Best in Class, Runner-up Award: Sanyo PLV-Z700 Projector
I really like Sanyo's PLV-Z700. First of all, it is the lowest cost of all the 1080p projectors covered in this report. While it is currently (3/09) close to the $1500 price point, it's still a good $500 more than most of the 720p projectors. Let's say it's the one 1080p projector whose price is within striking distance, for those with 720p budgets, but who really wish they could afford a 1080p projector.
First things first. The PLV-Z700 does a pretty good job, right out of the box, in terms of color accuracy, and general image performance. That's better than most projectors. Still, a nice calibration will improve it further, and, of course, we recommend getting the best out of your investment. Once nicely adjusted, skin tones were "extremely good overall" (the phrase I used in the review). Shadow detail is really good as well.
Although the Sanyo has a significant price advantage over the Epson, there are areas where the Z700 cannot match the Epson:
First, the black level performance of the PLV-Z700 is a bit disappointing. Oh, it's not bad, but most of the competition in this category are just a little better, especially the Epson. However, we may be quibbling here, all in this price range are fairly comparable. Consider that the Z700 is much closer to the Epson 6100 in black levels, than the Epson is to the least expensive ultra-high-contrast projector, Sanyo's own flagship; the PLV-Z3000.
The other item is brightness. I won't go into the details here (see the review), but in its very best mode, the Sanyo is noticeably not bright at all. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to set this Sanyo up to get a respectable amount of lumens out of a "slightly modified" "best" mode. As we point out in the review, however, to get the most lumens out, you'll need to turn off the dynamic iris, which futher reduces black level performance. Fortunately, there are steps in between, but no matter how we slice it, the Epson 6100 is brighter, both in "best", and "brightest" modes, and more suitable for screens larger than 100" diagonal. In "brightest" mode, using settings we discuss to get more brightness, the Sanyo is still just average.
You can't argue with the Sanyo's placement flexibility, like the Epson, it has lots of lens shift, and its 2:1 zoom lens offers almost the same range as the Epson.
One big plus for the Z700 is its warranty, a three year parts and labor warranty. Now that's hard to beat. Other niceties include a motorized door that covers the lens (keeps out those pesky spiders and their webs, dust, etc.) when the projector is turned off. The lens shift has a nice lock to hold the settings firmly in place, and the Z700 has a way for the end user to clear the light path of one of those faint dust blobs, should one appear on your screen.
Bottom line: Hey, it's the most entry level 1080p projector. True, black levels could be a bit better, and it could be brighter, too, but the PLV-Z700 puts a really good image on the screen, with great color. The Z700's appeal to those on a tight budget, who otherwise are limited to 720p projectors, will be strong. For those not enthusiasts, the Z700 should prove very satisfying. It also makes great sense as a first projector for many who, once starting with this Sanyo, expect that they will eventually move up to one of the ultra-high-contrast projectors. That strategy means shelling out the least money now, leaving more cash for an upgrade a year or three down the line. I must say this, I ask a lot of people whose emails I answer to provide me feedback after they buy. So far, the word back is that PLV-Z700 owners are generally extremely pleased. What more is there to say?