Sanyo PLV-Z2 – Overview

I was a little late in getting my hands on a Z2 (officially, it’s the Sanyo PLV-Z2) to review (Feb’04), with the product already shipping for two months.  It was worth the wait.  With a typical street price of $2000, the Z2 represents a price/performance breakthrough.

Sanyo has built a superb reputation with their Z1 and PLV-70 home theater projectors, each generally considered the best within their price classes, of all the (HT) Home Theater LCD  projectors out there.  Over the last year and a half, I have worked frequently with the Z1, and had use of a Sanyo PLV-70 for significant periods of time.  Let’s start by saying the Z2 projector “blows away” the Z1 in every conceivable performance area, except brightness where they are fairly close, and not particularly bright – more on that later.  In some ways the Z2 even outperforms the legendary PLV-70, which costs over twice as much.

In a nutshell, the Z2 is a very well laid out projector, with a solid feature set, and it also sports vertical and horizontal keystone adjustment, for drastically simplified setup, or installation.

Instant Home Theater! The Z2 makes a great portable home theater projector as well.  Don’t have permanent space for projector and screen?  A Sanyo PLV-Z2, and one of the new 16:9 “instant” screens from Dalite, Draper, etc, and you can setup your theater for movies, sports, etc. in just a very few minutes!  Just open the screen (15 seconds tops) put the projector on a nearby, appropriately positioned table, along with a DVD player or a cable from your cable box/satellite receiver, etc., and you are in business!  Done?  Put it all away in just a couple of minutes! But the real value in the Z2 LCD projector is picture performance, It just provides a beautiful image, rivaling far more expensive projectors.

Sanyo PLV-Z2 - Layout

The Z2 from the front:  Like the Z1, Sanyo’s first low cost lcd home theater projector, it has a fold down door, that when closed automatically shuts down the projector.  This is a nice feature if you are table mounting, and moving it around when not in use, but pretty much meaningless if you are ceiling mounting or putting on a high shelf, as you’ll never close the door.

It’s what’s inside that counts.  As you can see in the image, Sanyo’s lens is surrounded!  To focus just turn the barrel of the lens, the Zoom (with a very respectable 1.3:1 ratio, that gives you good placement flexibility).  The zoom in and out are controlled by a lever on the left size of the lens (as you look at it).

Lens Shift

[Insert image: Sanyo Z2 lens closeup – yes it the same one as above]
It’s the other two adjustments on the right that add some magic.  What you are looking at are vertical and horizontal lens shift.  By rotating the vertical wheel, you can move the image up or down the screen, maintaining a rectangular image, so as not to need keystone correction, (which is destructive, in terms of image quality).  If you must place the projector off-axis (relative to the center of the screen), you also have horizontal lens shift to again, get you that perfect image, (despite what would otherwise be considered poor placement).  The horizontal wheel controls horizontal lens shift.  Having both H and V lens shift capabilities, combined with the 1.3:1 zoom, makes (finding the right place for) ceiling mounting the Z2, simple, compared to most other projectors up to 3 times the price!

Variable Aperture

[Insert image: Sanyo Z2 aperture]
The last piece of “magic” up front, is a small lever on the right of the lens. This controls the variable aperture. By closing down the aperture, two things happen: The Sanyo Z2 projector’s aperture control is located on the viewers right side of the lensFirst, and immediately evident, the overall image gets darker. Second, but more importantly, contrast improves. If you are working in a very dark room, and your screen isn’t too large, closing down the aperture will give you the best image quality!

Control Panel

Moving to the top of the Z2, you will find a large triangular power switch (glows green) three indicator lights (Power, Warning, and Home Theater projectors:  Sanyo Z2 – control panel on top of the projectorLamp Replace) and typical full control panel, consisting of a Menu button, Input button,  four arrow keys, and a Select button (enter).  Simply said:  That’s all you need!

Back Panel

As you can see from the photo, the Z2 offers all the basic inputs you would expect from a home theater projector, and a bit more.Home theater projectors: Sanyo PLV-Z2 – shot of projector’s back panel
Note you have 3 RCA jacks for Component video, and in addition there is a DVI-I connector, that will allow you to bring in your choice of component video, an analog computer signal, or a true digital DVI signal. This makes the Z2 rare, in that you can conceivably hook up two component sources, or a component and a DVI. Nice touch. I still wouldn’t mind seeing an analog VGA connector to support a computer as well. For those using AV receivers, the problem is that most (at this time) do not support DVI, nor computer signals, even though most of the over $500 receivers can switch component (but usually, only two, and that can become a problem).
My belief is that many people, if not now, in the future, will also want to be able to display their computer as well as DVD, HDTV, TV, VCR, and Game consoles on their home theater projector. And even if they don’t want to put their PC up on the projector, they might end up adding home control (and want to display it on their big screen) etc. and that too, would be feeding the projector a computer signal.
I digress.
In addition to component and DVI-I, you can see S-video and a composite (RCA) input. Rounding out the back panel are a Service port (for firmware upgrades, etc), and a master reset button (tiny, in the top right). You can also spot a Kensington lock slot, and on the far left, is the power cord connector.

You can also see on the photo, the openings for air intake. Unlike Sanyo’s PLV70, the Sanyo sucks in air from the back and the bottom, and pushes heated air out the side. [insert image Sanyo Z2 back] This allows the projector to be shelf mounted, as it only requires enough space behind it, to connect the cables (a few inches, depending on how thick your cables are). More on this in Projector Setup.

Remote Control

Sanyo’s remote works very nicely, with some backlit keys, but not all.  When will these HT manufacturers get their act together and remember they are building projectors that are designed for best performance in very dark rooms.  If a button isn’t backlit, you can’t read what it does.  So Sanyo does better than most, with at least the major buttons lighting up, (the light on control is a slide on the side).  The light goes off after six or maybe eight seconds.  (Sorry, I forgot to time it).  The backlit buttons include:
[insert image: Sanyo Z2 remote - lighted]

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