Sanyo PLV-Z4 projector review: OverviewSanyo Z4 projector - Image Quality
Sanyo PLV-Z4 home theater projector - Performance - Other
Sanyo Z4 Warranty
Sanyo Z4 Summary, Pros, Cons
Sanyo's PLV-Z4 projector easily outperforms it's predecessor, the PLV-Z3. There are many technological enhancements and they combine with improved image quality, earning the Sanyo PLVZ4 projector a Hot Product Award.
With the addition of Sanyo Z4 review, there are now 3 current projector reviews posted on our website for projectors that are selling (online) between $2000 and $2500, that have earned a Hot Product Award. The Sanyo PLV-Z4 projector, the also brand new Panasonic PT-AE900u home theater projector, and the oldest of the projector reviews - the BenQ PE7700, the only DLP projector of the three. In addition there will shortly be a 4th contender, from Epson, with their new Cinema 550 home theater projector.
There is no perfect under $3000 projectors, but this new crop steps up the quality a notch. Last year's hot $4000 DLP projectors are now down around $2000 - $2500. They were better than last year's $2000-$2500 LCD projectors and commanded the higher price. Now they have fallen in price to compete with this new generation of LCD projectors, that are now competitive in picture quality. In that old $4000+ DLP price range there now are DLP projectors with the newer Darkchip3 technology that are a real step above the older DLP's. Bottom line, you can get more for your money today at $2000-$2500, than last year, but if you still have $4000 or so to spend there's a new crop of DarkChip3 projectors there, that are still a step up in quality.
First the basics: The Sanyo PLV-Z4 projector is rated 1000 lumens - up 200 from the older model. It now claims a dazzling 7000:1 contrast ratio, accomplished by multiple tricks of technology.
QuickTip: The current LCD technology really can't do 7000:1 or anything close and still produce any significant brightness, so Sanyo, Panasonic, Sony, Epson and other LCD based home theater projectors rely on other technologies to enhance contrast, in order to come close to the naturally higher contrast that DLP projectors take for granted. This normally includes computer "AI" (artificial intelligence), to vary adjust the image frame by frame to improve shadow details, and highlight details. This works well in some cases, but in other areas it can be relatively ineffective.
The Sanyo PLV-Z4 employs two types of iris's to enhance contrast. The first stops down the lens (increasing contrst) and the second one works on the lamp brightness. Together, with the type of creative contrast measuring that LCD projector manufacturers apparently love, and voila', you have 7000:1, and also an extremely wide range of brightness.
And it looks like the new Z4 is ready to slug it out with Panasonic's new PT-AE900u projector, and BenQ's PE7700 for dominance of projectors in the $2000 - $2500 selling price space (online pricing).
Picture quality is improved, contrast and shadow detail is improved, and missing are some of the imperfections that degraded the Z3's image quality when compared to similar resolution DLP projectors.
In this section we'll start with a tour of the physical layout of the Sanyo Z4 projector.
Looking at the Z4 projector from the front, first there is a lens cover. Pressing the power on, has the lens cover slide out of the way, exposing the the large 2:1 zoom lens. This zoom lens, allows tremendous placement flexibility of the projector. Zoom and focus are accomplished by turning the inner and outer ring of the lens respectively. To the right of the lens, is the front Infra-Red sensor for the projector's remote control. Below are two adustable feet, each can be rotated to raise or lower the front of the projector.
Because of the ability to place the projector relatively close or far from the screen, (if you are using a 100" diagonal 16:9 projection screen, you can place the projector as close as 9.8 feet or as far back as 16.8 feet, but that looks like a typo. Assuming the 9.8 foot number as accurate, the 2:1 lens would let you put the front of the projector as far back as 19.6 feet, from a 100" screen.
Combine this with the rear fan intakes and an exhaust on the right side (looking from the back), that throws the air out to the right and forward, this also allows the Sanyo PLV-Z4 projector to be easily shelf mounted, thus negating a big advantage the last generation Panasonic had over the older Z3, since the Z3 had a far more limited range.
Looking at the left size (from the back), are the new lens shift controls (originally on the front on the Z1, Z2, and Z3). The horizontal and vertical lens shift offer exceptional range (especially the vertical). The wide range lets users position the projector anywhere from half a screen height below the bottom of the screen, to half a screen height above the top of the projector screen. This pretty much means that you can forget about needing digital keystone correction (that degrades the picture quality).
If you have a low table, or are ceiling mounting the projector in a room with a high ceiling you will appreciate this wide range to the projector's lens shift. Myself, I have a 19.5 foot high ceiling, and despite a fairly high mounted large (128" diagonal) screen, my current BenQ PE8700+ projector has to hang down more than 5 feet from the ceiling. By comparison, if I mounted this Sanyo Z4 in my room, I could mount it within 1.5 feet of the ceiling, making it less obtrusive.
QuickTip: The Sanyo Z4's likely #1 competitor, Panasonic's PT-AE900u projector, also has lens shift, but with only a 63 degreee range (vs 100% on the Sanyo projector). As a result, although the Panasonic projector can also mount anywhere between top and bottom of the screen, it can only be extended slightly higher or lower than the screen; (on a 100" screen about 8"-10" either way). The Panasonic PTAE900u is therefore, definitely not quite as flexible as the Sanyo, in the lens shift aspects of projector placement. Of course few buyers will need that extra lens shift range, but for those that do, this might tip them in favor of the Sanyo Z4 home theater projector over the Panasonic PT-AE-900u projector. By comparison, the BenQ PE7700 (a DLP home theater projector), lacks lens shift, so the correct mounting has the center of the lens even with the top of the screen (ceiling mounted), or even with the bottom of the screen (table mounting).
New for the Z4 home theater projector is the lens shift lock, to hold the lens shift settings firmly in place. The older Z3 (and possibly the Z2, and Z1) projector had a problem with the lens shift - shifting! Imagine getting it set up perfectly, hanging from your ceiling only to have the lens shift change. I'm glad to see that Sanyo has addressed this occasional problem with the shift lock.
OK, to the top of the Sanyo projector. A simple control panel consists of a large power switch and three warning lamps (Replace lamp, Warning, and Power)
Below them are a pad with Menu, Input, four arrow keys and "OK" (Enter) in the center of the 4 arrow keys.
That takes us, finally, to the back panel, with all the inputs. The Z4 projector, again, has improved upon its predecessor.
From the left, is the HDMI connector (digital video interface), and next to it an analog computer input (HD15 connector). Then come the standard S-video and composite video inputs, and next - a pair of component video inputs (the highest quality analog inputs). Lastly, is a service port (RS232) for remotely controlling the projector and its many functions.
Time to see how the Sanyo PLV-Z4 home theater projector performs in terms of that all important Image Quality.