Sanyo PLV-Z700 Home Theater Projector: Summary, Pros and Cons
There is no question that Sanyo has introduced a very good entry level 1080p projector. With an MSRP of only $1995, the price is hard to argue. As I see it, by the time all the new models are shipping late this year, the PLV-Z700 will be one of at least three, and probably four, 1080p projectors that will be selling for right around $2000 or less.
The Sanyo PLV-Z700 certainly will be very tempting to those who otherwise were planning to spend for a good 720p projector. True, it will typically be $700 to $1000 more than the 720p models, but, it gets you to 1080p. I should point out, that in areas like black level performance, the Z700 is roughly comparable to the better 720p projectors, including Sanyo's own PLV-Z60, which we just reviewed. With that in mind, buyers in the general price range have a choice - save money, and settle for 720p, or spend the extra to get 1080p, and be done with it.
The trickier decision will be choosing the PLV-Z700 as a money saving alternative to more expensive 1080p projectors, that offer a bit more performance. A number of projectors are going to start shipping in the next two months, that will sell in the $2500 - $3000 and change price range.
The Sanyo exhibits the maximum placement flexibility that is so typical of 3LCD projectors. What is interesting is that one of the PLV-Z700's closest competitors is the Mitsubishi HC5500 3LCD projector that started shipping a couple of months ago. That model, unlike the Sanyo, does not have a zoom lens with a lot of range, and that may be a key deciding point for entry level 1080p projector shoppers.
The wide range of image enhancement mode combinations make for a projector that is an enthusiast's delight, at least for those that really like to play with their projectors.
Time to organize the Sanyo PLV-Z700's key features and capabilities in terms of strengths and weaknesses.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Projector: Pros
- Most affordable 1080p projector currently shipping (though competition at that price is on the way)
- With minor performance compromise in "best mode", average or slightly above average brightness
- Very good, post calibration
- Sharper than most, image
- Really good shadow detail
- Dynamic irises on image and lamp, for improved black level performance
- Extensive selection of image enhancement processing capabilities
- Good image noise performance
- Better performance than many on SD-TV sources
- Performed very well on HDTV and hi-def sports, in particular
- Very good remote control
- Very quiet operation
- Three year warranty
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Sanyo PLV-Z700 Projector: Cons
- Manual on disc only - no hard copy
- Below average brightness, in absolute "best mode"
- So-so black level performance
- Lack of separate "gain" and "bias" controls make calibrating trickier than most
- Many image enhancement features impact grayscale balance, thus, it's best to find the best combination of these that you like, and then perform the grayscale calibration (color temp)
- Not the most film-like picture quality, but good, nonetheless
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- Lamp Life (assumed - since Sanyo provides no lamp life rating)
- Placement flexibility relative to most other 3LCD home projectors
- Price performance when compared with other new entry level 1080p projectors that are shipping so far this fall
- Manual - it provides some good descriptions of key and advanced features, but thin on other ones
- You'll want to use the user memory areas, instead of the preset modes, if you want to make any changes at all, since the Presets (Creative Cinema, etc.) reset brightness contrast, etc., everytime you enter them. Not a big deal, but important to know (there are 5 user memory slots - more than enough)
Sanyo PLV-Z700: Competitive Aspects
In this section I'm going to briefly discuss the PLV-Z700 compared to several other projectors, some of which are being phased out over the next couple of months. I'll also make some quick conjectures about some new ones that haven't yet shipped, but are coming in that same timeframe.
PLV-Z700 vs. Mitsubishi HC5500
First, the Z700 has all that great placement flexibility, while Mitsubishi decided to limit the zoom lens and lens shift range to keep costs down. Assuming both will work in your environment, I'll give the PLV-Z700 the advantage in image control flexibiility (except that weakness for gray scale calibration).
The Sanyo is definitely the less expensive of the two, starting at $1995 MSRP, vs. $2499 currently, less $200 rebate, and that's a real strength for many on a budget, especially those with tighter budgets deciding between a good 720p and 1080p projector.
