Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
Last year we said the PLV-Z2000 was the most attractive home theater projector Sanyo had ever built. The newly released Sanyo PLV-Z700, the company's latest 1080p projector, uses the same design as the Z2000, with identical casework, color, and connection panel. Other than the model number sticker, you can't tell the difference between them from the outside.
With the Z700, Sanyo continues its tradition of delivering aggressively priced home theater projectors that deliver exceptional performance for the money. This is the first 1080p resolution home theater model to come to market with a retail price of under $2,000, and street prices well below that.
The differences between the Z700 and the Z2000 are these:
• The Z700 is a bit lower in lower contrast due to the use of organic LCD panels vs. the inorganic panels in the Z2000.
• Different physical iris mechanism.
• HDMI has been upgraded from version 1.3a to 1.3b.
• Anamorphic stretch mode has been added.
• Retail price has been reduced to $1,995.
ANSI lumens: 1200
Contrast (full on/off): 10,000:1
Light Engine: 1920x1080, native 16:9, three-panel inorganic LCD with 165W UHP lamp.
Video Compatibility: 1080p/60/50/24, 1080i, 720p, 576p, 576i, 480p, 480i.
Connection Panel: Two HDMI 1.3b ports, one 15-pin VGA, two 3-RCA component input, one s-video, one composite, one 9-pin DSub serial port.
Lens and Throw Distance: 2.0x manual zoom/focus lens with vertical and horizontal lens shift. Throws a 100" diagonal 16:9 image from 10 to 20 feet.
Lamp Life: Unspecified
Replacement lamp price: $380 retail. Street price closer to $320.
Warranty: Three years.
Consumer-friendly package. The Z700 offers a smooth filmlike picture, very quiet fan noise, and no pixelation or screendoor effects from a normal viewing distance. It is about as easy to install as it gets. Sporting a long 2.0x zoom lens, three full picture heights of vertical lens shift, and two full picture widths of horizontal shift, you can install it just about anywhere you want. And the Z700's low price includes a three year warranty. Overall, the Z700 represents an excellent value in 1080p projection. It lets consumers on a budget step up to this ideal resolution format without breaking the bank.
The clean casework has an understated elegance that will make it a welcome addition to any living room or multipurpose family room. It is relatively small compared to many 1080p home theater models, so it can be installed unobtrusively. Its white coloring makes it virtually disappear against a white ceiling, so it can be installed in a typical living room without calling attention to itself. When not in use, there is a shutter that automatically closes over the lens to protect it from dust accumulation. This door also hides the lens and makes the unit less obvious as a projector. If it is combined with a motorized retractable screen, the entire video system can be made to pretty much disappear when not in use. This is a huge plus for those who don't want their living room to be permanently dominated by a video system.
ANSI Contrast. On our test unit, ANSI contrast measured 277:1, which is in the typical range for a number of LCD-based home theater projectors we've tested in the last year. By comparison, the Mitsubishi HC5500 measured 260:1, and the Panasonic AE2000 delivered 305:1. So the Z700 is competitive with some popular models where ANSI contrast is concerned.
Nevertheless, the Z700 is a step down in contrast from the Sanyo Z2000, which we measured at 350:1. The Z2000 in fact produced the highest ANSI contrast reading of any LCD home theater projector from last year. This fall it's a different story of course. The new high contrast LCD projectors like the Panasonic AE3000 and Mitsubishi HC7000 are producing readings in excess of 400:1. Their superiority in contrast is obvious in side by side viewing with the Z700. They are much more expensive than the Z700, but you can see what you get for the additional money.
However, until you set a higher contrast side by side with the Z700, you don't really know what you are missing. Standing alone, when the Z700 is used in a dark room, there is nothing muddy or flat about its picture as long as you don't go too big with the screen size. For optimum contrast and color saturation, we'd suggest keeping screen size to about 100". You can certain go larger if you want, but you begin to sacrifice too much contrast for our taste as you push to image sizes larger than about 110" diagonal.
Brightness. On last year's Z2000 there were seven pre-set calibrations for various types of dark room and ambient light viewing--Brilliant Cinema, Creative Cinema, Pure Cinema, Natural, Living, Dynamic, and Vivid. These selections have been reduced to five on the Z700, with Vivid and Pure Cinema having been eliminated. However, the average brightness in video optimized mode has been increased. In addition there are seven user programmable memories so you can make whatever adjustments you want, calibrating it to your taste preferences.
The Z700 can produce a wide range of lumen potential, from the low 200's up to about 1200 ANSI lumens. In its brightest configuration, Dynamic mode with lamp on full power and lens at wide angle, our test unit measured 1198 lumens, which is spot on with its official spec rating of 1200 lumens. For us, the most satisfying calibration for optimal video was Creative Cinema, which generated 411 lumens. Brilliant Cinema mode, which is a great video alternative if you want more light and less contrast, produced 685 lumens.
As far as lumen output is concerned, you need to be aware of two limiting factors. First, while the long 2.0x zoom lens gives you great placement latitude, you will reduce lumen output by up to 37% if you install it at its longest telephoto setting. At the midpoint of the zoom range, light output is curtailed 16% from its brightest position at maximum wide angle.
