Sanyo PLV-Z4000 Projector Review
Welcome to our detailed review of the Sanyo PLV-Z4000 1080p home theater projector. We encountered no unusual issues that would require fixing, or any reason to need a follow up Z4000 projector. The PLV-Z4000 is based on last year's model, with no new features, but overall performance seems improved. Check it out!
September 2010 - Art Feierman
Sanyo PLV-Z4000 Projector Overview
What have we here? Sanyo has introduced their PLV-Z4000. Right up front they pointed out that there no major changes compared to the Z3000. It would seem that any changes (other than the name) are mostly minor firmware improvements, better tuning of the optical engine, and tighter quality control, according to Sanyo. Some firmware may have been changed in the Z3000 since we reviewed one of the first ones, other changes may have been done with the transition from the Z3000 to the Z4000. Sanyo hasn't provided any specific details.
Let's get one thing straight up front. Regardless of what's different, and what's not, this Z4000 absolutely puts a better image on the screen than the Z3000 we reviewed when it came out.
The other key point getting started, would be the pricing change over the Z3000 - Sanyo now has the MAP pricing under $2K, joining the Panasonic PT-AE4000, as one of two (so far) "ultra high contrast" projectors below that $2000 price point.
Overall, what we have here, is a feature laden home theater projector that will sell mostly, for $2000 or less, that has very good black level performance, uses 3 LCD technology, and lots of benefits including a longer than most warranty, and extensive feature set.
The short version: Consider the PLV-Z4000 projector to be an improved PLV-Z3000. It may look the same, but it doesn't "cook" the same. The improvements may be only a little here, and a little there, but, we were a bit disappointed with the older Z3000 when reviewed, we never were able to get the color accuracy as good as we had hoped, etc. This time around, the newer Sanyo seems to have improved things enough to make for a real difference - in color handling if nothing else.
As a result of the similarities, though, a good part (ie. the Tour) of this review is a mild rewrite of the Z3000's review, with some additional thoughts thrown in. I will be spending a good bit of the Summary page and the Competitor's pages trying to position the PLV-Z4000 compared to the competition.
I don't care how few features change, any significant improvement in overall color (and skin tones) is important in my book!
This Sanyo PLV-Z4000 is the first of the "new fall lineup" of projectors. The CEDIA show (late September) is when the large majority of home theater projectors are announced, and most ship within a few months. A whole bunch of new competition (and retreads) will be shown at CEDIA, and we'll of course, let you know how those new projectors stack up to this new one, as they arrive and get reviewed.
Back to the Sanyo PLV-Z4000 projector: The projector comes in a dark grey case, basically a box with rounded corners - it's clean looking, but that's about it. Its inputs and other connectors are pretty standard, and the projector has excellent placement flexibility thanks to lens shift and a 2:1 zoom lens. BTW, the color scheme has changed slightly. The older Sanyo's front was a lighter gray than the rest of the projector, now the front, including the motorized lens door, is darker - basically the same as the rest of the projector.
Figure we'll be reviewing, over the next 5 months, perhaps a dozen other home theater projectors that will sell (plus or minus) within $750 of this Sanyo. Of those, some will be significantly updated, some will have but minor changes, a few perhaps basically new designs. A few companies will just let a model or two run for another year, without updating.
Time to take a closer look!
PLV-Z4000 Projector Highlights
- A lower cost "very high contrast" 1080p home theater projector
- A very sharp image among 3LCD projectors
- Creative frame interpolation for reducing motion blur
- Excellent, post calibration color accuracy in best modes
- Excellent placement flexibility
- Sufficient brightness for small (80" - 92") and medium sized screens (100" - 110") but below average brightness overall
- Excellent placement flexibility
- Longer than average warranty
- Pretty good "out of the box" color accuracy - at least average, but improves dramatically with calibration
- Although not particularly easy to calibrate, excellent results (try our published settings!)
