Sanyo PLV-Z5 Projector Review – Overview

Reviewing the PLV-Z5 home theater projector, has been an interesting experience. I say this because of expectations. In the LCD class, under $2000, we already reviewed the new Panasonic PT-AX100U, a major improvement (especially brightness and sharpness) over last year’s PT-AE900u. We also reviewed Epson’s new Cinema 400, also bright, and also sharper than last year’s Cinema 550 (and less money).

To learn about thePLV-Z60, which will replace the PLV-Z5, check out our blog.

So, with the Sanyo PLV-Z5 arriving after those two reviews, I had mixed feelings, before firing it up. On paper, it only featured a 10% increase in brightness (although it tested even better) than the older PLV-Z4. Still, it’s not the “light canon” that the other two are. Now the Sanyo PLV-Z4 already, in my opinion, produced the sharpest image of any under $2000 projector, so I had no doubt that the PLV-Z5 would maintain its lead in this department (and I wasn’t disappointed).

What we have here with the PLV-Z5 is an improved version of the Z4. Of course it offers extensive placement flexibility. It sports a 2:1 zoom lens and more lens shift flexibility than, I think, any other home theater projector that I can recall. From a placement standpoint, it should work for just about everyone. In addition, Sanyo has gone to a dual iris system, for better, smoother control of its black level and shadow detail revealing capabilities.

Out of the box color of the PLV-Z5, leaves much to be desired, but is easily correctable. This will be discussed further.

The real appeal of the PLV-Z5 home theater projector, though, comes from a razor sharp image (the new Panny PT-AX100u may be sharper than its predecessor, but it’s not a match for the PLV-Z5). In addition, and this was the big surprise, truly excellent shadow detail. (Recently, I reviewed the essentially pre-calibrated Samsung 710AE, and raved about shadow detail.) Well, the Sanyo is definitely in the Samsung’s league, and that’s saying a lot, since the Samsung, when recently reviewed, was not only a cut above the competition in its price range, but exceeded the shadow detail abilities of any home theater projector I have reviewed under $5000!

Overall, there are improvements we will cover, including what seems to be a significant improvement in the dynamic AI aspects of the Sanyo PLV-Z5. With the older Z4, I could spot the dynamic lamp dimming without any difficulty in the right type of scenes, or in scene transitions. So much so, in fact, that in the PLV-Z4 review, I recommended sticking just with the dynamic iris, and turning off the dynamic lamp functions (and giving up contrast/black levels) while doing so. This time around, although I could still, when looking, detect such things, it was more than enough improved that I would run it with all the dynamic AI working. That means better overall black levels and excellent shadow detail when enjoying movies.

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Strangely, since DLP projectors are normally favored by “purists”, I still find myself recommending the Sanyo PLV-Z5, an LCD projector, as an excellent choice for those who are highly critical, who want the best shadow detail, image sharpness, etc. Finally an LCD projector to give the affordable DLP projectors a serious run for the money, and doing what they can’t, offering tremendous placement flexibility.

As a result, I think the Sanyo is going to find a huge following. It won’t attract the really large screen crowd (which includes myself, with my 128″ diagonal screen), who buy screens over 110″ diagonal, but the vast majority, who will use screens from 92″ to 110″ diagonal. As a result of its image sharpness, and superb shadow detail, it will appeal to and be an excellent choice for those seeking a projector primarily for movies, and who have at least very good control of ambient lighting. And oh yes, is has a great warranty! For these reasons, the Sanyo PLV-Z5 earns our Hot Product Award.

But enough rambling. It’s time to get started, first with the basic specs, and then our “physical tour” of the projector itself.

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