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Sanyo PLV-Z5 Home Theater Video Projector Review

Sanyo PLV-Z5 Home Theater Video Projector

by Bill Livolsi on October 13, 2006  |  ProjectorCentral.com  |  Subscribe
Best Home Theater Projector
Performance
5
Features
Ease of Use
Value
Sanyo PLV-Z5 Projector Sanyo PLV-Z5
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10000:1 Contrast Ratio
1100 Lumens
Street Price: n/a

Last year, the Sanyo PLV-Z4 earned a very high rating for its image performance, feature set, and placement flexibility. At the time, it was hard to consider how Sanyo would improve upon such an excellent projector. Now, with the release of the PLV-Z5, we have an answer. The PLV-Z5 is a direct evolution of the Z4, with improvements in several important areas of image quality. The result is a rock-solid performer that sells at the astounding low estimated street price of $1695.

Preliminary Specifications

ANSI lumens: 1100

Contrast (full on/off): 10,000:1

Light Engine: 1280x720, native 16:9, 3x 0.7" PolySi LCD.

Data Compatibility: Computer resolutions up to WXGA.

Connection Panel: 2x HDMI inputs, one VGA input, two sets of component YPbPr inputs, one S-Video input, one composite input, one service port, one kensington lock point, hardwired power on/off switch.

Lens and Throw Distance: 2:1 manual zoom/focus lens with manual H/V lens shift. Throws a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 10.1' to 20.1'

Warranty: Three years.

General Impressions / Feature Set

The Z5 uses the same sleek gray casework as the Z4, complete with motorized lens cover. The cover opens automatically when you power the projector on, then closes up again when it's turned off. This will help to keep dust off of the lens without forcing you to remember to replace the lens cap or flip up the front cover as on the older Z3.

The connection panel is almost identical to that of the Z4, with one major addition: The PLV-Z5 has two HDMI ports to the Z4's one. This will allow the connection of two high-quality digital sources to your projector without requiring the use of an HDMI switching device. In addition, there are two YPbPr component inputs, S-Video, composite video, a VGA port, and a service port. The Z5 should have ample connection options for most any set of home theater equipment.

The PLV-Z5 retains the same extensive zoom and lens shift as the older Z4, allowing you to display a 100" diagonal image from 10.1 feet to 20.1 feet. As with the Z4, the lens shift in neutral position puts the center of the image at the same height as the centerline of the lens. From this position, the image can be shifted 150% above or below the lens, or 50% of the picture width to either side. This allows for a wide range of mounting options, including short throw from a coffee table, short or long throw from a ceiling mount, and long throw from a rear shelf mount. Note, however, that the extreme edges of horizontal and vertical shift cannot both be reached simultaneously, and using the extremities of the shift range can cause a drop in lumen output. The Z5 is one of the most flexible projectors available in terms of mounting options, and should fit most any theater without a hitch.

The PLV-Z5 likewise retains the Z4's dual-iris system. With an iris on the lamp and lens, the Z5's lumen output is highly variable. Closing both irises gives stellar contrast to dark-room home theater, while opening them allows for a moderate degree of ambient light in the room.

The auto-shutdown feature will turn off the Z5 automatically if a signal is not detected for five minutes. If you or your family members occasionally forget to turn off the projector after use, this feature can save you many hours of lamp life.

The menu system is overflowing with features to make the most of your projector's performance and tailor the projected image to your viewing environment. The seven preprogrammed image modes are suitable for most any setting, from moderate ambient light in a living room to a pitch-black theater. In addition, there are four user-programmable image modes, which can be stored and recalled at any time. These modes will remember your settings on every aspect of the projector's operation, from color balance and contrast to iris control.

The "Advanced" menu in particular houses several useful controls. "Auto black stretch" and "Contrast improvement" both alter the Z5's gamma settings automatically to deepen black levels, while "Transient improvement" changes edge enhancement.

The remote features direct access to common image adjustments, all of the projector's sources, and of course standard menu controls. It is backlit to aid in visibility in dark environments, fits well in the hand, and is compact and ergonomic. While the buttons are small, they are logically placed, and the learning curve is quite simple.