Second, low lamp mode also reduces lumen output by 37%, which is quite a bit more than the average of about 22% we find on most home theater projectors. The bottom line is that if you set the Z700 in Creative Cinema mode with the lamp on low and the zoom set to maximum telephoto, you will only get 163 lumens. That is not enough to light up anything more than an 80" diagonal screen in a fully darkened room. On the other hand, there is no need to do this. Most users will not bother to sacrifice the lumen output in low lamp mode-fan noise is very quiet even in full lamp mode, and there is no published expectation of extended lamp life in low power mode.
There are five programmed color temperature options. From warmest to coldest they are Low 2, Low 1, Default, High 1 and High 2. On our test unit, Low 1 was the preferred setting for film, however, you can make whatever adjustments you want to that, or any of the programmed options. As with the Z2000, color accuracy on the Z700 is excellent. It is possible to dial in a picture averaging about 6500K with relatively uniform gray scale tracking.
With 1080p resolution LCD panels, visible pixelation is reduced to just about nothing. Viewed up close there is a distinct pixel structure which contributes to image sharpness. But the inter-pixel gap is small, and the screendoor effect is subtle even at very close viewing. Once you back away to a distance of one screen width, visible pixelation disappears entirely.
The Z700 has a cool 165-watt lamp and extremely low fan noise. Thus it can be installed comfortably in a small room. Projectors with high wattage lamps can raise ambient temperatures in smaller rooms rather quickly, and the Z700 thankfully throws off relatively little heat.
The connection panel is on the rear of the unit. The projector is 13" deep, so add about 3 extra inches for cable connections, and you can install it on a shelf that is 16" deep. Fan exhaust is from the right side as you look at it from the rear, so it is important that there be plenty of clearance for heat dissipation, particularly on that side of the unit. The air filter is located below the connection panel. It is easy to unsnap the grate to access the filter for periodic cleaning, as shown in the photo above.
On any LCD projector it is possible to have dust particles settle on the LCD panels over time, especially if you do not periodically clean the filters or if you have an exceptionally dusty environment. A dust particle on the LCD panel will produce a dull, indistinct spot on the projected image. The Z700 comes with a manual squeeze blower to remove these particles, the nozzle of which is inserted into a tiny hole in the case. Removing dust spots yourself can save you from having to send in the unit for cleaning. Since we've not had any dust spots appear on our Z700, or on our Z2000, we've not been able to test the efficiency of this feature. But Sanyo is the only vendor to provide this capability on its home theater projectors.
Anamorphic mode added. The Z2000 did not have an anamorphic stretch mode to accommodate an anamorphic lens, but the Z700 does.
Our complaints about this unit are no more than nits. The ergonomic design of the remote is not as comfortable for me as I'd like it, with the menu button being in a somewhat awkward position. On the other hand, the range of the remote is excellent, and the projector is immediately responsive. It is annoying when you have to point the remote backward toward the projector, as is the case on some competing units.
There are two controls that affect sharpness. One is called Sharpness, and it is easy to find in the image control page of the menu. The other is Transient Improvement, and it is buried a bit deeper in the Advanced section of the menu. The Transient Improvement defaults to Low, and this interferes with your ability to fine tune sharpness with the Sharpness control. In order to get the right level of sharpness for our taste, we needed to go into the Advanced menu to turn Transient Improvement off. This is a minor nuisance in the grand scheme of things, but it is something the user might not normally discover.
It is hard to say whether the use of organic LCD panels should be considered a disadvantage. In general, inorganic panels are thought to be more stable in the long run. But if a projector is designed with sufficient cooling and UV filtration, the possibility of LCD degradation over the long run becomes less of a concern. The good news is that the Z700 comes standard with a three-year warranty. And projector technology is evolving so rapidly that most home theater enthusiasts who are into front projectors upgrade to the latest and greatest at least every three years or so. Moreover, the Z700 is so inexpensive that it need not be considered a lifetime investment. Practically speaking, most users of the Z700 will want to step up to a next generation projector by the time the warranty expires, so for them the organic panels represent little risk no matter what.
The Sanyo Z700 is an impressive home theater projector that delivers the ideal 1080p resolution format at a very low price. Its overall image quality is solid, and contrast is competitive by last year's 1080p LCD standards. This fall several higher contrast LCD models are being released, including the newly announced Sanyo PLV-Z3000, which carries a full on/off rating of 65,000:1 (scheduled to ship in December). The Z700 does not, and never was intended, to compete in the same contrast league as the higher contrast models that sell for at least $1,000 more. Basically, it offers the consumer on a budget a special value proposition--you can have 1080p performance at a rock bottom price, and if you are willing to give up some contrast you can keep the extra $1,000 in your pocket. That is a deal many cost-conscious consumers will be keenly interested in.
The Z700 rates the full five stars for value for being the least expensive 1080p projector coming to market this fall. It lacks the contrast capability of the 1080p competition and therefore we've given it a lower performance rating as compared to the more expensive models. But it is a tremendous value - for the money, it produces a beautiful picture.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector page.