Sanyo PLV-80 Widescreen Front Projector:
By any stretch of the imagination, the Sanyo PLV-80 is a versatile projector.
Sanyo's menu layout is definitely unusual at least at first glance. The menus rely on very small graphics icons, which are not always intuitive, however when you navigate to any one of them, there is a text box above that provides that function's name.
The main menus are laid out from left to right across the top of the screen, when you press the menu key on the remote or control panel.
The various options in each menu appear top to bottom on the left, as you select that menu. In some cases there are so many menu choices that you will see a down arrow at the bottom of the list of options and selecting that will take you to a second page of them.
A good example of that is the first image menu, (right) which offers a choice of standard, or cinema mode and user 1 through 4 of programmable settings. Hit the down arrow at the bottom of the menu column and page 2 comes up with 6 more savable user settings.
An exit door icon is used to move you back up one level in the menus.
The Input Menu gives you a choice of selecting Input 1, 2, or 3, which is how the clusters of inputs are laid out on the back panel of this Sanyo projector.
If you select one of the inputs, say, Input 3 in this case, you then see the options. For Input 3 you can choose the composite video input (Video), component video (Y, Pb/Cb, Pr/Cr), or S-Video. Since each Input; 1, 2, and 3 have exactly one set of audio inputs each, the appropriate audio inputs are live when you select that input.
The Color menu contains just about everything for image color control: Brightness, Contrast, sharpness, color temperature (low, medium, high)... you get the idea.
The menu to the right is showing you the 2nd page of options (the Brightness, Contrast, etc were on the first page. You can see here, that the top icon on the left is an up arrow that would take you back to page one.
You move the cursor down to the desired icon (let's say Red), and hit select, and it will bring up a yellow bar. Using the left and right arrow keys you can increase or decrease the amount of Red. This is how the menus work in all areas.
There is also an advanced area for controlling colors and gamma, as shown in the image to the right. I must confess to not working with these controls except for a few seconds. They do, however appear very straightforward to use. They allow you to select a specific color and then alter it. If you found traditional red to be a little dark you could adjust it to be more vibrant this way...
Savable settings. As we already mentioned above, there are TEN user savable settings. That certainly is enough to keep just about everyone happy. It is easy to save a setting, however with 10 to choose from it would have been an improvement if the user had the ability to label them, so other users (or the same one) knows for what purpose those settings were saved.
Lenses, Lens Throw and Lens Shift
The standard motorized lens that comes installed on the PLV-80 projector is a medium range zoom with a 1.3:1 ratio.
With a 100" diagonal screen that lens will allow you to position the front of the projector anywhere from 12.82 feet, to 16.87 feet from the screen.
In addition, Sanyo offers 4 additional lens options, a fixed (no zoom) superwide angle lens (LNS-W32), primarily for rear screen usage or special applications, plus a traditional wide angle zoom lens, LNS-W31A (that just barely overlaps the range of the standard zoom (by 2 inches). There are two telephoto zooms, a long telephoto (LNS-T31A), and a very long telephoto (LNS-T32). Again, the lenses just barely overlap each other. If you start with the wide angle zoom lens, which for a 100" diagonal screen can get you as close as 9.06 feet, you can have any distance to fill that screen up to 41.7 feet back with the T32 lens. The fixed wide angle lens, places the front of the projector a mere 5.81 feet from the screen.
Changing lenses does require opening the case of the projector. I have over the years, installed many lenses in Sanyo projectors like these, and its really only a 10-15 minute job first time you try it. Most of your time is spent removing about a dozen screws, and later putting them back in.
The PLV-80 has power zoom, power focus, and power lens shift for all of the lenses (except the non-zoom W32, and it is is also possible that lens shift will not work with the W32 - consult your dealer).
Normal lens shifr will allow you to place the center of the standard lens anywhere from slightly below the bottom of the screen surface to slightly above the top. Consult Sanyo's website for more information on the other lenses.
Screen Door Effect and Pixel visibility
The Sanyo PLV-80 projector uses 3, 1.2 inch poly-si LCD's with micro lens array, a technique to minimize the visibility of pixels. That said, most LCD projectors today do use the same technology, so the pixel structure and visibility is fairly typical.
