Sanyo PLC-XL50 Home Theater Projector Review: General Performance
There's lots to cover in this section. These links will allow you to quickly get to any topics of interest to you.
Sanyo PLC-XL50 Menus
Sanyo PLC-XL50 User Memory Settings
PLC-XL50 Remote Control
Lens Throw and Lens Shift, Pixel Structure...
SDE and Rainbow Effect
Sanyo PLC-XL50 Projector Brightness
Sanyo PLC-XL50 Audible Noise Levels
PLC-XL50 Projector Screen Recommendations
PLC-XL50 Projector: Menus
Although I've never been enthused about Sanyo's menu layout and structure, they do get the job done, and Sanyo provides an extensive set of controls.
Upon pressing the menu button, a small, horizontally long menu bar appears at the top left of the screen. When you select any of the main menus shown, a drop down menu appears as well. All are done with very small graphic icons, but as you use the arrow keys to point to different icons, a one or two word text description appears at the top left. A number of the menus are more than one page, with up and down arrows (triangles) to select the additional "page" of options. To move back up a level in the menus, you normally scroll down to the Exit icon (an open door) on the left column, and press the Select (enter) button to move up to the higher menu levels. (You can see the "next page" down arrow in the image above, as the last item (green) on the left pulldown menu).
The main menus consist of (from left to right): Input, System (resolution related), PC (manual image adjustments for position, clock rate, etc.) Auto features normally make manual control unncessary. Continuing to the right: Image Select (shown on the right) offers choice of modes such as Dynamic, Standard, Real, Blackboard, Greenboard, plus 4 user settings.
Next in line is the Image Adjust menu, with extensive controls over the image, in terms of the usual contrast, brightness, Color Temp, RGB white balance control, Sharpness and Gamma. As you can see from the image on the right, there are also separate color controls for each primary color (red, green, blue).
The 6th item in the top menu is the Screen Menu, and controls aspect ratio.
The 7th is the Sound Menu - which does just that - control volume, and mute.
Last is the Settings menu, which controls operational aspects, a wide range of choices including language choice (for the menus), digital zoom, keystone correction, uniformity control (of the background), menu display options, the ability to add a custom logo for display, and projector orientation (front/rear/table/ceiling). There is also an extensive Power Management set of controls.
In addition, lamp control is on this menu, offering full brightness, economy mode, and an auto mode that varies it with the input signal.
Bottom Line: As noted earlier, the Sanyo is extremely well endowed, in terms of offering a wide range of controls, rivaling or exceeding most other projectors. Icons are hard to figure out, but the text box description does tend to solve that problem.
I should note that the XL50 has two sets of remote codes, which essentially allow you to use one remote to control two different XL50's in the same room. This can be very handy is specialty situations, such as edge blending, as well as just making life simple in general, when two of the projectors are in one room.
PLC-XL50 Projector: User Memory Settings
Sanyo provides four user savable settings, which is very nice considering many business projectors don't have any ability to have more than one setup stored.
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PLC-XL50 Projector: Remote Control
The remote control is a medium small affair. It doesn't have a whole lot of buttons, yet the buttons themselves are very small. There's plenty of blank areas on the remote control, yet the buttons are often clustered tight together. The power button is at the top right.
Top left are two buttons for selecting video, or computer sources. Since the projector has multiples of both, it means you may not be able to jump directly from one source you want to display, to another, but have to toggle through unused inputs. At least having two buttons (one computer, one video) is better than just one input button, and at least offers the probability that you can jump directly from one source to another, in some circumstances This pairs with the ability to define which sources are on each of the two inputs (video and computer).
Moving down to the second section you'll find a Menu button on the left, Keystone on the right, and four arrow keys in a somewhat "flat" layout. The Arrow keys control menu functions. The Select (enter) button is just below, on the left. The left and right arrow keys double as a volume control, when the menus aren't engaged.
That leaves us with the third and "busiest" section, in terms of number of buttons: On the top left of this section are up and down arrows for controlling the digital zoom. Below that is a button labeled Ceiling - which toggles you through the ceiling/table/rear/front options for the projector.
On the right size, is an Auto PC adjust button, which should do the trick in almost all setups with analog computers. Next is the Image button, which lets you toggle between the four user savable settings. Below those two are the Freeze image button and the P-Timer button which is short for Presentation Timer, and puts a timer up on the screen to help presenter's rehearse their timing, or to keep presenters on schedule in a live presentation.
Next come No Show, and Mute. No Show mutes the image, Mute, mutes the audio.
And finally, that leaves Lamp control which lets you toggle through the three options - Bright, Low, and Auto.
Bottom Line: An OK remote, just a bit smaller than average, with small buttons. Not great for really large hands. Yet the remote is, overall, very functional, even if Sanyo didn't take full advantage of all the open space on the remote to offer additional controls, especially discreet inputs for each source. No remote mousing functions for presentations, although there are many good RF and IR "remote mousing" devices on the market, that can be used with any computer.
