Highly Recommended Award
Our Highly Recommended designation is earned by products offering extraordinary value or performance in their price class.
The SharpVision XV-Z2000, the younger sibling of the Z12000, makes the performance of Texas Instruments' HD2+ DLP chip affordable for the average consumer. It is one of the least expensive of the HD2+ projectors, delivering excellent value at its street price which at the moment is comfortably under $4,000. From our perspective, the Z2000 is the most competitive home theater projector that Sharp has yet released.
Specifications. 1200 ANSI lumens, 2500:1 contrast, native 16:9 widescreen format, 1280x720 HD2+ DLP chip (WXGA) with a 5x six-segment color wheel.
Compatibility. HDTV 1080i, 720p, 540p, 480p, 480i, and computer resolutions up to XGA. NTSC, NTSC 4.43, PAL, PAL60, PAL-M, PAL-N, SECAM.
Lens and Throw Distance. 1.50:1 powered zoom/focus lens. Throws a 100" diagonal image from 8'7"-13', depending on zoom.
Lamp Life. Up to 3,000 hours.
Connection Panel. One composite video, one S-Video, Two sets of YPbPr component inputs, One DVI-I port with HDCP and analog RGB compatibility, one 15-pin D-sub RS-232 port for an external control device.
Installation Options. Table mount, rear shelf mount, ceiling mount.
Warranty. 1 year.
Straight out of the box the Z2000 projects a good image, but not as good as it is capable of. Before calibration, contrast was above average and color saturation was excellent, though biased toward green. A few calibration adjustments improved color balance and contrast, and elevated overall image quality to an impressive level. Colors appeared rich and lifelike while avoiding over-saturation, and flesh tones were realistic.
The Z2000 is among the brighter of the home theater projectors currently on the market. We measured the Z2000 at 950 ANSI lumens with all brightness-boosting features turned on. At settings ideal for theater use, the Z2000 still measured 470 ANSI lumens, which is more than enough for a darkened theater. With the combination of contrast and lumen output that you get from the Z2000, you can light up a 120" diagonal screen with no problem.
Lumen output will vary on this projector based upon the way you choose to operate it. There are several options to optimize either the contrast or lumen output, depending on your needs. Among them is an iris control that can be set to either "High Contrast" or "High Brightness." The "High Contrast" setting is the best option when you have no ambient light in your theater environment. You get the best video image quality, but lumen output is reduced by 42% in High Contrast mode. If on the other hand you are having a Super Bowl party and want some ambient light in the room, switch it to High Brightness mode for a more vibrant image.
There is also a "bright boost" option that increases the luminance of highlights by about 10% while having no effect on blacks and midtones. This was not particularly helpful as highlight detail tended to wash out with bright boost enabled. We preferred to leave bright boost off.
There was a strange quirk in both review units we tested: there was a splotch of dim light which appeared below the projected image. This light was located about 30% of the image width in from the left border and 20% of the image height down from the bottom border. This appears to be due to uncontrolled reflections inside the light engine, as it comes through the lens rather than vents in the casework. It increases and decreases in size with the size of the projected image, and with a five-foot wide image the spot of light is about ten inches in diameter. In most cases, however, this does not interfere with viewing the projected image. Once the image is adjusted to fit a 16:9 screen, the errant patch of light falls below the screen onto the wall. Though the light is not bright by any means, if the wall is white it will be visible in a dark theater. If the wall is dark in color or non-reflective, this becomes a non-issue.
With regard to fan noise, the Z2000 is also one of the quietest projectors we've come across recently. We have not found a published dB rating, but fan noise is not a problem at all in any operating mode.
The Z2000 exhausts quite a bit of heat from the vents on the right side of the unit. Care should be taken to allow plenty of room for heat dissipation, especially if you intend to place it in a rear bookshelf.
Deinterlacing is quite good on this projector. In the majority of DVD scenes played in 480i, the Z2000 delivered an image that was nearly free of artifacts and with very little instability. There are some difficult scenes that the Z2000 struggled with, such as the cafeteria scene in the fourth chapter of The Bourne Identity. However the DVD player we used struggled with these same scenes, and sometimes was unable to match the performance of the Z2000's internal deinterlacer. Therefore, if you have a progressive scan DVD player connected via component video, you may wish to test it with both interlaced and progressive output to the Z2000 to see which signal results in a more satisfactory image.
When it comes to scaling, we got varying results based on signal format. The Z2000 handles 480i and 480p signals very well, producing an impressively sharp image with few artifacts. However, with HDTV 1080i the image is not as razor sharp as we would have liked. The Z2000 converts a 1080i signal to 540p, then upscales to its native 720p display format. In the process it loses a bit of detail. The picture still looks a lot better than standard definition of course, but it is not quite as crisp as it could be.
This problem was easy to bypass however. We switched our Samsung HDTV receiver from 1080i to 720p output, and let the Samsung do the compression of 1080i signals to 720p. This produced a noticeable improvement in image clarity on the Z2000. Therefore, if you own an HDTV receiver that lets you switch between 1080i and 720p output, we encourage you to try it both ways and judge for yourself which signal looks better on your equipment.