The Z5 comes standard with a three-year warranty from Sanyo, which is the longest warranty period typically seen on home theater projectors. To put this in perspective, if you had purchased Sanyo's old PLV-Z3 (two generations back) on the day of its release, it would still be under warranty today, and would remain so for another full year.

Image performance aside, the Sanyo PLV-Z5 is an incredibly feature-rich projector, and with prices starting at just $1695, it represents an outstanding value in today's market.

Performance

Lumen output on the Z5 can be fine-tuned to fit any theater environment. For bright rooms, "Dynamic" mode focuses mainly on lumen output while compromising contrast and color, but outputs 780 ANSI lumens. "Living" mode gives excellent color fidelity and contrast while producing up to 350 ANSI lumens. "Brilliant Cinema" does not quite provide the contrast performance of "Living" mode, but does produce 440 ANSI lumens. For dark rooms, "Pure Cinema" gives the best color and contrast performance, and cuts lumen output down to 180 ANSI with the iris halfway closed. The PLV-Z5 provides at minimum a 10 to 15% increase in lumen output over the PLV-Z4 in every image mode, and in some cases more. Brightness uniformity is still 90% or better.

It should be noted that in projectors with long zoom lens ranges like the Z5, lumen output varies considerably between the lens' widest angle and its most telescopic. If you need maximum light output, you'd want to use the widest angle possible and set the projector as close to the screen as possible. This is not recommended however. The further back you set a projector, you reduce the angle of the projected cone of light. This reduces the incident angle that the light strikes the screen, and thus reduces the angle of reflected light, providing more even illumination. Nevertheless, with lenses as long as 2.0x zoom range, lumen output can vary as much as 40% between the two extremes, so setting the projector closer to the screen will produce a brighter image. As a matter of practice, we generally take lumen measurements with the lens at its most telescopic in order to get the most conservative readings, and we have done so in this review as well.

Contrast has been improved over the Z4. Black levels are deeper and highlights are brighter. For dark theater situations, we recommend closing the iris halfway. This cuts extraneous lumen output and greatly improves black level, making the Z5 competitive with some single-chip DLP home theater projectors in dark room settings.

Possibly the Z5's greatest improvement comes in color performance. Even using out of the box settings, the Z5 produced extremely accurate color with better saturation. Color from every source we tested was rich and accurate. Grayscale tracking measured within 100 degrees Kelvin of 6500K from 30IRE up through 80IRE, with 90 and 100IRE showing a bit more warmth and dropping towards 5900K. This is exceptional performance from any projector, and is all but unheard of from a budget LCD projector like the PLV-Z5.

In the original PLV-Z4 review, deinterlacing was identified as a noteworthy flaw. However, when testing the Z4 again side by side with the Z5, it became apparent that we had made a set-up error in testing during the original review, because deinterlacing is excellent on both the Z4 and Z5, especially in "Film" mode. From appearances, we'd guess that the two projectors are using the same chip for deinterlacing, because we could see no discernible difference.

The Z5 projects a very sharp image. Edge enhancement is set too high out of the box, so we ended up turning Sharpness down to its absolute minimum (-7) and changing Transient Improvement to L1. This gave the image ample sharpness without artificial, unnatural enhancement. When we pushed Transient Improvement to L2 or L3, detail was lost and flesh tones in particular took on an artificial, porcelain smoothness that looked decidedly unnatural.

Finally, one of the most remarkable features of the Z5 is that it has almost no image noise, and in fact delivers as close to a noise-free image as we've seen in projectors in this price range. This, along with the other advantages listed, enables the PLV-Z5 to produce an exceptionally clean, sharp, and natural image.

Conclusion

Not many projectors warrant a rating of five stars across the board. Even on high quality performers we can usually find some flaw or design limitation that causes us to knock down the rating in one or more categories. However, there is no justification for rating the PLV-Z5 any less than the full five stars. For a price of just $1,695 including a three year warranty, the buyer gets an extensive feature set, stellar image performance, and one of the best values in home theater projectors we've ever seen.

(11/13/19 - 08:16 PM PST)
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