Sharp XV-Z15000 - Review Summary
A summary of the Sharp XV-Z15000 projector's pros and cons and capabilities.
6/9/2009 - Art Feierman
Sharp XV-Z15000 Projector - The Bottom Line
Dr. Jekyll meet Mr. Hyde!
Most certainly, the Sharp XV-Z15000 is a projector with two personalities. One personality relates to the general picture quality, and the other, to, well, almost everything else. (I'll say now that the projector's brightness - which is average - not a bad thing), doesn't really fit either personality.
Fortunately, with the Sharp XV-Z15000, Dr. Jekyll has the stronger personality.
Let's start with the good Dr. Jekyll:
For a projector that likely is selling as I write this, in the low $2000 range, the picture quality is extremely impressive. The combination of excellent black levels, very good shadow detail, very good skin tones, and, a generally dynamic rich looking image (pop and wow!), without looking over the top, has made my viewing a great many movies and other content, most enjoyable. (Don't worry, I still like my JVC RS20 a lot better, but, hey, it's three times the price.)
For those old timers - who have owned one or more home theater projectors, and swear by DLP for its look and feel, this Sharp will make them feel young again. They've watched dynamic iris driven LCD projectors surpass the DLP projectors in what was their claim to fame, black level performance. They can rally behind this projector though, it can give all but a small handful of much more expensive projectors, a serious run for the money, in terms of deep dark blacks.
The XV-Z15000 is even very good relating to the Rainbow effect. I see rainbows with DLP projectors. (I'm only moderately affected.) For me it's normally not enough of a problem to eliminate a projector from consideration, but enough that it does impact my choices. This Sharp does well in this regard. I know TI has said the new projectors do better than older ones, even with the same speed color wheels, and I can attest to that. For me, the Sharp, like the Optoma HD8200, are almost rainbow free. I know for sure I would see more rainbows if I was watching the BenQ W5000. Of course only a small percent of the population has any issue with this, but, I can say, that for me, this one pretty much takes the rainbow effect off the table as an issue.
There is one weakness though, worth mentioning, in terms of picture quality. That relates to the dynamic iris. It's slow. You will see it change from bright scene to dark (or the other way), or even within the same scene as a bright object enters or leaves an otherwise not overly bright scene. Most home theater projectors these days, with dynamic irises have either fast ones, or offer fast or slow. (Fast irises aren't perfect either, btw.) I will say this, I think the Sharp XV-Z15000 projector's iris is pretty smooth, so I never found it really annoying (which can happen, i.e., some Optoma models), but I would say it could stand some improvement. If you ever encounter a scene where a bright object (on an otherwise moderately dark scene), turns off and on, such as a flashing traffic light, you will be able to see everything else brighten and darken in time (or slightly behind - to be more accurate) with the flashing.
Then, there's the other personality of this projector - not exactly evil, like Mr. Hyde, but a number of traits, we'd rather not see. It's a whole different story. I can almost say, that this second, less desirable personality relates to the physical, and performance, as opposed to the "good Dr. Jekyll" that represents image quality.
There are a number of issues. Some small, some medium, nothing drastic though, to dampen my enthusiasm.
Its placement flexibility is one of the weakest out there. This projector will either work in your room or not, so start there! It just won't work for a lot of people. Of course no shelf mounting, but there's more. Unless you plan to just plop it on a table, this projector is going to ceiling mount, and it's going to have to be exactly "right there" with only 19" of front to back mounting range for a 100 inch diagonal screen. For those that like larger screens and to sit fairly close, that's going to limit you to placing it pretty much right over your head, or just a little closer. It's 1.15:1 zoom ratio is the smallest I am aware of of the 1080p projectors (not that most other DLP's are much better with 1.2:1). Still very limiting in terms of ceiling mounting. On the plus side, though, its lens offset is less than some of those DLP projectors so it doesn't have to be mounted as much above the screen, making it more viable for low ceilinged rooms, or average ceilings and larger screens. No lens shift, and minimal zoom, it's not even in the same league as any of the 3LCD or LCoS projectors.