The Z2000 has four different aspect ratio display options, which are labeled in a way that users may find confusing. "Stretch" is a setting ideal for native 16:9 material. "Side bar" is used for 4:3 sources such as a standard television signal or a TV show that has been transferred to DVD. "Smart Stretch" is used to fill the entire screen regardless of aspect ratio, and "Cinema Zoom" is used to eliminate some of the black bars on images that are wider than 16:9, such as DVDs movies formatted in 2.35:1.
In addition to the various aspect ratio adjustments, the Z2000 allows for the alteration of gamma levels, color temperature, and independent red and blue level adjustments. Color temperature is divided into two settings - a major adjustment for overall temperature (anywhere from 5500K to 10500K) and a "fine adjust" for slight changes within the range selected.
A key difference between the Z2000 and other Sharp home theater projectors is weight. The Z2000 weighs less than 10 pounds, making portability an option.
The Z2000's power zoom and focus lens, with a relatively long 1.5x zoom range, provides a lot of versatility in set up. At its widest angle setting, the zoom lens will produce a 100" diagonal image in just 8.6 feet throw distance. This is one of the shortest throw distances on home theater projectors we've seen. So, for example, you could take advantage of its short throw distance and portability by setting it up on a coffee table when in use, then unplugging it and setting it aside to eliminate it from the room when not in use.
One feature notably absent from the Z2000 is vertical/horizontal lens shift. ("Lens shift" lets you move the projected image around to hit a desired location on the wall without physically moving the projector.) Without this feature you must take more care to place the projector with more precision relative to the screen. If you need to tilt the projector up or down, or set it off-center to the screen, you can use horizontal and vertical keystone correction to square up the image. However, this will introduce minimal scaling artifacts so it is something we'd prefer to avoid if possible.
Ease of Use
Several features make the Z2000 a good first projector for any home theater enthusiast. While it possesses many advanced calibration options, it does project a balanced, high-quality image after minimal adjustment by the user.
The Sharp XV-Z2000 has a menu system that is easy to navigate, and there is an option to move the On-Screen Display (OSD) to any corner of the screen. This proved especially useful during calibration, when visibility of the image behind the menu is key. Also, while all settings are adjustable from the main menu screen, pressing enter on the remote over any given setting allows the user to adjust only the highlighted setting while the rest of the menu disappears.
In addition to this, the Sharp XV-Z2000 has a well-designed remote with designated buttons allowing direct access to common features without requiring the user to dig around in the menu system. There is a separate button for each input, as well as a button to control the powered zoom and focus without leaving the couch, thereby eliminating the guess-work of focusing an image properly. Finally, the user can change the aspect ratio with a single click using the resize button.
Sharp XV-Z2000vs. BenQ PE8700+
To evaluate the relative value of the Z2000, we compared it to the BenQ PE8700+, since both projectors utilize the 1280x720 resolution HD2+ chipset and sell for under $4,000. They are both fine projectors, and we set them up side by side to see if there were any noticeable differences between the two. And indeed there were.
Using component 480i and 480p as input signals, the Z2000 looked somewhat sharper than did the 8700. It produced an image that appeared a bit more three-dimensional. On the other hand, with HDTV 1080i input, the pictures were comparable in terms of image clarity and detail, and neither was stellar relative to other HD2+ products. Both models do their best with 720p input via DVI, and again are comparable in image sharpness with this signal.
With the contrast-boosting options on the Z2000 disabled, the 8700 showed better black level while the Z2000 had an edge in shadow detail. However, once the Z2000's contrast optimizing features are turned on, it was able to match the black level of the 8700.
In terms of brightness, after optimization for home theater use the Z2000 measured 470 ANSI lumens compared to the 8700's 420 ANSI lumens.
Each projector is prone to introduce noise into the picture, though in different areas. The Z2000 tends to introduce noise in midtones - especially in green areas; the 8700 handled midtones better but introduced a significant amount of noise in dark areas. The noise produced by the Z2000 tends to be less noticeable, so it surpasses the 8700 in this area as well.
With regard to audible noise, the 8700 is relatively quiet compared to many competing units, but the Z2000 is quieter still.
Neither projector has physical lens shift. Both have DVI-I and two component video ports, along with one S-video and one composite video jack. The 8700 has a 12-volt trigger, whereas the Z2000 does not. And the 8700 has a handy backlit remote, a feature also missing on the Z2000.
As far as warranty is concerned, you get 3 years standard with the 8700, but only 1 year on the Z2000. Extended warranties are available on the Z2000 at extra cost.
Overall, the Z2000 is an impressive offering. It is a high-quality, competitively priced home theater projector that offers exceptional performance and a great feature set for the money. It is Sharp's strongest home theater projector yet in terms of bang for the buck. We had a great time reviewing it, and consumers who want to spend up to $4,000 for a home theater projector should have the Z2000 on the short list of projectors to be considered.
For more detailed specifications and connections, check out our SharpVision XV-Z2000 projector page.