Sanyo PLV-Z60 Home Theater Projector: Summary, Pros and Cons
The PLV-Z60 is a solid, slightly superior replacement for the aging Z5. It offers a slight improvement in brightness (mostly in the brighter modes), a modest improvement in black level performance, and claims the same, very low audible noise levels as the older Z5. The Z60 supports 24 fps content, which means no 3:2 pull-down issues when watching movies "judder", a real improvement. In a nutshell, the Z60 is an improved version of the Z5, but does not break any new ground, other than 24fps support, and ultimately Deep Color, a feature increasing the color palette size, that will hopefully soon start shipping on Blu-ray DVD titles.
This is not surprising as all the "high performace" improvements seem to be reserved for 1080p projectors, as 1080p now easily outsells 720p home theater projectors. The continuing drop in prices of 1080p projectors now have many manufacturers with only one 720p projector in their lineup, and, typically two 1080p projectors - one, often with similar performance (except for resolution) to the 720p models, and one with all the performance bells and whistles. Sanyo is no exception, with their fall lineup now consisting of the PLV-Z60 at 720p, and the new PLV-Z700 (our next review), as a base 1080p projector, and the just announced PLV-Z3000 as their higher end 1080p projector entry.
It should be noted, that many manufacturers are now replacing their 720p projectors only every other year, instead of annually.
Sanyo PLV-Z60 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Time to take a look at the individual strengths and weaknesses of the PLV-Z60, and from there, I'll comment on how it stacks up to the competition.
Sanyo PLV-Z60 Projector: Pros
- Very sharp image for a 720p projector
- Very good "out of the box" color accuracy, in "best" mode - Pure Cinema
- Although Pure Cinema is not very bright, Creative Cinema does a very good job after calibration and is about 70% brighter
- Very natural image quality after calibration
- Very good black level performance
- Low image noise
- Extensive color and gamma controls
- Good, though small remote control
- Nice menu layout, easy to navigate (just remember many menus have two pages)
- Very quiet operation
- Door slides to cover lens when projector is off, keeps dust, etc. off of the lens
- Designed so an end user can easily remove a dust blob, if dust gets into light path
- Great placement flexibility, thanks to 2:1 zoom, and lots of lens shift
- Support for 24fps source material, avoids 3:2 pulldown "judder"
- Excellent warranty - 3 years, with fast turn-around
- Least expensive current 1080p projector on the market (as of 10/08)
- Very good value proposition for those who do not need a brighter projector
Sanyo PLV-Z60 Projector: Cons
- Other than Pure Cinema, most modes definitely cry out for a basic end user calibration, with the usual AVIA or DVE-HD disc. (it really isn't difficult - step by step instructions)
- One of the least bright projectors around
Sanyo PLV-Z60 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Manual (on disc only)
- Lamp Life - an assumption - as Sanyo never publishes lamp life ratings
- Zoom and lens shift range - compared to other 3LCD home projectors
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Sanyo PLV-Z60 Competitive Aspects
I'm going to keep this rather shorter than usual. As I pointed out, while there are still plenty of 720p projectors out there, many companies are replacing them only every two years. Panasonic, in fact, didn't replace their PT-AX200U this year, and last year, they basically only improved the game mode over the older PT-AX100U. As a result, in the 720p space, there are fewer projectors, and most likely it's a process of elimination, rather than a battle over the finer points of performance:
PLV-Z60 vs. Panasonic PT-AX200U
Sanyo and Panasonic have been slugging it out for years. In this space, however, the two projectors are clearly defined, in their own space. Yes, they both have similar placement flexibilty, but after that, they are very different. The Panasonic PT-AX200U is a light cannon - the brightest projector in the 720p space, that we've reviewed to date. The Sanyo, is almost the opposite. The Panasonic in brightest mode, or best mode will typically produce about 60 - 80% more lumens, and that's a substantial difference.
On the other hand, the PLV-Z60 produces a sharper image. This is due to Panasonic's use of their SmoothScreen technology, which makes the pixel structure almost totally invisible, but takes a toll in image softness. Both are quiet.
The Sanyo has a much better warranty - 3 years, with fast turn-around, vs. a standard one year warranty. Price wise, these two will normally sell for the same price, so no advantage there. Because of the nature of the differences, most will see a clear choice between these two.
