Sharp XV-Z20000 1080p Home Theater Projector Review - Image Quality
The XV-Z20000 is a superb 1080p home theater projector when it comes to image quality.
Although the XV-Z20000 needs some minor adjusting out of the box, it is a pleasure to watch. Last night concluded my watching of content in my theater room. Over the course of the review, I watched (as is typical), 10 - 30 minute clips from movies including Space Cowboys, Phantom of the Opera, House of the Flying Daggers, Sin City, Aeon Flux, The Fifth Element, and others.
Most of the images below (movie content) were photographed with the XV-Z20000 in Movie 1 mode (which I found to be a touch more natural than Movie 2 mode), but, with the Iris set to High contrast (I believe the default for Movie 1, is Medium contrast). The Brilliant Color was left in the default Off position. I found Brilliant Color often gave a less natural look to fleshtones - a trade off for "pumping up" the dynamics of the image. In addition, there seems to be a signficant, though not huge, color temperature shift with Brilliant Color on. (More on this below in the General Image Quality section.)
Sharp XV-Z20000 projector: Flesh Tone Handling:
Even before adjustment the fleshtones of the Sharp XV-Z20000 appeared very natural, although before adjustment they were just a touch "cool" (a very slight shift to blue, and away from red).
First we'll do the usual "low def" images from Lord of the Rings, and The Fifth Element, from standard DVD. (SD-DVD).
Moving to hi-def DVD, the first image is from The House of the Flying Daggers, which offers some of the most spectacular color I have ever seen in a movie, and it literally blows most people away, with the richness, detail, and natural appearance. If only the images on our site could fully capture what the viewer sees on an excellent home theater projector, be it this Sharp, the JVC RS1, the Panasonic PT-AE1000U, and so on.
The immediately above, and the one below are from Phantom of the Opera (HD-DVD).
Space Cowboys (above), from HD-DVD.
Our last fleshtone image is a nice high contrast night scene from Aeon Flux (HD-DVD):
In the image above, you can pick up a little bit too much yellow in the darker areas of her face (such as just above the neck). Still this is a very high contrast shot that is a challenge for most projectors I have reviewed.
While we are talking flesh tone handling, here are a couple of images from HDTV sources:
Jay Leno's skin tones looked especially good. Overall I found skin tones from HDTV sources to be very good, although once in a while I could detect a very slight greenish caste, most notably on some of the music videos from M-HD (MTV's hi-def music video channel).
Sharp XV-Z20000 projector: Black Levels and Shadow Details
Finally! The XV-Z20000 is a serious competitor for the JVC RS1, which until this review was the hands down black level champion of the under $10K, 1080p projector group. The XV-Z20000 offers excellent blacks. A close comparison of several images I like to use, find that the Z20000 can't quite match the RS1, but it is so close that I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter. In switching back and forth in my theater room between the two projectors (it takes around a minute, so this isn't "side-by-side", I could never detect a significant difference between the two. (There are several issues. My JVC fills my 128" screen, but the XV-Z20000, where I have to place it, only fills about a 110" diagonal. Also, the JVC is noticeably brighter when both are in best modes.)
Up until now, though I felt only the Sony Pearl came close to the RS1, and since it relies heavily on dynamic iris work, on some scenes the JVC does a easily visible, better job. With the XV-Z20000, however, dark rich blacks are consistant, regardless of the scene.
In terms of actual shadow detail, the JVC has a very slight edge.
Below, first are some of the images I like to use for purposes of observing shadow details, starting with this starship image from The Fifth Element (SD-DVD):
Blacks are "rich", and dark enough to allow a tremendous number of dimmer stars to appear.
By comparison, the image above, is the same frame, from the RS-1. As you can see, the star visibility between the two is almost identical. (Ignore color balance differences - not relevant for images I shoot for black level and shadow details.) Obviously, I cropped these two differently. You can, of course, click on the images for larger versions.
The first of the two "satellite" images below, from Space Cowboys (hi-def), is the Sharp, the second one is the Sony Pearl. The exposures are slightly different, but close. I would call the sky just a touch inkier black on the Sharp, even though the Sony is a touch underexposed by comparison. (And, the Sony, is very, very, good!)
Now to my favorite, the cavern image from Phantom of the Opera:
I'll try to get the comparisons "out of my system" so first is the XV-Z20000, followed by the JVC DLA-RS1, and lastly one of the lower cost 1080p DLP projectors, the Optoma HD81.
In each case, clicking on the image will bring up a larger image, and one that is seriously overexposed, to bring out the shadow details.
OK, another comparison set. This from Lord of the Rings. Again, clicking on each image, brings up a larger, and overexposed version so you can see how well each projector did in the dark areas on the right side (the shed) and along the bottom.
Panasonic PT-AE1000U (street price under $3000, so the Panasonic is roughly 1/3 the sellling price of the XV-Z20000 at the time of this review):
Enough said! Here are some additional pictures good for considering black levels and shadow detail. Most of these can be found on at least some reviews of competing 1080p projectors:
The image above is a heavily cropped, and overexposed image from Lord of the Rings. Note the subtle colors you can pick out on the building in the center of this shot. If you visit the JVC review, you'll find a similar shot (click on that regularly exposed and full frame image for the overexposed version). The JVC image isn't quite as overexposed, yet the colors are a touch more visible. I should note, that most other projectors don't really reveal any of the colorations at all.