The HC5500 however, is brighter in best mode. As noted in the Brightness section of the Z700, the Z700 can get up there to match the numbers of the HC5500, but, it requires some compromising of "best mode", to do so. Overall, the Mitsubishi has a slight advantage in black level performance. On the other hand, the PLV-Z700 is slightly brighter in "brightest mode". Also of note, the HC5500 can get up to 5000 hours on it's lamp, in low power mode, compared to probably about 3000 hours for low power on the Sanyo. That's a money saver, which should negate the higher up front cost over time.
Both produce a very sharp image, with the Mitsubishi having a very slight advantage. Sanyo has the longer warranty.
These are worthy competitors. I expect the Sanyo to appeal to more folks though because of the price, and that the HC5500 is priced closer to the next level up 1080p projectors.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 vs. Epson Home Cinema 1080
This will be brief. The Epson is in close out mode, and nets out to about $1650 or less after figuring the value of a free spare lamp and mail-in rebate. This is the older of the two Epson's and its black levels, like the PLV-Z700, are nothing to write home about, these days. Epson also has a great warranty (shorter by a year, but with overnight replacement). The Sanyo is quieter, slightly sharper, and can muster up a few more lumens (with some compromise) in best mode, but is no match in brightest mode, with about 1200 lumens vs. about 1700 for the Epson, giving the Epson the advantage for HDTV/sports viewing. For those really squeezed by budget, the Epson is the least expensive entry to the 1080p market, right now.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z2000
I slightly favor the PLV-Z2000, as it does do slightly better on black levels, and is easier to calibrate. They are very similar otherwise. The PLV-Z2000 is about to be replaced by the Z3000, which should be a real step up. Between the PLV-Z700 and the Z2000, I favor the Z2000 if both can be found for the same price.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 vs. Epson Home Cinema 1080 UB
This Epson is our Best in Class winner this past year, with spectacular black level performance for an under $3000 projector. While cash out of pocket is much higher than the PLV-Z700 (free lamp, mail-in rebate), the "net" on the Epson is $2149 or less. That makes the PLV-Z700 less expensive, but I find the Epson to be the better value. It won't be around much longer, however. Even when the PLV-Z700 is in its truly best mode (no compromise) the Epson is a bit brighter, and still does better black levels, while the Sanyo has a very slight advantage in shadow detail. The Epson, doesn't support those expensive anamorphic lens setups, while the Sanyo does.
The Epson does have some downsides - not as sharp an image, more audible noise, one year less warranty, and perhaps a touch less film-like, but its black level abilities make it a cut above product when viewing darker scenes.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 vs. Optoma HD80
This is one of Optoma's entry level 1080p projectors, and not long ago was still selling around $2500, but I see now that it is in the $2000 and under range street price, which makes it a competitor.
The Optoma HD80 should have slightly better black levels, a touch more image noise, and is definitely much noisier in terms of audible noise. As a basic DLP design it has no lens shift, and a 1.2:1 zoom, so it's no match in terms of placement flexibility.
From a brightness standpoint, it's real "best" mode performance around 560 lumens is brighter than the 350 of the PLV-Z700 without compromising the PLV-Z700's performance at all. In brightest mode the Sanyo has the advantage with over 1200 lumens vs. the Optoma's 1000 measured.
The Optoma has a distinct advantage in richness of colors in dark areas, which gives the image a little more impact, although in typical daytime scenes, I slightly favor the Sanyo. Optoma provides a two year warranty, compared to the Sanyo's three.
Tough call between these two. Overall they are more different, than better/worse. Each will have appeal to a significant slice of the entry level 1080p projector buyers.
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Sanyo PLV-Z700 vs. BenQ W5000
The W5000 is a serious 1080p home theater projector. When it was selling for more than $3000 it picked up our Best In Class - Runner-Up award in the under $4000 category. That makes it really tough competition for the Sanyo PLV-Z700. The Sanyo's big strengths compared to the BenQ, are in terms of price (the BenQ seems to have a street price of $2500 right now, or a little lower. No question, the BenQ wins at black levels, and should have a slight edge in shadow detail.
The PLV-Z700, on the other hand, comes with a 3 year warranty, vs. the BenQ's one year, and while both have lens shift, the Sanyo has more range, and a 2:1 zoom, while the BenQ has a very limited 1.2:1 zoom ratio. The BenQ, though, is the only DLP projector anywhere near the price of the Sanyo, to offer lens shift, and therefore may work for a shelf mount in the rear of your room. The BenQ also suffers a little in terms of image noise, but newer versions than the one I tested are reported to have improved in this area.
