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Sharp XV-Z15000 Home Theater Projector First Look!

UPDATE: The Sharp XV-Z15000 Review has been posted. Greetings all, I've been playing with the XV-Z15000 for more than a week now.  The Sharp XV-Z15000 projector is Sharp's low cost 1080p DLP home theater projector.  When first announced it had an MSRP of $2999, but it seems to have dropped to $2499.  Either way, online pricing tends to be around $2000, mostly a little more, though I have spotted a few prices just below $2000. I often talk about projectors that are particularly enjoyable to watch, regardless of details relating to color accuracy, black levels, etc. I will say, that many of those that I pronounce very enjoyable to watch happen to be DLP based home theater projectors.  The Sharp XV-Z15000 definitely fits into this category. All considered, with this Sharp projector, the whole of its performance easily exceeds the sum of its individual abilities. OK, obviously I am enjoying watching it.  I've watched many movies, as well as some NBA playoffs on it, and while it isn't a really high performance - ultra-high contrast projector in terms of black level performance (despite the high contrast claim), , it does perform splendidly.  The feature set is typical DLP. At first watching, I immediately thought of it as a poor man's InFocus IN83.  (OK, the colors aren't quite that accurate, but, like the IN83, I tend to think something like:  Wow, great projector - now only if it had better blacks, and ...  And it always seems brighter, or perhaps I should say "punchier"  than the measurements would indicate. The basics - DLP projector - 1600 lumens claimed (no, it doesn't really have that kind of power, but not bad),  30,000:1 contrast ratio. The zoom is a manual 1.2:1 (typical of most DLP projectors.  This Sharp projector is on the smaller side, and is finished almost completely in black. Out of the box performance is pretty impressive in terms of accuracy, but can be improved.  Interestingly, no separate gain and bias controls for the primary colors, just a single control for red, and one for blue (sorry green, you just didn't make the cut).  There is, however a CMS - color management system for fine tuning individual colors.  (We normally don't calibrate the individual colors.)  Even without using the CMS, after calibration, color accuracy was Very, Very, good. Brightness is pretty average, especially in a price range dominated by 3LCD projectors.  We clocked 355 lumens in best mode (post calibration), with the manual iris stopped down (High Contrast option).  At the other extreme, with Bright Boost on (think Brilliant Color), and Dynamic mode, the XV-Z15000 measured 1055 lumens. As to how that compares to the competition, the Sharp can't match the horsepower of the BenQ W5000, perhaps it's closest DLP competition.  Compared to the best selling 3LCD projectors around its price, it can't match the Epsons in brightest mode (nor in best), but is about the same as the Sanyo Z3000 in brightest mode. Technically, the 355 lumens in best mode puts it below most of the competition, HOWEVER, Mike measured with manual iris on High Contrast, and as with other such projectors, we find that opening the iris all the way, provides more in extra brightness, than it costs in black level performance.  With that in consideration, the XV-Z15000 starts looking very typical in brightness, in the mid-400's along with most of the competition (the PT-AE3000 is a little short of that, and the Mitsubishi HC7000 and Sanyo Z3000 a bit dimmer still.  Only the more expensive Sony HW10 is dramatically brighter in best mode.  All in all, this Sharp projector has to be considered average in brightness. I'm still playing with Iris 2, the dynamic one.  It is not a fast adjusting iris, but it does seem to be smooth, more than I can say for some others.  More in the review. Definitely the dynamic iris is doing a bunch of compression of bright areas.  I had on one of the Star Trek movies the other night (Blu-ray), and in the beginning, when the credits were coming up and the background is a star field, you can see the whole star field brighten when each credit comes up, and dim when it fades away. Black level performance is probably sufficient.  It's not going to give the Epson Home Cinema 6500UB a run for the money, and probably not the Panasonic PT-AE3000.  It might come close to the Sanyo PLV-Z3000 though.  I'll start doing my side by sides with either the Epson or Panasonic (Panasonic I think) tonight.  (I've decided on the Panny, because I've been using the Epson so much (between side-by-sides, and the old de-focus, and CFI aspects). I can tell you this.  The Sharp can fill my 128" Firehawk G3 in best mode (with iris to high brightness, not high contrast), and does well enough with some ambient light, in dynamic mode. The NBA playoffs looked outstanding on the Sharp.   Dynamic mode has one of the best color balances of any projector recently reviewed, when comparing Dynamic modes. The gamma (setting 1, recommended by Mike after he calibrated), seems a little low, so some might prefer 0, but, with one, the projector is particularly good at handling those sunny days, giving you that bright - sunlight bouncing off of sunlit faces look that even my JVC RS20 can't do quite as well. OK bottom line - so far:  What we have here is a really nice $2000+ 1080p projector, with the usual limited placement flexibility of most DLPs.  Offsetting that is an especially good looking image, and great shadow detail, but only average (so far) black level performance. I really wish I had a BenQ W5000 here to compare the 2 DLP projectors.  I think the Sharp XV-Z15000 just might be able to give the brighter BenQ a decent run for the money, overall.  I expect the Sharp may slightly best the BenQ in terms of black levels. Enough - relax, I'll try to post the full review on the weekend, but probably it will be next Monday. I'm impressed!  -art

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