More Sharp XV-Z20000 images:
The last comparison of black levels and shadow detail - I promise:
From Space Cowboys, the re-entry scene (click to enlarge):
Same image - seriously overexposed:
This second pair is from the JVC. (note the "overexposed" JVC image is a bit less overexposed than the Sharp version). Once again, both are very close overall. In the more critical comparison, on the live screen, the JVC gets the slight advantage, but, I emphasize again, these two are extremely close. Your final decision to pick one over the other is, most likely, going to be based on other aspects, rather than black levels and shadow detail, although you may consider it as one factor.
Some additional dark scenes first two from Sin City (SD-DVD):
One from Lord of the Rings (SD-DVD)
And finally, from Blu-Ray, Aeon Flux - look to the detail in the table, the shadows (this is another image found in almost all the 1080p projector reviews):
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Sharp XV-Z20000 projector, General Image Quality
As previously mentioned, the Sharp projector was consistently a pleasure to watch. Color saturation was very good, and images overall, were rich and dynamic. Remember, the XV-Z20000 in particular offers a huge amount of image control. For example I found that engaging the Brilliant Color option, improved it's "pop" or "wow" factor, but skin tones were a bit less natural - a little hard looking.
This time I'll start with a few HDTV images, and then move to DVD.
OK, back to DVD, starting with various hi-def (Blu-ray or HD-DVD) sources. In fact I'll start with my DTS Demo disc (Blu-ray), because those images are inherently gorgeous to begin with.
On to images from movies... all are hi-def DVDs (Blu-Ray or HD-DVD) unless noted.
Sharp XV-Z20000 Sharpness
The XV-Z20000 scores big in the sharpness category. Of all the 1080p projectors so far, only the Mitsubishi HC5000 tends to look a touch sharper. Because the Mitsubishi is LCD, it's pixel visibility is just barely below conciousness, which I believe tends to make it seem sharper than it is. (It doesn't reveal any more detail, but gives the feeling of "razor sharp".)
Although I did not have the opportunity to have the XV-Z20000 here at the same time as the BenQ W10000 and Optoma HD81, both which are very sharp, based on my viewing compared to the JVC RS1, I suspect the Sharp is at least as sharp as the BenQ and Optoma, and maybe a touch sharper.
Bottom line is that the Sharp XV-Z20000 lives up to its name - Sharp!
Compared to the JVC RS1, I do not believe that the Sharp is actually revealing more detail, but it does feel just that little bit sharper when viewing, (supported by my test images) from my close seating position. For my extended viewing, I had the Sharp filling about 110" diagonal of my 128" Firehawk G3, and I sit exactly 11 feet back (measured from eyeball to screen). Even that distance to a 110" image is considered a little closer than average. When I move to my back row of seating - about 20 feet to the 128" screen, there is no way to tell a difference at all.
(Ok, here's a side note for you: I purchased new eye glasses last week. Both of my eyes are corrected now, to 20/15, and with both open, I can read most of the 20/10 line without error. As a result, I have better vision than the vast majority, and even considering that - the differences between these better 1080p projectors are most subtle!)
Images time. I'll start with the closeup of the computer monitors from Space Cowboys (Blu-ray DVD) 1080p. First is the Sharp XV-Z20000, and to the right, the JVC RS1:
Click on the thumbnails below for large images of this Warner Bros. logo.
In order from left to right: Sharp XV-Z20000, JVC RS1, Mitsubishi HC5000, and the last one, the Epson Home Cinema 1080.
Below are thumbnail images of the full DTS screen (from my DTS Blu-Ray demo disk). Click on them for closeups of about 20% of the screen area. For your consideration, click on the second thumbnail for similar image from the Sony Pearl, and the third, for the JVC RS1. You can definitely see that the Sharp, is, - well, sharper. Remember you are looking at a closeup of about 15% to 20% of the area of the whole screen. The question is can you see the difference under normal viewing distances. The answer is - yes, in a side by side, you could, but it is unlikely that you could tell them apart in terms of sharpness, if you viewed one, and then another 10 minutes later. Still, while every last ounce of sharpnesss is a good thing, it is most unlikely that the difference in sharpness will be a critical factor in most decisions - even for folks who like to sit as close as I do.
Here are a few more images, that are good displays of sharpness. Similar images can be found on most of the 1080p projector reviews:
That wraps up our image quality section. The Sharp XV-Z20000 scores extremely well in every category. The XV-Z20000 may be the most expensive of the 10 1080p projectors we've considered so far. That said, it certainly can command a higher price (based on overall image quality), than any of the other projectors, with the possible exception of the JVC DLA-RS1. (Look for a direct comparison review of the Sharp vs. the JVC to appear a week or two after this has been published.)
Time to move on to General Performance, where we will consider many topics, including the Sharp's menus and the remote control, projector screen recommendations, measurements of brightness and color, and audible noise levels. Onward!