Epson Home Cinema 6100 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z700
These two make for a great comparison. First of all, the Epson Home Cinema 6100 took our top honor - Best In Class - in the Entry Level 1080p group. The Sanyo PLV-Z700, however is no pushover, having scored our Best In Class, Runner-up Award. Can you say "next best thing"?
March 09 - Art Feierman
Home Cinema 6100 vs. PLV-Z700 - An Overview
Ready for your first 1080p home theater projector? On a budget? Here we look at two of the very best choices around. The Sanyo PLV-Z700 is, first of all, the lowest cost current model 1080p projector on the market as I write this. And, it's one fine projector. You want to choose the right projector for your private world, so consider the Epson Home Cinema 6100, as a great alternative, for not too much more cash. Currently there's about a $300+ difference in street price. That's just enough to put these two projectors in relative parity, in terms of their value propositions.
Both are 3LCD projectors, so are similar in a great many ways. Don't worry, though, there are lots of differences too, to help you decide. Besides price, the single greatest difference is brightness. The Sanyo PLV-Z700 is below average in brightness, while the Epson is one of the brighter projectors around. If your room isn't ideal, that's a big plus for the Epson. Epson offers a two year warranty, with an overnight replacement program, while Sanyo provides 3 years warranty.
Both have tremendous placement flexibility. Let's take a closer look at how these two projectors stack up!
Both of these 3LCD projectors are pretty much boxes. Both are primarily white in appearance. Sanyo provides some contrast with a gray front recessed area, and recessed lens, while Epson's try at styling in the front is to have a large black exhaust grill, and a gray protruding lens barrel. The Sanyo is definitely smaller than the Epson, but not drastically so. Neither wins a styling award from me, though I find the Sanyo to have a slightly cleaner look. OK, that takes care of the "wife factor" aspects. Now to the general layout.
Both have lenses offset from the center. The Sanyo, thanks to its lens being recessed sports a motorized door to keep out the dust and spiders when powered down.
Both offer lens shift. The Home Cinema 7100 has its two dials on the top near the lens, while the PLV-Z700 puts them in a recessed area on the side. Sanyo provides a lens shift lock, to firmly hold the shift adjustments in place. With the Epson, if you are adjusting the zoom or focus, you are almost certain to change the lens shift. Good thing that one normally only has to play with such controls when installing the projector. (We poor reviewers are moving them around constantly, so lots of adjusting.)
Both projectors offer the maximum in placement flexibility, with the Epson having just a tad more range in its zoom. It offers 2.1:1, while the Sanyo offers a next best 2:1. Since they are placed at the exact same minimum distance for a given sized screen, the Home Cinema 6100 can be placed a little further back - about 9 inches for a 100 inch screen. Both have plenty of lens shift (vertical and horizontal). This time, the PLV-Z700 has the advantage - its extra 1.8 inches of vertical shift will let you put it that much higher above the screen than the Epson. In both cases, the diferences are really minor. It's incredibly unlikely that one will work in your room, but not the other, from a placement standpoint.
Both projectors have their control panels on the top, and their inputs (and outputs) located in the back. Both have two HDMI 1.3 inputs, the industry standard. The PLV-Z700 sports two component video inputs, compared to one for the Epson, but few people are using those anymore. Epson 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.
Comparing the Projectors Picture Quality
Picture quality is where we start seeing real differences between these two projectors. We'll start with black levels and shadow detail, and move on to color accuracy, and the look and feel of the PLV-Z700 and Home Cinema 6100.
Black level performance:
These two projectors are close in terms of black level performance, but the Home Cinema 6100 does have a small, but noteworthy advantage. While I describe the PLV-Z700 as having "good black levels" (for a non UHC, "ultra high contrast" projector), I describe the Epson as "not bad, not bad at all", which is, in my manner of word crafting, translates to "a little better".
To keep things in perspective, the black level differences between these two are very slight, relative to comparing either with the least expensive (and least great black levels) of the UHC projectors. In other words, if you aren't happy enough with the Sano PLV-Z700's black levels, you probably won't be too thrilled with this Epson either, and you should probably be looking at the more expensive Epsons, Sanyo, and the Panasonic PT-AE3000.
Regretfully, these two projectors arrived many months apart. I had no chance to take side by side images. You'll have to just take my word for the differences. (OK, that's not quite true. Below are a pair of images taken separately of the same scene for a quick look at black level and shadow detail differences).
Below I have two pairs of images for you, from Space Cowboys. The first pair are slightly different in brightness. The Epson (first image) is a bit brighter, which, relative to my camera, and all the other factors, explains the brighter stars. Still you can see, that despite being a touch brighter, the blacks are pretty much identical to the Sanyo image of the same frame, right below it.
In the pair below, again the Home Cinema 6100 is the upper image. This is an extremely dark scene, intentionally way overexposed. Again, the Epson image is a touch brighter, but this time you can see a real diff in the black levels. Despite being brighter, the shades in the background look a bit blacker, and, have more of that "inky black" or "rich black" that we crave. The Sanyo image is a bit less contrasty, and a bit flat looking, by comparison. I'm talking the shades, not Clint.
