Sanyo PLV-Z2 – Overview

  • Power
  • Screen (I didn’t look into this feature, but it is obviously for triggering your screen, however the usual screen trigger 12v connector is not present, so it must work in conjunction with someone’s codes.  When I find out, I’ll update this.
  • Lamp (toggles from bright to low settings)
  • Menu
  • Select
  • Input
  • Image (adjust) (brings up Image menu)

The large disc pad is just  below the Menu and Select buttons, above the Input and Image. [insert image:  Sanyo Z2 remote cropped – tony keep this large, and set it on the right side so that the text wraps on the left] It doesn’t light up, but doen’t need to, it’s large and you can’t miss it. That covers it for the lit buttons. The really nice features that I like are:

  • The ability to one touch select your choice of the Normal and Cinema modes, or any of for user savable settings.  This is really nice.  [BenQ’s far more expensive PE8700 – my reference projector – also allows one touch access, and I love the feature.  You will too.
  • There is also direct source switching as well, but you will have to memorize where things are by feel, no lighting there.

Ok enough of the Sanyo Z2′s “Physical Tour”, let’s get down to what matters – performance!  Please click on Next Section.

We have a winner!  Please understand, the Sanyo offers many choices in operation, with variable brightness and variable contrast abilities.  Your screen size, room lighting (it better be minimal if you are watching a movie.  You’ll be able to stand a little ambient light if you are watching sports, as there won’t be dark scenes.

First and foremost let’s talk Color:

Out of the box, the overall color quality was excellent.  I found the color balance to require a little tweaking, reds were a bit strong especially on flesh tones, and I needed to raise the greens a couple of clicks.  I also upped the overall color saturation (barely), but I started on the largest screen and it seemed like I needed a touch more.  Still, for no fooling around at all, the Z2 provided excellent color balance.  Once I got done playing I was extremely satisfied.  It really helps when a projector starts off looking great, and all you have to deal with are minor adjustments.
[insert image:  Sanyo Z2 shot from space]

None-the-less, I would recommend using a calibration DVD such as AVIA to hone in the ideal color balance.  This will be particularly useful if you end up creating slightly different settings for different types of sources, HDTV/TV, vs. DVD and content types (movies vs. sports vs. TV).  No doubt at some point you will want one setting at least optimized for richer colors, enhanced brightness, etc. to cope with more ambient light.  You won’t get as perfect a color/brightness/contrast balance with that type of setting, but better have the overall image more visible and able to cope, than worry about modest losses of contrast, shadow detail (that would be lost regardless in the ambient light environment).

With minor tweaking, I found flesh tones to be excellent, almost rivaling (no, not identical) to those I find on my BenQ PE8700 projector.  For overall dynamics, the Z2 performed very well within the constraints of not being that bright to begin with (compared with my PE8700).  Consider:
Even on full power setting, with the aperture wide open (maximum brightness), the Sanyo couldn’t cope with my 140” diagonal screen even under lighting that consisted only of reflected light from the screen, bouncing off of the walls.  (My theater is under construction, soon my walls will be 6 or 7 shades darker to eliminate about 80% of reflected light).  Note:  My screen is a standard matte surface.
[image of NASA people from space cowboys]

I then moved the projector allowing me to project an image just shy of 110” diagonal and I found the projector had the “horsepower” to handle it well with aperture wide open, or even closed slightly.  Contrast, was very good, even though, fully closing the aperture improves it.

Choosing a projector screen

We’re getting into the real subjective now, but I would say that 100″ diagonal is the maximum screen size if you want the aperture closed and maximum contrast.  Some might think 92″ is as big as you should go.  Personally, with the right room and screen, though the Z2 is viable on 106″ Dalite screens, and 110″ Stewarts (their respective sizes), as well as equivalents from Draper, Vutec and others.  Many projector screen companies make the 92″ projection screen size and the Sanyo Z2 will blow you away on a 92″.

As I indicated, I use a matte screen, and screen surfaces certainly impact the overall image.  I would generally recommend avoiding the darker gray screens like Stewart’s Grayhawk or similar by other brands.  This is not related to contrast, just my belief that you would be better served with a high contrast “white” screen, like the Firehawk or Dalite High Contrast Matte, or Cinema Vision surfaces.  These all have gains of about 1 or brighter.  I think you’re better off with the brighter screen, and then if need be – use low lamp, and aperture, to enhance the contrast. 

QuickTip:  Gray vs White, high contrast screens.  Gray screens were the rage because LCD projectors didn’t have enough contrast to get you decent blacks, but they are a “cheat.”  They don’t get you back the lost detail in the dark areas, they only make the dark areas – darker.  So, which to use, with the Sanyo Z2 projector.  On the larger screens stay white – Firehawk, Hi-Contrast DaMat, etc., and probably stay white on smaller screens.  With the “white” screens” you can shut down the aperture more and still have a bright enough image, resulting in more detail than having the aperture wider open.  There are a few situations, however, relating to room lighting, wall color, etc, where the gray screen may be a slightly better alternative to white.  

Seating Distance

Yes, we have an LCD projector here, so in terms of pixelization, and screendoor effect, what can you expect?  Today’s newer LCD glass once again has less noticable pixels, and therefore the screendoor effect is again diminished.  I found the Z2 to almost perfect at 1.5 times screen width.  Sure you can still spot the pixels in the credits, and if paying attention, in white surfaces, like cloulds, etc.  But for the most part, if you have a 106″ diagonal screen (just over 92″ width), you can enjoy your viewing at 12 feet back.  By the time you get to 14 feet back you’ll probably need binoculars to see the pixels).  With a 92″ screen, the magic distance is 10 feet.

With slight defocusing, you can get even closer.  The bottom line:  Just sit back and enjoy your your movies on your Z2 home theater projector.

Sanyo PLV-Z2 - General Performance

Screendoor effect:

Seems each generation of LCD panels manages to reduce the size of the mask (the border of each pixel, that appears as the pixel’s dark frame when projected).  As a result, today’s projectors of a given resolution, have less visible pixels than just a year or so ago.)
The combination of improved LCD, and the 1280×720 resolution elevate the Sanyo to a point where pixelization and screendoor effect are not an issue for most viewers.  However, it’s all about how close to the screen you like to sit relevant to the screen’s size.  Generally the safe number had been:  If you are sitting 1.5 times screen width back from the screen, you won’t be able to see the pixels without binoculars.

The Sanyo is better than that.  My vision corrects to slightly better than 20/20 with my glasses, (and I wear them when watching).  I’m finding that about 1.2 times width or definitely 1.25 times width  is safe.  At 1.2x the only way I’m spotting pixels is on very white areas, and if I’m really looking for them.

Let’s translate that:  if you have a 100” diagonal screen, your screen is 87” wide.  1.2 x 87 inches puts you sitting with your eyeballs just shy of 9 feet back.  If you’re not a perfectionist, or if you soften the image very slightly by defocusing, you can probably fully enjoy the picture from under 8 feet away.  All in all, think movie theater.  The Sanyo should perform very nicely in the equivalent of sitting about half way back in the theater, or perhaps a tad further.  If you like the first 1/3 of the theater, sorry, go get a DLP projector.

Audio

Thought I better mention this.  The Sanyo Z2 has no speakers, or audio input.  That is no surprise as only a couple of HT projectors do.  However, if you are one of those who doesn’t have a permanent HT setup, and plan to toss the projector in the closet when not in use, then quickly bring it out to watch sports, or TV, it might have been nice.   You might not have cared about sound quality, and been fine a couple of small speakers in a projector.  Forget it, use your stereo, HT system, or a boom box, you won’t get any sound out of the Z2!

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