Perhaps it is the 1.2" LCD glass that is used, but the pixels do seem a little less visible than on most of the portable projectors which use LCDs less than 1" diagonal. Here is our image showing pixel structure, which we recently started using on reviews as a standard. First is the full frame of the boathouse image - to give you an idea of how small an area is used for the name Schukyll.
Now, here is the word enlarged:
For comparison purposes, below, is the same text photographed from the recent review of the Optoma HD7100 home theater projector, which uses DLP technology instead. As you can see, and as expected, the LCD projector's pixel structure and artifacts are more visible than the DLP's.
Of course for most business applications, or if you are using this in your home entertainment room and sitting fairly far back relative to the screen, the pixels will not likely be a critical consideration. As long as I mentioned home entertainment again, I would recommend a seating distance of 1.5 - 1.6 times screen width to limit visibility to a minimum in stationary bright areas, and white text like movie credits.
Audible Noise Levels
The Sanyo is not quiet. With lamp in full power mode, the Sanyo PLV80 is rated at 33 db, and that's a fair amount of noise (at least by this year's standards - 3 years ago, that would have been considered a quiet home theater projector.
I say noisy, but let's put that in perspective. it seems just a touch noisier than the Optoma HD7100 home theater projector (in full power mode),we finished reviewing last week.
With the lamp in low power mode the Sanyo noise is moderate, and on the high side of acceptable for a "home theater projector". In the business world projecting spreadsheets or Powerpoint presentations, or in a family room environment with a football game on, the noise should not be an issue. In fact even in high power mode when I used the Sanyo for some quick HD sports, during the afternoon, it was livable and became unnoticeable.
The PLV-80 appears to behave as a typical business projector. That is to say, that although unlikely that it would measure the claimed 3000 lumens, it is likely to produce upward of 2500 if measured. Regrettably I did not measure the PLV80.
This is significantly different than with most home theater projectors where in their best modes, they produce typically anywhere from 25-50 percent of their claim.
The bottom line. This Sanyo PLV-80 is drastically brighter than tradtional home theater projectors (such as their own PLV-Z4) and should be comparable to any other 3000 lumen rated LCD projector.
Projector Screen Recommendations
You can two approaches to screens. The first is with your mind set in terms of getting the brightest image for dealing with siginficant ambient light. That would lean you toward screens with varying degrees of gain. For example the Carada "Brilliant White" or The Stewart Studiotek 130 (gains of 1.4 and 1.3). There are still higher gain screens with gains of 1.8 or more, but watch out for side rolloff in brightness the higher the gain is. Then there are specialty screens like the $4000 ish Visage by Screen Innovations - reviewed - designed for bright rooms, the Dalite HP, and another interesting screen, the Vutec SilverStar.
The other approach is to try to maintain good brightness, but also try to improve black levels for better movie viewing. This takes you to screens with limited or negative gain, but most are high contrast, and also reject side ambient light better than high gain screens.
Such possibilites include the (legendary) Stewart Greyhawk, Da-Lite's HC Cinema Vision, and two lower cost screens, Caradas's Gray, and Elite's ezFrame
By being darker gray surfaces, the gray of blacks gets darkened - closer to the black we wish for. Because most oare high contrast, the whites do not dim as much, giving a higher contrast look, and looksing less in bright areas than you might expect.
So choosing a best screen is not just a budget issue, but one of understanding your lighting issues and how important those black levels are to you.
For much of my viewing of the PLV-80 I used my Firehawk. The combination of large size 128" diagonal, and light gray surface did significantly reduce black levels compared to my Carada Brilliant White. I found the combination to be a good attempt at improving black levels and imagine a darker gray screen like ht Greyhaw, or similar surface might really go a long way to make black levels on movies fairly acceptable.
For business purposes, the hunt for blackest blacks is not likely to be an issue, so it becomes viewing angle vs side abient light, vs pure brightness. I think in most applications a screen with slight gain, like the Carada again (only available in fixed frame). or Da-lite's Da-Mat avaialble motorized, fixed or pull down, even Optoma's 1.8 gain Grayfox, might be good choices for bright rooms.