Specs for Sanyo PLV-Z4000
MSRP: $2499. MAP: $1995. Street Price, Est. $1799 as a low price
Native Resolution: 1080p (1920x1080)
Zoom Lens ratio: 2:1
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: Sanyo does not publish lamp life, industry average is 2000 hours at full power, 3000 hours in low (eco-mode).
Weight: 16.5 lbs. (7.4 Kg)
Warranty: 3 Year Parts and Labor
Full specification available here: Sanyo PLV-Z4000
The image below is Gandalf from Lord of the Rings - this image is a night shot (in Gondor) The heavy bluish caste as part of the original scene.
Just about every home theater projector has a special feature or two. The PLV-Z4000 projector has HDMI 1.3 support, although that is found on just about every home theater projector. The most noteworthy special feature is Creative Frame Creation, and 120 frame per second display capability, but there are a host of dynamic features as well.
PLV-Z4000 Creative Frame Interpolation
The Sanyo sports what is apparently the same Creative Frame Interpolation (CFI) as the Z3000. I would expect that in the 2+ years since we first reviewed the Z3000, the firmware has probably been tweaked as a matter of nature, but, it's been too long to even begin to be sure of differences
CFI starts (for movies) with the original 24 frame per second speed that the film was shot at, and increases the number of frames to 96 (4x) or 120 (5x) fps. When working with 1080p 30 or 60 fps content (1080p, 1080i), it typically increases the frame rate to 120 fps.
The idea is to eliminate forms of motion blur caused by the original content being created at too slow a speed (24fps or 30fps). Simply repeating frames (like the Mitsubishi HC7000, 24 to 48fps), doesn't really accomplish much. What Sanyo and the other three do, however, is go a step further. The Sanyo looks at the original frame one, and then frame two. Image processing identifies "objects that are moving", and creates 3 new frames - we'll call them 1a, 1b, and 1c, to be inserted in between frame one and two. In each of the new frames the moving objects are recreated in positions between frame one and two.
Consider a plane flying from the left side of the screen to the right. Let's assume in frame 1, it's at the left border, and in frame two, it's at the 1/4 point by frame two. The Sanyo's creation of frame 1a, will have that plane placed 1/3 of the way between frame 1 and 2, the next frame, half way in between, and frame 1c, 2/3 of the way, then finally frame two appears. You end up with a smoother looking object. Truth is, though, CFI is perhaps most effective is smoothing out backgrounds as a camera pans. To me, with movies, that's the core benefit. As with all CFI's (all I've seen so far), CFI creates that "live digital video" or "soap opera" look to the image, eliminating what we take to be the look of film. This changes the world. Few who pay attention, will want CFI on for movies, but almost everyone will appreciate it for sports.
Dynamic Image controls
Like many projectors, there are a number of image enhancement features. While it can be argued that many such features may add something to the image, ultimately, these controls are modifying the original image, and therefore, the final result may no longer be what the director intended. For purists, that's pretty unacceptable.
Most of today's projectors have a number of such controls. In the case of the Sanyo PLV-Z4000, that includes Dynamic Gamma, Black Stretch, a dynamic iris, lamp dimming, and several others. It's impossible for a reviewer to observe all the combinations, and they all interact. The number of combinations is overwhelming, especially considering some features affect others.
We discuss some of the effects of many of these features in the Performance section, under Brightness. You will see that lamp dimming, dynamic vs. fixed iris, and iris manual settings all have significant impact on brightness (as well as the final image). One thing to note, the core difference between Sanyo's Pure Cinema, and Creative Cinema modes is the use of a lot of dynamic features, not a difference (apparently) in color tables. Best I can tell, other than the various "feature" settings, Pure and Creative are inherently the same. Remember these are "just" presets - put there for convenience, offering you many different trade-offs. Some subtle, some not. To attempt a calibration, it shouldn't matter which preset you start with, you should pretty much end up in the same place, when done.