpness
I considered the PLV-Z700 to be particularly sharp for an entry level projector in the review (sharper, for example than the Epson 6100.) Still I did classify the Mitsubishi, the Sanyo, (and the Epson) as average sharpness. That said, the HC5500 in my opinion is the sharpest of the three, and was the only one of them I considered classifying as sharper still. Remember this tends to be subjective. You'll note that only the more expensive Mitsubishi projectors, of all the 3LCD projectors covered, was ranked as "sharper still". Bottom line, close, but a slight win for Mitsubishi.
Both projectors take a pass in this category. They are both entry level, and while they have the usual sharpness, and other controls, including some which are dynamic, there's nothing really to report, other than both do have internal support for an anamorphic lens.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 vs. Mitsubishi HC5500 Bottom Line
These two entry level 1080p projectors are slugging it out for being the low priced leader. When I was starting on this report, some 4+ weeks ago, the PLV-Z700 was clearly the less expensive of the two. Last I looked though, Mitsubishi is offering a spare lamp rebate, and the two projectors, once you net out the rebates, are pretty close. And, of course that can change next month.
Meantime, if one considers the prices about equal, you end up with two projectors that in many ways are similar. Despite the slight Mitsubishi advantage in black levels, as an entry level projector, I just barely favor the PLV-Z700 on the image quality side. That's just based on my viewing at the time, on a wide range of content. I think I would favor it a lot more if the black levels were the equal to the HC5500's. On the other hand, I didn't give the HC5500's black level advantage much weight, as, for those really into serious quality black levels, hey, the action starts about $400 - $500 higher with the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, then the more expensive Epson UB projectors, the Mitsubishi HC7000 and Panasonic PT-AE3000.
Each has advantages in terms of brightness, depending on what type of content you are viewing, and your room conditions.
The Sanyo PLV-Z700, however wins hands down, when it comes to placement flexibility. That advantage (while it may not matter to you), was enough to put the Sanyo on top, and earn it our Best In Class Runner-Up award. Believe me, though, the HC5500 wasn't very far behind! Two good choices for a first 1080p projector.