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Sanyo PLV-Z5 Projector Review: Summary, Pros, Cons

Posted on November 2, 2006 by Art Feierman

Very interesting! For the first time, in the form of the Sanyo PLV-Z5, I have found an LCD projector, that at it's price, will really be appreciated by what I like to call the movie "purists". I better define what I mean by "purists"; I'm talking about folks looking for a projector that excels for movie viewing. This is a projector for people who can almost, or fully, darken their rooms in the evening for their movie watching, regardless of daytime ambient light. These same people care about the image on the screen, whether they are technical about it, or just watch it, but want it to look especially good. You can still be a "purist" and want to watch TV/HDTV, including sports, but your focus is movies, and will sacrifice performance on TV content in exchange for great movie viewing. (Not that the Sanyo has any problems with TV or HDTV, whether your preference is sports or Discovery HD.)

Traditionally DLP's have been favored by most "purists". Inherently DLP's produce blacker blacks, and what some call, more of a film-like quality, but modern AI technology like dynamic irises have neutralized much of the DLP advantage.

The Sanyo PLV-Z5, has a great many things going for it, that makes me believe that the movie lover will be most pleased. At its best, it produces extremely black blacks. Of course in some scenes with strong bright areas, as demonstarted in the Image Quality section, the blacks are compromised somewhat, but the eye will notice that less in a frame with bright areas.

The shadow detail, however is excellent, of projectors reviewed that sell for around $3000 or less, second only to the more expensive Samsung SP-H710AE (a DLP projector) but better than any of the similarly priced competition.

Add to that, what is likely the sharpest image of any projector under $2000, and that makes for some very strong credentials.

Price Performance - The Sanyo Z5 launches with a $1995 list price, but more important is the MAP (minimum advertised price) of $1695. MAP is usually a good indicator of selling price with most dealers at MAP or below. Add to that, a $200 mail in rebate, starting immediately with first shipments (and not likely to go away), and you can expect to pay a net of no more than $1495. Last year's Z4, started out $500 higher, and, of course, the PLV-Z5 is a better projector.

Sanyo PLV-Z5 vs. The competition:

The Sanyo comes a few hundred below its most obvious competitor, the Panasonic PT-AX100U. (Every year, the big battle seems to be Panasonic vs. Sanyo.) The Pansonic has some big advantages - being much brighter, better "out of the box" color, and having virtually invisible pixels. Both projectors offer extremely flexible placement, though the Sanyo has a slight edge there. The Sanyo, though has its long list of strengths, especially a sharper image, and better shadow detail and black levels, from a performance standpoint. It also sports a three year warranty, compared to the Panny's one year. Now most buyers don't pay that much attention to warranty, but if you have the Panasonic, and it has a major problem in year two, you will be very unhappy.

Also competing against the Sanyo, is the brighter Epson Cinema 400, also with an excellent warranty, and better "out of the box" color accuracy, but it comes in slightly higher in price, and can't match the sharpness nor the shadow detail of the Sanyo. On a tight budget, if you need the extra lumens, and want something with better color without adjustment, (and Epson's unmatched rep for reliability and support), you likely would choose the Epson. Otherwise, I'd give Sanyo the edge, especially for those concerned primarily with movies in dark rooms (and bottom line price).

On the DLP front, you can consider the Mitsubishi HD1000u, which is brighter, but not significantly so. At its best, the Sanyo easily beats the HD1000U in black levels, but, as usual, in certain scenes, where all the AI can't do its thing, the HD1000U should have an edge. The Mitsubishi is $1495 MAP, but almost immediately, Mitsubishi started offering a free replacement lamp. That gives the pricing edge to the HD1000U. A typical DLP, you need to consider if it will place easily in your room, as it has a much more limited zoom lens, and no lens shift.

The Optoma HD72, which has been around a while, can muster up more lumens in brightest mode, but, like the HD1000U, won't produce quite as sharp an image. It's always been a favorite of mine thanks to its punch, and should appeal more to those wanting general use - movies, TV/HDTV, etc., and are also more concerned about ambient light.

BenQ's PE7700, perhaps the oldest DLP out there, is also very sharp, but like the Sanyo, isn't particularly bright. (It has the best of the warranties - 3 years, with a first year replacement). The Sanyo again should have the edge (most of the time) in black levels. It's been a long time since I played with the PE7700, but since my Darkchip3 PE8720, the step up product, is only close to the Sanyo in shadow detail, the Sanyo should have a good advantage.

Optoma HD70 - This is Optoma's new entry level 720p projector and it is only $999. It is our next review. Since the HD72 on paper is a better, brighter projector than the HD70, I'll have to expect that the HD70 really can't take on the Sanyo on a performance basis, but easily wins on price. We shall see!

Back to my thoughts on the Sanyo PLV-Z5:

On the downside, it certainly isn't the brightest projector in the class. But in all fairness, even in best modes it's about average. Although, in Pure Cinema, low lamp, and iris on, it is truly Not Bright with barely 200 lumens. Fortunately you can get an excellent picture and still pump out over 400 lumens. Specifically, with a great setup in Creative Cinema, I had lumen measurements (full lamp) in the upper three hundreds to almost 500 lumens, depending on other settings. I can hardly call this projector underpowered. It just won't be a top choice for those less movie focused, and wanting tons of lumens for their Sunday football, on really big screens.

A key decision factor will be your choice of screen and screen size. Based on common screen sizes, I would say, in most rooms with a neutral gain screen (1.0), optimum screen size, is anywhere from below 92" diagonal to 106" diagonal. Realizing that 110" diagonal is an extremely popular size, no problem, just be sure to move to a screen with modest gain, like the Carada Brilliant White or Stewart Studiotek 130 (claiming 1.4 and 1.3 gain).

Time to look the overall pluses and minuses:

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