PLV-Z60 vs. Epson Home Cinema 720
I'm not sure that Epson will be killing off the Home Cinema 720 in December when their new low cost Home Cinema 700 ships. The 720 has more placement flexibility than the new Home Cinema 700, and is more expensive, so I suspect it will be around for quite some time. The Epson Home Cinema 720 fits nicely between the Sanyo and Panasonic entries. Like the PT-AX200U, the Epson significantly brighter than the Sanyo, in best mode, and also the brightest mode, although the Panasonic is brighter still. Still the Epson has plenty of punch for sports with some ambient light, compared to the Sanyo. The Home Cinema 720's image sharpness is not as good as the Sanyo.
Pricing is again similar. Both have comparable placement flexibility. I give the Sanyo the edge in the naturalness of the picture - just a touch more "film-like", as the Epson can sometimes be a little "hard". (I'm talking really small differences here.)
I see the Epson as the projector in the middle, between the Sanyo and the Panasonic. It also has a great warranty - 2 years with an overnight replacement program, compared to Sanyo's longer 3 years, but only "rapid" turn-around.
If you are going smaller screen sizes, or are a movie only person, you likely will favor the Sanyo, but if you are at 106 or 110 inch screen sizes, in a typical room, the Epson has the horsepower advantage you might want.
PLV-Z60 vs. Optoma HD65
Interesting! Very Interesting! I wish I still had the HD65 here for comparison. The HD65 is a classy little DLP projector with the usual very limited placement flexibiility. It does, however have really good color out of the box, even better than the Sanyo.
One of the interesting things about the HD65, is that, while brightness in brightest mode is pretty much the same as the Sanyo, the HD65 is far brighter in best mode, pushing out more than double the lumens of the Sanyo in Pure Cinema mode.
That makes the HD65 a better choice for those wanting a larger screen, but not really into HDTV/sports viewing with some ambient light - in other words, those buying almost exclusively for movie watching.
Both provide a very sharp image, and while both give a slightly different feel to the image, both are natural. The gamma on the Optoma tends to make dark colors stand out more giving a bit more depth, but, this is the stuff of side by side comparisions. It's not like you would watch the Z60 and say, "gee, that dark blue could have more pop". I will, however give the Sanyo a slight advantage in black level performance.
Warranty again, can be a key point. Optoma only offers a one year parts and labor warranty. On the other hand the HD65 is officially $300 less expensive than the Sanyo (until Sanyo rolls out those inevitable rebates), so a 3rd party extended warranty bringing coverage on the Optoma to 3 years, would still have it costing less.
It's a really interesting battle between these two projectors. I see them as very direct competitors. If you can place either in your room, it's going to be a tough call. Despite my watching primarily the better 1080p projectors, both of these are impressive.
PLV-Z60 vs. Optoma HD71
The Optoma HD71 is an extremely bright, and more expensive projector. As such, I do not see them as direct competitors.
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Sanyo PLV-Z60 Home Theater Projector: Summary
Great placement flexibility, a sharp image, and once calibrated, excellent color, plus very respectable black level performance. I will do a minor re-write, after testing the 2nd PLV-Z60, which I assume will not have the background color shift of the first unit. With the color shift gone, I'll also get a slightly better handle on how good the black levels are. It may be that they are even better than I conclude from watching and observing this first PLV-Z60.
Update 10/14/08: Uneven Color Background issue. You'll find more info in the Image Quality section at the bottom of the black level section. The key, though is that the production PLV-Z60 that came in, does not exhibit any significant color shift in the background, that would be readily visible when watching normal content. It's about as good as one could expect. We remove our reservation regarding this issue, as noted when the review first published a couple of weeks ago. In addtion, we found the black levels to be slightly improved, overall, due, no doubt to the fairly bright blue the first unit produced on the right side, especially the whole upper right quadrant. -art
Sanyo PLV-Z60 Projector: Bottom Line
A great choice for those that do not need a whole lot of brightness. This Sanyo does not seem to have any real weaknesses beyond having limited lumens. If you are on a tight budget, and are going to be happy with screen sizes of 82" to 100" (or even 106" diagonal), the PLV-Z60 is a well balanced solution, that also has the longest warranty in the 720p class.
The PLV-Z60 should have strong appeal with enthusiasts who care about all the details, and in this regard, it is definitely a worthy successor for the PLV-Z5. We are pleased to recognize the overall capabilities of the Sanyo PLV-Z5 with our Hot Product Award.