Sanyo PLV-Z4 Home Theater Projector – Who Should Buy?

The PLV-Z4′s remote is compact and reasonably well laid out. Compared to the competition, though I found two potentially annoying flaws. First, although all the buttons are backlit, the backlighting isn’t very bright. I found reading the buttons in a dark room to be challenging even with the backlight on.

The second complaint relates to the range of the remote. In my own theater, with most remotes, I can point the remote forward and get a good bounce off of my screen, and front wall, and have the projector respond. With my normal seating position, the Sanyo didn’t seem to have the range to work off of the reflected signal. Instead, I had to point the remote over my shoulder to the projector sitting behind me. Of course, you may want to invest in a nice multi-device learning remote to control all of your equipment, which makes this issue moot.

Click Image to Enlarge

Of the competing projectors, none seemed to quite as limited in range. As to the backlighting I can’t honestly recall, but most did better. In summary, I had originally rated the remote as a weakness. Nothing since, from the new competition would indicate a reason to improve my opinion of it. Hardly a deal breaker, but its something Sanyo will hopefully address when they come out with their next generation.

Sanyo PLV-Z4 Brightness and Sharpness

Brightness – Home theater projectors like the Sanyo PLVZ4, are meant to be used in near or fully darkened rooms for watching movies, and can handle some ambient light for watching HDTV, TV, or video games. The Sanyo is one of the least bright projectors in the group. If you prefer a larger screen – say over 110″ diagonal, the limited brightness may be a deal breaker for you. (Of course you could go with a high gain screen, but that raises other issues. By comparison, the Panasonic PT-AE900u is a little brighter, the BenQ PE7700 more so.

The Sanyo Z4 and the Sony HS51A are about the same brightness. The Epson Cinema 550, and Optoma HD72 are both far brighter (the Optoma is definitely the brightest). If you really need the brightest projector of the group, but are limited in dollars, that would be the HD72.

Sharpness and Screen Door Effect- There is something called the Screen Door Effect, that is present to some degree on all home theater projectors. Typically it is much greater on LCD projectors, than DLP projectors. It effectively limits how close you can sit to a screen of any particular size, without a certain type of distortion becoming annoying. The PLVZ4 is typical of LCD projectors, and as such pixels are more visible than on the DLP models. Generally acceptable seating is about 1.5 times screen width. (An example – for a 100″ diagonal screen – 87″ wide, would put 1.5X screen width at about 130″ or 10 ft. 8″ as the closest you would want to sit. By comparison the Sony is slightly better in this regard, say 1.3 or 1.4 times width. The Epson and the Sanyo are aobut the same. The exception of the LCD projectors is the Panasonic which uses what they call “Smooth Screen” LCD panels. With the Panny, the pixel visibility is more like DLP projectors (1.0 – 1.1 x screen width), but the Panasonic doesn’t provide quite as sharp an image as the Z4.

Note, on the image just above, if you look carefully, you can see that the room has a modest amount of ambient light (4 recessed ceiling lights running about half way up on their dimmers). The room looks much closer to dark than it is. This is due to setting the exposure to correctly capture the football game. If I shot to capture the room lighting, the game would come out badly overexposed – in all this is a limitation of the camera’s range. BTW, the screen in the image is my 128″ diagonal Stewart Firehalk, – a slightly larger screen size than I feel the projector can comfortably handle)

The bottom line here, while you can’t sit quite as close as the DLP projectors or the Panasonic, the Sanyo’s big advantage is that its image is exceptionally sharp. Only the Sony – at a significantly higher price can match it. The HD72 and BenQ PE7700 are very close (maybe the Sanyo’s equal), but the Panasonic and Epson definitely won’t produce as sharp an image, especially on DVD.

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