Then there's the lens. I'm not sure what the story is, but, this is the first projector in quite a long time, that I noticed a decrease in sharpness from one point on the screen to another, in casual viewing. Don't get me wrong, no lens will give you a razor sharp image across the screen, but, this one is definitely weak in this regard. You can easily see a difference in sharpness from, say the top of an open menu to the bottom, and we're not exactly talking overly large menus here. I would venture to say, that if you stand 5 feet from a 100 inch screen, put up a menu, and you can see the sharpness difference between two menu items only a foot apart (that screen would be 4 feet 1 inch tall). I guess I could take a knife and try to scratch the lens to find out if it's plastic, but Sharp wouldn't be too happy with me.
Mind you, that's not a fatal flaw, but a weakness in an otherwise strong projector. Be sure, if you buy one of these Sharps, to set your focus about 1/3 out from the center. That will give you the best overall sharpness. (Even 1/3 out, you can see a little softness in the center, so some might like 1/4 of the way out from center.)
The fan of this unit rattles a little for the first couple of minutes. While I expect that is just this unit (it's been around the block, I'm not the first reviewer to beat it up). Not a big point, as even if other exhibit this to some degree, it definitely calms down after a couple of minutes. (Overall, the fan noise levels are on the high side of average. I did notice, when doing the Epson 6500UB vs. XV-Z15000 side by side images that the Sharp was a little bit noiser than the Epson - a db, or perhaps two).
And finally, there's the warranty. I'm just not a fan of 1 year warranties. Buy an extended is my best advice, even if 3rd party (they are cheap). Projectors cost too much to repair, and if out of warranty, and a lot of hours on the lamp, it may not make sense to repair it at all. That would be a terrible thing if you've only had it for 13 months! I figure everyone should have two years warranty. With some competition offering three years, and several companies providing replacement programs, the Sharp warranty is as minimal as it gets.
OK, I've raved positively, and I've bitched about some flaws.
I should also note, that the Sharp lacks CFI (creative frame interpolation), but only a few LCD projectors have that so far. Sports fans would like that feature, and it is a feature that I think most projectors will have in the next two years. Creative Frame interpolation has been a hot feature in the LCDTV market.
Overall, this is an excellent projector. If you can get over any placement issues, it seems to me that the Sharp XV-Z15000 is the strongest performing new DLP projector to hit the market recently in it's price range. This Sharp definitely is up to challenging the 3LCD projectors, and the Sony VPL-HW10. It may not have some fancy features like creative frame interpolation, or support for an anamorphic lens, but it really looks great. I'd say it's one fine deal for around $2000, and one of the best choices around.
The Bottom Line: If the Sharp XV-Z15000 will work in your room, if the budget is tight, and especially if you like the DLP look and feel, this one is about as good (a value) as it gets. I see myself recommending the XV-Z15000 to a lot of folks!
Sharp XV-Z15000 Projector: Pros, Cons, and Typical Capabilities
Sharp XV-Z15000 Projector: Pros
- Good "out of the box" picture quality (Natural mode, Dynamic)
- Very good color accuracy post calibration in best mode (Movie 2)
- Excellent black level performance for the price, one of the best lower cost projectors in this regard
- Great picture quality for the price
- A little brighter than average in "Brightest" mode (Dynamic)
- Two HDMI 1.3 inputs, full support for 24 fps, Deep Color, CEC etc.
- Lens offset is less than with most other DLP projectors, making it more viable in rooms with low ceilings or with larger screens
- Very good menus
- Lamp door in front, no need to unmount a ceiling mounted projector to change
- No filters to change, minimizing maintenance
- Rainbow effect minimized, and not an issue for most who are moderately sensitive
- A handle that pulls out for use (not that most folks will be moving a projector like this around)
- Overall, an excellent projector, and especially appealing to those favoring the DLP look and feel
- An excellent value proposition (worth the bucks!)
Sharp XV-Z15000 Projector: Cons
- The remote control for several reasons, starting with the lack of a backlight
- Extremely limited placement flexibility, no lens shift
- Lens does not have great depth of field, as a result there is more roll off in sharpness toward the outside of the image than with many other projectors, still, sharpness overall is about average
- Noticeable "out of the box" color inaccuracy, for Movie 2 (best mode)
- Dynamic iris is slow and action can be visible
- No support for an anamorphic lens
- 1 year warranty
Sharp XV-Z15000 Projector: Typical Capabilities
- In "best" mode, this Sharp projector is just about average in brightness
- Audible noise is reasonable, and just a little less noisy than most DLP projectors, on the high side of average overall
- Lamp life
- Sharpness of the image, overall
- Shadow detail performance
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