HOME > Shoot-out: Panasonic PT-AX100U vs. Sanyo PLV-Z5
Panasonic PT-AX100 vs. Sanyo PLV-Z5
October 13, 2006,
It's October again. And regular as clockwork, the Harvest moon rises, the fall colors turn, the Yankees lose in the playoffs, and the home theater industry sees an all-new clash of the LCD titans, Panasonic and Sanyo.
This year the head-to-head rivalry is between the Panasonic PT-AX100U and the Sanyo PLV-Z5, both of which are native 1280x720 resolution LCD home theater projectors selling for under $2,000. I have no idea who will win the World Series, but when it comes to home theater projectors, we have no shortage of prognostications.
Calling a clear winner between the AX100 and the Z5 is impossible. Both are outstanding projectors that surpass the performance of previous generation models. Each has performance advantages over the other. We have rated both of them a solid five stars across the board, not because they are perfect, but because they represent state-of-the-art achievements that deliver loads of features and great image quality for projectors in this price class. Which of the two of them may be right for you depends entirely on the type of viewing you do. In a nutshell, if you want or need to do your viewing in some ambient light, the AX100U is the better choice, and for dark theater viewing the PLV-Z5 is the better alternative. Each of them has been reviewed individually. (See the Panasonic AX100U review and the Sanyo PLV-Z5 review.)
Impressions and observations
Panasonic has made a huge splash with the AX100U, primarily on the strength of a large increase in potential lumen output over its predecessor, the PT-AE900. The AX100U is rated at 2000 ANSI lumens, while the AE900 was rated at 1100 AL. The AX100 is designed to operate either in a dark room theater environment or in moderate ambient light, as the user's situation dictates. Since many people don't have the ability or desire to view movies and/or sports and other HDTV programming in a dark room, the AX100's wide range of variable light output provides viewing flexibility that most other home theater projectors do not. In this regard, the AX100 is a dramatic step forward beyond last year's AE900.
In comparison, Sanyo's new PLV-Z5 does not appear at first to be a major step beyond the PLV-Z4 released last fall. The spec sheets taken by themselves indicate modest improvements. In terms of contrast, the Z5 is rated at 10,000:1 compared to 7000:1 for the Z4. And lumen output has been boosted by 10%, with spec ratings going from 1000 ANSI lumens on the Z4 to 1100 AL on the Z5. Unfortunately, brightness and contrast specs often have more of an influence on consumer behavior than they should. So let's focus on some real issues that don't appear on the official spec sheets......
Video Resolution. Both of these projectors have a physical pixel matrix, or native resolution, of 1280x720. However, their ability to resolve fine detail is not identical. The AX100U is able to cleanly resolve more lines of standard definition DVD video resolution, both horizontally and vertically, than is the Z5. In practical terms this means that the AX100U is capable of delivering somewhat more precisely defined image detail in, say, the texture of fabric or blades of grass in a lawn.
So, it all depends on what you want to do with it ...
The big advantage of the Panasonic PT-AX100U over the Sanyo PLV-Z5 is its much higher lumen output potential. You can bump it up to 1400 ANSI lumens or more for a bright image in moderate ambient light for a SuperBowl party. You can set it to Vivid Cinema and get over 800 ANSI lumens, which is enough to successfully fill a very large screen, say 150" diagonal or more, in a dark viewing space. In ambient light, the contrast advantage of the Z5 over the AX100U becomes irrelevant. If you are planning to do a lot of viewing in ambient light, the AX100U is clearly the stronger choice.
On the other hand, if your objective is to obtain maximum image quality in a dark theater environment, the Sanyo PLV-Z5 is the stronger alternative. If we did not need the lumen power of the AX100U, we would definitely choose the PLV-Z5 due to its higher contrast, lower digital noise level, and sharper image. Additional attractions are its lower price and three year warranty coverage-the AX100U comes standard with a one year warranty.
Either way, these are two outstanding home theater projectors that represent the best of a long line of widescreen LCD products from Panasonic and Sanyo. Both of them are impressive in their own rights and we enthusiastically recommend either one depending upon your anticipated viewing needs.
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