The Epson wins the black level battle, but, as I stated earlier - in real life, (not the images which are inherently compromised), it's not a a deal breaking difference.
Both projectors do a really good, if not excellent, job in terms of dark shadow details. On the left is the Epson. The photos are slightly overexposed to make it easier to see the details in the satellite. On this particular cropped image, the Epson shows as contrastier, but compare the really darkest areas of both for detail. (Please note, the Epson focus was off on this image. Sorry!)
I wouldn't be able to pick a winner between these two. That's especially true since because of their dynamic irises, one may do better than the other on a different type of scenes.
First of all, out of the box picture differs significantly, and that's a big factor if you just want to set it up, and not bother "improving" the picture. In the review I said this about the Home Cinema 6100: "Darn good! I was pleasantly surprised. The Epson 6100 is very good, right of the box in TheaterBlack 1 image mode - its "best" mode... the Epson is good enough (right out of the box) to be enjoyably watchable."
The Sanyo PLV-Z700 was a different story: "I quickly concluded that "out of the box" picture quality was reasonably good, and definitely not great."
Now I'm not being overly critical, but in my mind it's a difference. Hey, all things considered, almost all projectors look reasonably good, although I've seen a few out of the box with ghastly looking skin tones. If one projector can look as good as another when they are both calibrated, but one looks a lot better if they are not, then, hey, if you aren't going to do anything, buy the one that's better out of the box. (Sorry, that was a out of control sentence.)
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!
The Epson by comparison: "Really very good! The 6100 looks great on bright scenes, but, within the limit of its black level performance also does particularly well on dark scenes too."
I'll give the slightest edge to the Sanyo on skin tones. Did I mention that the Sanyo is a tad sharper? Both do well enough at shadow detail. The Epson has more "pop and wow" to the picture, not that the Sanyo is lacking. What I'm trying to say is that that the Home Cinema 6100 has a little more spectacular image. No doubt part of that is that it's a bright projector, but that's the bottom line.
Between the two, I did notice that the Sanyo looked worse when you fed them both poor standard TV content. When you want to kick on sports, the Epson does dominate. It's just got the horsepower to look brighter/better.
Below two pairs of images, in each pair, the Sanyo is first. Exposures vary a bit!
Bottom Line - Image Quality
I have to pick the Epson, myself, for the reasons above, but I do like the Sanyo's final picture. It's one of those I like to describe as "enjoyable to watch".
This is where there is no comparison. Because of the brightness differences between these projectors, the Sanyo is best on small screens, and can do a good job on up to about 110" diagonal. The Epson on the other hand, hasn't the slightest problem with a 110" screen.
In "best" mode, the way we had the Sanyo set up, it put out 495 lumens compared to the Sanyo's 252 in Creative Cinema mode. We could push more than double the output in Brilliant Cinema, but overall image quality is compromised a bit, though still very watchable.
The Epson can handle my 128" screen reasonably well in TheaterBlack1, with dark walls, but I'd probably recommend going at least one screen size smaller.
Football time - and general TV, HDTV watching: Again, the Epson outmuscles the Sanyo with almost 1500 lumens compared to Sanyo's just high of average 943 lumens. On the same sized screen that's a very significant step up in power. It is enough difference to go from saying, "that image is washing out a bit", compared to "that looks good, the image is still bright and dynamic".
From my standpoint, the Epson is just going to be more fun for sports!
Big win for Epson.
What about sharpness.
The PLV-Z700 is the sharper of the two projectors. It definitely, when watching them side by side, is visibly sharper. We're not talking any great difference, but it's there. On pure digital feeds, like a sporting event, or typical spectacular programming on channels like Discovery HD on high def, you go from very sharp, to really sharp, if you get my meaning. (But, not quite razor sharp - there are better still out there.)
Win for Sanyo.
These are entry level projectors so there's not much in razzle dazzle to report. The Sanyo does have more image options to play with, the Epson is more basic.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 vs. Epson Home Cinema 6100 Bottom Line:
The Sanyo is the classic entry level projector. It will work in almost any room, as long as you don't go with too large a screen. Once calibrated (or try our settings, they worked out exceptionally well for us), skin tones, and picture over all, is well balanced. The Epson, by comparison, is the light canon, yet it also can deliver slightly better black levels. Better still for the consumer who just wants to buy something that looks really good, and not fuss, the Epson looks especially good when "right out of the box". The Epson has more punch, and "wow" factor on the same sized screens, but the Sanyo picture has that edge in naturalness.
What really sells me on the Sanyo, though is that it is a solid performer, for "dirt cheap" compared to the competition. Right now, in the US, an Epson is typically going to set you back an extra 25+%. That's a great equalizer.
On the other hand, if you have the extra bucks you will get that slight black level boost, and power to spare. The Epson is more "pop and wow", and a little less natural.
Add it all up, and Epson wins! And that's why it won the Best in Class award. Just remember, the Sanyo came in second! Two very good choices that make for great watching.