Sanyo PLV-Z60 720p 3LCD Home Theater Projector Review: Overview

PLV-Z60 vs. Panasonic PT-AX200U

Sanyo and Panasonic have been slugging it out for years. In this space, however, the two projectors are clearly defined, in their own space. Yes, they both have similar placement flexibilty, but after that, they are very different. The Panasonic PT-AX200U is a light cannon – the brightest projector in the 720p space, that we’ve reviewed to date. The Sanyo, is almost the opposite. The Panasonic in brightest mode, or best mode will typically produce about 60 – 80% more lumens, and that’s a substantial difference.

On the other hand, the PLV-Z60 produces a sharper image. This is due to Panasonic’s use of their SmoothScreen technology, which makes the pixel structure almost totally invisible, but takes a toll in image softness. Both are quiet.

The Sanyo has a much better warranty – 3 years, with fast turn-around, vs. a standard one year warranty. Price wise, these two will normally sell for the same price, so no advantage there. Because of the nature of the differences, most will see a clear choice between these two.

PLV-Z60 vs. Epson Home Cinema 720

I’m not sure that Epson will be killing off the Home Cinema 720 in December when their new low cost Home Cinema 700 ships. The 720 has more placement flexibility than the new Home Cinema 700, and is more expensive, so I suspect it will be around for quite some time. The Epson Home Cinema 720 fits nicely between the Sanyo and Panasonic entries. Like the PT-AX200U, the Epson significantly brighter than the Sanyo, in best mode, and also the brightest mode, although the Panasonic is brighter still. Still the Epson has plenty of punch for sports with some ambient light, compared to the Sanyo. The Home Cinema 720′s image sharpness is not as good as the Sanyo.

Pricing is again similar. Both have comparable placement flexibility. I give the Sanyo the edge in the naturalness of the picture – just a touch more “film-like”, as the Epson can sometimes be a little “hard”. (I’m talking really small differences here.)

I see the Epson as the projector in the middle, between the Sanyo and the Panasonic. It also has a great warranty – 2 years with an overnight replacement program, compared to Sanyo’s longer 3 years, but only “rapid” turn-around.

If you are going smaller screen sizes, or are a movie only person, you likely will favor the Sanyo, but if you are at 106 or 110 inch screen sizes, in a typical room, the Epson has the horsepower advantage you might want.

PLV-Z60 vs. Optoma HD65

Interesting! Very Interesting! I wish I still had the HD65 here for comparison. The HD65 is a classy little DLP projector with the usual very limited placement flexibiility. It does, however have really good color out of the box, even better than the Sanyo.

One of the interesting things about the HD65, is that, while brightness in brightest mode is pretty much the same as the Sanyo, the HD65 is far brighter in best mode, pushing out more than double the lumens of the Sanyo in Pure Cinema mode.

That makes the HD65 a better choice for those wanting a larger screen, but not really into HDTV/sports viewing with some ambient light – in other words, those buying almost exclusively for movie watching.

Both provide a very sharp image, and while both give a slightly different feel to the image, both are natural. The gamma on the Optoma tends to make dark colors stand out more giving a bit more depth, but, this is the stuff of side by side comparisions. It’s not like you would watch the Z60 and say, “gee, that dark blue could have more pop”. I will, however give the Sanyo a slight advantage in black level performance.

Warranty again, can be a key point. Optoma only offers a one year parts and labor warranty. On the other hand the HD65 is officially $300 less expensive than the Sanyo (until Sanyo rolls out those inevitable rebates), so a 3rd party extended warranty bringing coverage on the Optoma to 3 years, would still have it costing less.

It’s a really interesting battle between these two projectors. I see them as very direct competitors. If you can place either in your room, it’s going to be a tough call. Despite my watching primarily the better 1080p projectors, both of these are impressive.

PLV-Z60 vs. Optoma HD71

The Optoma HD71 is an extremely bright, and more expensive projector. As such, I do not see them as direct competitors.

Sanyo PLV-Z60 Home Theater Projector: Summary

Great placement flexibility, a sharp image, and once calibrated, excellent color, plus very respectable black level performance. I will do a minor re-write, after testing the 2nd PLV-Z60, which I assume will not have the background color shift of the first unit. With the color shift gone, I’ll also get a slightly better handle on how good the black levels are. It may be that they are even better than I conclude from watching and observing this first PLV-Z60.

Update 10/14/08: Uneven Color Background issue. You’ll find more info in the Image Quality section at the bottom of the black level section. The key, though is that the production PLV-Z60 that came in, does not exhibit any significant color shift in the background, that would be readily visible when watching normal content. It’s about as good as one could expect. We remove our reservation regarding this issue, as noted when the review first published a couple of weeks ago. In addtion, we found the black levels to be slightly improved, overall, due, no doubt to the fairly bright blue the first unit produced on the right side, especially the whole upper right quadrant. -art

Sanyo PLV-Z60 Projector: Bottom Line

A great choice for those that do not need a whole lot of brightness. This Sanyo does not seem to have any real weaknesses beyond having limited lumens. If you are on a tight budget, and are going to be happy with screen sizes of 82″ to 100″ (or even 106″ diagonal), the PLV-Z60 is a well balanced solution, that also has the longest warranty in the 720p class.

The PLV-Z60 should have strong appeal with enthusiasts who care about all the details, and in this regard, it is definitely a worthy successor for the PLV-Z5. We are pleased to recognize the overall capabilities of the Sanyo PLV-Z5 with our Hot Product Award.

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