1080p Home Theater Projector
Sanyo Z2000 vs. Optoma HD80
The Optoma HD80 came out this past summer at what was then an aggressive price of $2,699 for a 1080p projector. It represented an outstanding value for those who wanted to step into 1080p at a very low price. Not only was it 1080p, but it delivered an exceptionally sharp and very bright image even in comparison to more expensive 1080p models. Its shortcomings included a short 1.2x zoom lens, no lens shift, and a fixed throw angle offset that made it uniquely suitable for ceiling mount, but difficult to install on a rear shelf. It also had higher than average fan noise, and a 300-watt lamp that throws off quite a bit of heat. The replacement lamp costs $480, which is higher than average.
Competition marches rapidly on-prices get lower and products get better. With the introduction of the Sanyo Z2000, the entry level price of 1080p takes a big drop to $2,195. In addition to the lower price, the Z2000 brings with it incrementally higher contrast, a slightly sharper picture, almost silent fan noise, and much greater installation flexibility due to the 2.0x zoom lens and extensive lens shift. The Z2000's lamp is only 165 watts, so the projector doesn't radiate as much heat.
In terms of overall picture quality, the HD80 and Z2000 are very close. In reality, the differences are only apparent in side by side comparison. Due to the varying effects of ImageAI on the HD80 and the variable iris on the Z2000, the two projectors will alternate back and for based on the average light level of any given scene as to which looks higher in contrast, or deeper in black level. And in any case there is not a radical difference between them. On an ANSI checkerboard pattern, the Z2000 measures slightly blacker blacks, and slightly brighter whites. But when standing back and looking at them, they appear essentially identical.
The Z2000 has an advantage over the HD80 in sharpness and clarity of the image. This is not to say that the HDD80 is soft--certainly it is not, and it looks great on its own. But the latest LCD panels render an incremental sharpness and clarity that becomes evident in side by side viewing.
Comparing the HD80, which is a DLP projector, to the LCD-based Z2000 highlights two competitive weaknesses of DLP technology. First, manufacturers using DLP light engines have not been able to design projectors that have anywhere near the zoom lens range or lens shift capability of their LCD counterparts. Practically speaking, this means that LCD projectors give users more latitude in where they can place the projector for any given screen size. Usually LCD projectors can be either ceiling mounted or rear-shelf mounted, whereas in many rooms the only way to install a DLP projector would be to ceiling mount it.
Second, DLP light engines are relatively light inefficient, so they require hotter lamps to drive the same lumen output. That means more heat, and quite often, more fan noise. In a larger viewing space this is not much of an issue. But in a smaller room, any projector with a 300 watt lamp will produce a more noticeable heat load than a projector with a much lower wattage lamp.
For home theater enthusiasts who are investing in dedicated theater rooms, these are not big issues since the rooms can be built to accommodate either type of projector. But most consumers don't have the means to create dedicated theaters in their homes. For them, LCD projectors (so far at any rate) have been offering a compelling set of features that make them easier to install and live with.
The Sanyo Z2000 is a tough new competitor that establishes the latest benchmark in 1080p price/performance. It offers excellent image quality, a host of features, and very few flaws, all for an industry-leading rock bottom price. If you have been waiting for prices to drop before stepping up to 1080p, the Z2000 is the product you've been waiting for.
As with the other 1080p reviews we are posting, we are delaying the 5-star ratings until we've been able to see and evaluate all of the models coming to market this fall. However, due to the Z2000's exceptional price and performance, it is sure to be one of the highest rated products in the group.
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