11/2/2006 -Art Feierman
Reviewing the PLV-Z5 home theater projector, has been an interesting experience. I say this because of expectations. In the LCD class, under $2000, we already reviewed the new Panasonic PT-AX100U, a major improvement (especially brightness and sharpness) over last year's PT-AE900u. We also reviewed Epson's new Cinema 400, also bright, and also sharper than last year's Cinema 550 (and less money).
So, with the Sanyo PLV-Z5 arriving after those two reviews, I had mixed feelings, before firing it up. On paper, it only featured a 10% increase in brightness (although it tested even better) than the older PLV-Z4. Still, it's not the "light canon" that the other two are. Now the Sanyo PLV-Z4 already, in my opinion, produced the sharpest image of any under $2000 projector, so I had no doubt that the PLV-Z5 would maintain its lead in this department (and I wasn't disappointed).
What we have here with the PLV-Z5 is an improved version of the Z4. Of course it offers extensive placement flexibility. It sports a 2:1 zoom lens and more lens shift flexibility than, I think, any other home theater projector that I can recall. From a placement standpoint, it should work for just about everyone. In addition, Sanyo has gone to a dual iris system, for better, smoother control of its black level and shadow detail revealing capabilities.
Out of the box color of the PLV-Z5, leaves much to be desired, but is easily correctable. This will be discussed further.
The real appeal of the PLV-Z5 home theater projector, though, comes from a razor sharp image (the new Panny PT-AX100u may be sharper than its predecessor, but it's not a match for the PLV-Z5). In addition, and this was the big surprise, truly excellent shadow detail. (Recently, I reviewed the essentially pre-calibrated Samsung 710AE, and raved about shadow detail.) Well, the Sanyo is definitely in the Samsung's league, and that's saying a lot, since the Samsung, when recently reviewed, was not only a cut above the competition in its price range, but exceeded the shadow detail abilities of any home theater projector I have reviewed under $5000!
Overall, there are improvements we will cover, including what seems to be a significant improvement in the dynamic AI aspects of the Sanyo PLV-Z5. With the older Z4, I could spot the dynamic lamp dimming without any difficulty in the right type of scenes, or in scene transitions. So much so, in fact, that in the PLV-Z4 review, I recommended sticking just with the dynamic iris, and turning off the dynamic lamp functions (and giving up contrast/black levels) while doing so. This time around, although I could still, when looking, detect such things, it was more than enough improved that I would run it with all the dynamic AI working. That means better overall black levels and excellent shadow detail when enjoying movies.
Strangely, since DLP projectors are normally favored by "purists", I still find myself recommending the Sanyo PLV-Z5, an LCD projector, as an excellent choice for those who are highly critical, who want the best shadow detail, image sharpness, etc. Finally an LCD projector to give the affordable DLP projectors a serious run for the money, and doing what they can't, offering tremendous placement flexibility.
As a result, I think the Sanyo is going to find a huge following. It won't attract the really large screen crowd (which includes myself, with my 128" diagonal screen), who buy screens over 110" diagonal, but the vast majority, who will use screens from 92" to 110" diagonal. As a result of its image sharpness, and superb shadow detail, it will appeal to and be an excellent choice for those seeking a projector primarily for movies, and who have at least very good control of ambient lighting. And oh yes, is has a great warranty! For these reasons, the Sanyo PLV-Z5 earns our Hot Product Award.
But enough rambling. It's time to get started, first with the basic specs, and then our "physical tour" of the projector itself.
Sanyo PLV-Z5 Home Theater Projector - Basic Specs:
MSRP: $1995 (MAP: $1695)
Native Resolution: 720p (1280x720)
Brightness: 1100 lumens
Zoom Lens ratio: 2:1
Lens shift: Vertical and Horizontal
Lamp life: Sanyo does not publish a lamp life spec, assume 2000 hours at full power
Weight: 11.0 lbs.
Warranty: 3 years, parts and labor, Sanyo pays all freight costs under warranty!
Review continues below this advertisement.
Sanyo PLV-Z5 Home Theater Projector - Physical Tour:
As usual, we start from the front. Facing the projector, done in all silver finish, you will notice, that with power off, the lens is not visible, hidden behind a sliding cover. Power up, and the door moves out of the way, and bingo, your 2:1 ratio zoom lens appears. For those ceiling, or high shelf mounting, you effectively have a lens cover in place when the PLV-Z5 is turned off, keeping dust off the lens (or even a cobweb?), saving you the trouble of climbing to clear the light path. (Note, the lens has slightly more than 2:1, almost 2.1:1.) Focus and Zoom are done by rotating the focus ring, and the tab on the zoom ring, respectively. From a placement standpoint, to fill a 100" diagonal 16:9 screen, the projector (measured to the front of the lens) can be as close as 9.8 feet, and as far back as 20 feet.
There is also an infrared remote sensor on the right front. Two screw thread adjustable feet are located just back from the front, on both sides.
Next, if you look at the right side (facing the projector), you will find the veritical and horizontal lens shift controls, and also a lock switch to firmly hold the lens shift in place, once you set it up, to properly fill your screen.
Moving to the top, is a pretty standard control panel, with a large power button (the usual press once for power on, twice for power off), a menu button, a source select (input) button, the usual four arrow key buttons and a center Enter button. They are nicely spaced, and therefore easy to navigate by touch, in the dark, if needed (like when you can't find your remote).
All the inputs are on the back. The first really nice feature is having two HDMI inputs, instead of the usual one. This is a real plus for those not using an A/V receiver with HDMI switching. In addition there is a computer input (which can alternately handle component video and SCART, plus 2 pair of three RCA jacks for two additional component video sources, and the usual S-Video and composite video inputs. That's about as good as it gets. The Sanyo doesn't have a 12 volt trigger for controlling a properly equipped, motorized screen, but it does have an RS-232 service port.
The Sanyo home theater projector has air intakes in the back, and cleanable air filters, and blows hot air out the left side (if you are facing the projector), and slightly forward. Keep those filters clean, it keeps projectors running cooler, which translates into more lamp life. The Sanyo doesn't blow a lot of hot air out, even in high power lamp mode, so if you are placing it on a table, you aren't going to cook any of your friends with a large, continous blast of hot air, if they are sitting on that side.
That takes care of the physical basics, although we will cover the remote control, on the General Performance page. But, first, it's time to consider, the all important image quality aspects of Sanyo's PLV-Z5 home theater projector.