PLC-XL50 Projector: Lens Throw and Lens Shift
Ahh, the strangest numbers I've ever encountered. The range of this ultra short throw projector, supports screen sizes (4:3 aspect ratio) from 60 inches to 80 plus inches diagonal. To fill the smallest size screen - 60 inch diagonal, the distance for the front of the projector actually is a negative number - the front of the projector has to be closer to the wall, than the screen, sitting under the screen, (for normal wall viewing), and closer to the wall, by about 1.5 inches. To fill an 70" screen, the front needs to be about .8 inches from the screen, and for 80 inch diagonal screens, the front is out a whopping 3.2 inches (8.1 cm) from the screen surface. Now that is truly "ultra-short throw". Sanyo only provides actual distance info for 60, 70, and 80 inch diagonals, but you can interpolate the distances for larger screen sizes. 80" inches is the largest I projected, as that fills almost all of the vertical on my 106 inch 16:9 screen, and this is a 4:3 aspect ratio XGA projector.
PLC-XL50 Projector: SDE and Rainbow Effect, Pixel Visibility
As a typical 3LCD projector, in terms of Screen Door Effect, the pixel structure is slightly visible from close seating distance. Since it is not a single chip DLP projector, there is no Rainbow effect. In this regard, the PLC-XL50 is a typical projector.
PLC-XL50 Projector: Brightness
The Sanyo PLC-XL50 claims 2000 lumens. That pretty much matches our measurements. The Sanyo's brightest image mode is Dynamic, which measured 2073 lumens, about 3.6% better than claimed. Other modes: Real produced 1654 lumens, and Standard, 1970 lumens.
By today's standards, the XL50 is basically "entry level" in terms of brightness, as most low cost entry level projectors these days offer 2000 lumens, or 2500 lumens.
The newer XL51 is rated 2700 lumens, and the modest increase in brightness will surely be appreciated by users for some applications.
PLC-XL50 Projector: Audible Noise Levels
This Sanyo is pretty quiet for a business projector. Sanyo claims 29 db in eco mode, and that is very believable. 29 db is about the same as many of the noisier home theater projectors in their eco-modes, and most business projectors are likely to start around 33 db in their low power modes. Bottom line - a relatively quiet projector, so that noise levels should not be a factor.
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PLC-XL50 Projector: Screen Recommendations
Normally, in this section I'm discussing what screen surfaces match best with a projector. With the Sanyo's ultra short throw lens, though, let's talk about what types of screens, and environments make sense.
First, very high gain and high contrast screens tend to roll off brightness when light hits them at extreme angles. As a result, best to avoid these types of screens, as the projection angle is very extreme. Most likely, normal matte white surfaces should work best. I only briefly hooked up the Sanyo below my High Contrast Gray Firehawk, and I could see significant unevenness in brightness due to the high angle.
The Sanyo supports both "front" and "rear" projection. With its ability to be setup vertically as well as horizontally, it can be placed below a table-like screen surface so you can view from above, or it can be placed on the floor, vertically, and project a large image right on the floor. For the "rear" screen, table top setup, think command and control. People standing around such a table with the image projected onto the table surface. Imagine those old war movies when they are moving around little toy ships and armies - now you can have photos or video being projected. A table type display would also work well in many small group applications. Projecting downward onto the floor, may well have good retail and digital signage applications. And, ultra-short throw, in general, is ideal for digital signage, and allows a reasonable cost alternative to large plasma displays (over 65" diagonal).
In selecting a screen surface, be it front or rear type, I suggest you consult with the seller about whether there would be any roll-off issues with the surface, due to the steep projection angle. Also of note, there is a uniformity control, which may help out, but I didn't experiment with it. Let's just say, it might help, but most likely correction that way would cost you lumens. Better to have the right surface to begin with.
One last thing, the Sanyo also supports working with "blackboards" and greenboards", with special modes.
PLC-XL50 Projector: Measurements and Calibration
Here are the color temperatures for white (100 IRE), for the main computer image modes:
And for the Real setting, here is the "full range"
100 IRE: 5888K
80 IRE: 5440K
50 IRE: 4935K
30 IRE: 4955K
Overall, the Real setting is very warm - shifted towards red somewhat.
Using the component video inputs (there is no HDMI or DVI digital input), and the Cinema mode, grayscale tracking is very good, mostly hovering right around the ideal 6500K for movies/video, but slightly higher (cooler - more blue) in the darker ranges. Here are the color temperatures for Cinema:
White (100 IRE):6524K
Light gray (80 IRE): 6735K
Medium gray (50 IRE): 6953K
Low gray (30 IRE): 7584K
As you can see, there is a general rise in color temperature - from warm to cool, as the projector goes from white (100 IRE) to darker gray (30 IRE). Overall, very good cinema color accuracy for a business projector.
Bottom line, without adjustment, computer modes tend to be slightly warm, but the grayscale temperatures can easily be adjusted, if highly accurate color is required. As it is, let's say color is very good for a business projector, better than almost all DLP projectors, and roughly comparable to most other 3LCD projectors!
PLC-XL50 Projector: Image Noise
Image noise is not normally a critical area for a business projector. As such, I did not do extensive testing of the many types of motion noise that can be visible with a projector. Overall image noise on computer sources is good, and typical.
PLC-XL50 Projector: Other Features
Most projectors these days have at least some basic security features, from the standard Kensington lock, to the ability to password protect the control panel (essentially locking out theives and unauthorized users). In the case of the Sanyo, it even has an alarm that goes off if the projector is moved. There are two stages, a low pitched sound, and then a full alarm. There are plenty of user controls and options. The projector has a built in rechargeable battery to power the alarm when the projector is disconnected.
Nice touch - although considering the vast number of projectors stolen each year (mostly from K-12 schools), I'm a proponent of building in LoJack!
Warranty is next, and Sanyo has an excellent one. Check it out.