Forgetting all the assorted options in terms of image settings, these two projectors are very close in brightness in both best and brightest modes.
Both have sharp images, but I'll give the BenQ a slight advantage. I seriously doubt it will be noticeable during movie watching, but on a good HDTV signal, you just might spot a difference. Any difference though, is too small to be real factor.
Placement issues notwithstanding, enthusiasts will favor the BenQ, while the "average joe" should be happy with either!
Upcoming 1080p projector model competition: A little conjecture
Sanyo PLV-Z700 vs. Epson Home Cinema 6100
This Epson, not due out until December some time, may be the biggest threat to the PLV-Z700. It claims 18,000:1 contrast vs. 10,000:1. Considering Epson's excellent black level performance in general, the new Epson will most likely have the advantage in this area. Most likely the Sanyo will still be sharper, and quieter in operation. The Epson is expected to have an MSRP of $1999, so price wise they should be selling for the same money (but, Sanyo loves rebates, so they may have one on the PLV-Z700 by the time the Epson ships).
The Epson will not support an anamorphic lens and sled, which the Sanyo will. I question though, if anyone will pair an anamorphic lens with an entry level 1080p projector when an anamorophic rig, can cost almost twice that of the projector.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 vs. Panasonic PT-AE3000U
The PT-3000U will be Panasonic's only 1080p projector, and from what I've seen at CEDIA, it's going to a most impressive projector. It will, most likely, though be selling for around $3000, so not a direct competitor. It does all kinds of neat performance things that the PLV-Z700 can't, features that will be found on the Sanyo PLV-Z3000, which is the Panasonic's real direct competition. Figure the Panasonic, overall, will be the superior projector, but cost appropriately more. It has features like frame creation (as does the Z3000), and much better black levels than the PLV-Z700, or the older PT-AE2000U that is going away.
The price difference is great enough between these two, that I really shouldn't have mentioned the Panasonic, but, since it's the "only one they've got" and their older model has been the best seller for a year, it is worthy of note.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Home Theater Projector: Summary
While I found a lot to like about the Sanyo PLV-Z700, I decided that, with several other interesting low cost 1080p projectors about to come out, that it would be pre-mature to give the PLV-Z700 our hot product award. It may turn out to be worthy of it, or it might not. I will reconsider in a couple of months when I've reviewed all the competition. For the moment, though, just consider it a good projector at a great price point. If it has the things you consider important - enough brightness, quiet, sharp, long warranty, a really good post calibration color, etc., then, go for it.
The PLV-Z700 should work well in most rooms, with screen sizes up to 110" diagonal, and it's sweet spot will be with 92" to 106" sized screens. Black level performance can be helped by using a high contrast gray surfaced screen, and I strongly recommend that screen surface type.
Certainly, it is a great, more expensive alternative to 720p projectors without completely breaking the budget for most.
Sanyo PLV-Z700 Projector: Bottom Line
The PLV-Z700 provides solid performance, lots of features and benefits, and average overall brightness, making it a well balanced projector, one that physically should work well in almost any room. As an entry level projector, and less money than their higher end, soon to be released PLV-Z3000, one cannot expect that same higher level of performance.
It really comes down to bang for the bucks, and in that regard it looks to be at least a good value, the only possible qualification relate to closeouts of Sanyo's own Z2000 and Epson's Home Cinema 1080 UB, but both of those deals should be gone before year end (2008).
Perspective: Most people will truly enjoy owning a PLV-Z700. As regular readers of our reviews know, I have an Epson Ensemble HD 1080 in my second theater. The Epson projector in that system is the Home Cinema 1080, and as noted above, these are definitely comparable in image quality. Everyone who sees that system in my house, loves it. My bigger system may be much better, but "regular folks" will, simply stated, just love the picture, and viewing experience. You need to decide who you are - a fanatic, or someone who just wants to enjoy watching movies, HDTV, sports at home, and not get into the critical mode that most hobbiest/enthusiasts find themselves into. Enjoy this Sanyo PLV-Z7900, it's worth the price!