Sanyo PLV-Z4 Projector Review: Overview

For virtually all of my testing, I had the Sanyo Z4 projector in it’s “best” mode – Creative Cinema. Note, though, that the default iris setting for Creative Cinema is -44. To view on my 128″ Firehawk, I did open up the iris to -28 and put the lamp into full power mode. In this mode contrast is enhanced as best the Sanyo projector can, and colors are generally very good. I did switch to the “Pure Cinema” mode, for a number of scenes, but if there is dark content, the Creative Cinema seems to enhance shadow detail and also provide a slightly more dynamic image.

Sanyo PLV-Z4 Projector Image Quality

I bring this up, because this can be a big deciding factor for many home theater projector shoppers. In this regard, the the Sanyo Z4 is not up to the DLP projectors (with the same 720p resolution). Equally important, it is not up to it’s number one competitor in the LCD field, the Panasonic PT-AE900u which has been engineered (the LCD panels?) to minimize the pixel effect. So here are two zoom in shots from the lettering on Star Wars, to show you the difference in the pixel structure visibility.

The first image is the Sanyo Z4, the second is the Panasonic AE900u. The difference is striking. Note, please, you are most likely to see pixelization on lettering (like credits) and bright areas (like sky), but if you are too close for the projector’s capabilities, you may notice the pixelization/screen door effect on all but the darkest areas.

There is a second effect of visible (and near visible) pixelization. And that is, that projectors with more visible pixelization may appear sharper. (The softness of DLP projectors, due to less noticeable pixels, may be one reason why people like to refer to DLP projectors as being more “film-like”.)

So that brings us to the subject of image sharpness. The Sanyo Z4 seems exceptionally sharp for a $2000+ LCD projector. Initial impression while watching DVD, is that it does produce a slightly sharper image than the Panasonic PT-AE900u, or, for that matter the BenQ PE7700. Is this real sharpness, or the result of the more visible pixelization, I can’t tell you. Some will find that sharpness as a real plus, others might say, other projectors are more “film-like”. You’ll have to decide for yourself.

But wait, there’s more. When shooting side-by-side against the Panasonic PTAE900u, the Z4 does appear very slightly sharper – on DVDs. When, however, I switched to Hi-Def sources (Hawaiian Tropic tape, and Over America), the difference vanished, in fact in images shot side by side between the same two projectors, I found the differences to be not that of sharpness but other aspects of the images.

Note,of course that both projectors have Sharpness controls, and upping sharpness also tends to add minor artifacts. For these two images, both projectors were at their default sharpness, although there may be various dynamic sharpening of the images as part of the projectors’ “AI”.

So here’s two (fairly large) zoomed in images, the first (above) from the Z4 projector, the second from the AE900u.

You be the judge.

(While you are straining your eyes, look closely at the difference in the texture of the hair on both contestants.).

Note: Unfortunately, when shooting the images, the Panasonic is the brighter of the two. I probably shouldn’t have, but I have darkened the Panasonic image so the two would be closer to each other, and easier to compare.)

You can also notice differences between the two images that appear to be “edge sharpening”. Look where bright areas meet dark, such as on the right side of the left arm of the woman on the right, or the

Watching “TV” – A dissapointment

While the Sanyo Z4 projector does a truly impressive job on DVD and Hi-Def, it does come up short on standard – low resolution – TV signals. Watching standard TV off of my cable was far less satisfying. The Z4 does not do a good job of de-interlacing standard TV. Picture performance was not up to competing projectors. If you figure you still have a few years of viewing your favorite sitcom’s, on TV movies, news, and non Hi-Def sports, you should consider that other projectors will perform significantly better. If, though, you really are watching DVD and Hi-Def, and reserve conventional TV signals to smaller older sets, then don’t worry about it.

Sanyo PLV-Z4 Projector Image Quality

Sanyo PLV-Z4 Projector pixel structure2 v.sm
Panasonic AE900u pixel structure2 v.sm
Sanyo PLV-Z4 Projector vs Hawaiian Tropic2 sm
Panasonic PT-AE900u Projector Hawaiian Tropic2
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