Sharp XV-Z20000U DLP Video Projector 
Home Theater Front Projectors DLP Projectors
Written by Kevin Miller   
Friday, 01 June 2007

Introduction
Sharp has been at the forefront of LCD front-projection technology since the dawn of the technology. The company jumped into DLP once the first high-resolution 1280 x 720 pixel chips became available to manufacturers. Sharp’s first DLP projector, the XV-Z9000U, turned quite a few heads with its impressive picture quality back in 2001. The latest top of the line model, the XV-Z20000U, also a one-chip design, boasts the latest 1080p-resolution DLP chip, and promises again to be a head-turner. 1080p resolution came late to DLP display technology, as compared to the LCD category, which has had that vaunted high resolution for some time and consequently carries a fairly steep premium in price. At the moment, the least expensive 1080p one-chip DLP projectors start at around $10,000, whereas 1080p LCD and LCS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) projectors start at about $3,000 and go up from there. The Sharp XV-Z20000U definitely delivers the video goods with excellent blacks, accurate color reproduction, and an awe-inspiring, snappy, crisp picture with HDTV sources.

Design
The 20000 is a sleek, sexy-looking machine that is little different in appearance to the company’s last several flagship 720p models. My review sample was finished in glossy black. Zoom and Focus functions are manual at the lens, and the lens assembly is located smack in the center of the chassis, which gives it a pleasing look. This design also makes centering the projector on the ceiling correctly, relative to the screen, much easier than with designs that have the lens off to one side of the chassis.

The remote control is virtually identical to the last several 720p Sharp DLP projector remotes. It is a model of design excellence in terms of ease of use, and custom installers will appreciate that it offers direct access keys to all inputs, picture modes, and iris control, to list just a few functions. It is also fully backlit, making set-up in a darkened home theater a real breeze. The internal menu system or GUI (Graphical User Interface) is intuitive and easy to navigate. There are a total of five pages, with the first and second page containing all of the picture controls and gamma adjustments for grayscale calibration.

Features
Set-up features are abundant on the Sharp 20000. The iris adjustment and the lamp setting features both control the lamp’s light output, and will also contribute to the black level performance of the projector. Iris settings include High Brightness, Medium and High Contrast, and the lamp settings are High Brightness and Eco Mode. I used the High Contrast iris setting, as my Stewart Filmscreen StudioTek 130 screen is a relatively small 72 inches wide. I chose the Eco Mode for the lamp setting for the same reason, and I achieved an impressive 15.5 footlamberts of light output with the Contrast set down to -25. The 1000 ANSI lumen rated 220-watt SHP lamp is capable of driving relatively large screen sizes for a one-chip DLP projector, compared to much of its competition.

Six picture modes and a sliding scale for color temperature selection that ranges from 5500 to 10,500 Kelvins are on tap for customizing and optimizing the picture quality for all your video sources. There is an Overscan feature, which thankfully can be zeroed out so you get the entire picture. A CMS (Color Management System) located in the Advanced Menu on the first page is identical to those on Sharp’s upper-end LCD flat panels, and unfortunately doesn’t work well on the 20000. Look for more detail on this in the Performance section. Also under the Advanced Menu are settings for Brilliant Color, which should be set to off, Progressive, which needs to be set to 3D Slow for preserving all the resolution in 1080i HD sources, and Film Mode, which needs to be set to Auto for 2:3 pull-down detection with film-based video material (DVDs and many HD programs).

Connection options on the 20000 are relatively generous, with two HDMI inputs heading up the list of video connections. Sharp throws in a DVI input for good measure, which is probably more appropriate for computer use than with other video source devices. There are also two component video inputs, one S-Video, one Composite video, and an RS-232 for control purposes. There is also a 12-volt trigger for control of electric drop-down screens, and a port for a wired remote. This is more connectivity than you get with many projectors, and should be plenty of connections for most home theater enthusiasts.

Performance
I settled on the Standard Picture Mode, 6500 Kelvin color temperature setting, Standard Gamma for the HD DVD and Blu-ray DVD player input (HDMI 1), and Standard Picture Mode and Custom Gamma for the HD cable input (HDMI 2), because these settings produced the most accurate pictures prior to calibration. Before calibration, the grayscale tracked around 7500 Kelvins in the 6500 Kelvin setting, which is quite good for a factory preset color temperature. Although the Kelvin numbers don’t reflect it, the post calibration grayscale was quite accurate on the x and y coordinates, which are more important than the Kelvin number for an accurate grayscale. Gamma implementation is also good, with a nice slow rise out of black, which yielded excellent shadow detail in dark scenes.

As stated above, since I have a relatively small screen, I chose the High Contrast setting for the iris, and the Eco Mode for the lamp setting. With those settings and Contrast set to -25, I still measured an impressive 15.5 footlamberts of peak light output, which is significantly higher than the 12 footlambert specification for projected film in a movie theater. For larger screen sizes, you will need to experiment with the combination of the iris and lamp settings to achieve the best brightness and black level performance.

Color accuracy on the Sharp XV-Z20000U is good, with excellent color decoding and good grayscale tracking. The primary and secondary colors are a little off the mark, but not nearly as offensive as those of a lot of projectors that are a good deal pricier than the Sharp. The CMS, or Color Management System, is a feature that Sharp has carried over from its flat panel LCD product and, frankly, it doesn’t work well. I found I could adjust the colors almost exactly to the industry specifications, but then found the color to be severely under-saturated. Increasing the color control to get back the saturation resulted in weird-looking skin tones, so I reverted back to the factory settings in the CMS menu. I have yet to encounter a similar color management system on any display that actually works properly and doesn’t introduce a bigger problem then it solves. I wish the manufacturers would simply give us the correct primary and secondary colors.

I chose scenes from the outstanding HD DVD transfer of Seabiscuit to evaluate color saturation and skin tone rendition. It is also a particularly good disc to test color with, because it is not a highly stylized film, but rather one that was shot very naturally with a lot of outdoor scenery. For a one-chip DLP projector, the Sharp’s color saturation is impressive. Skin tones also looked exceptionally natural, thanks to a flat and accurate grayscale. Chapter 13 is good for evaluating color as it has a lot of it, along with familiar environmental elements like hedges and grass. This scene was rendered very naturally, and looked quite realistic as a result.

For black level and shadow detail evaluation, I watched the excellent transfer of Batman Begins on HD DVD. Chapter 28, where Batman races the Batmobile back to the Batcave to save Rachel’s life, escaping from the cops who are giving chase, is a virtual torture test of black level performance and shadow detail capability. This sequence proved the 20000 to be at the top of its class in black level performance. Blacks were deep, rich and noise-free. It is important to note that blacks were very clean, with almost no low-level dithering noise, an artifact that has always been common in DLP projectors.

I was pleased to find that the HD DVD HQV test disc revealed that the Sharp de-interlaces 1080i properly, preserving all the resolution in the signal. However, you must make sure that the Progressive setting in the Advanced Menu is set to 3DSlow and not the default 3DFast, or you will be losing a lot of information and gaining a lot of noise in the process.

For 1080p material, I watched some scenes from Crank, an extremely bright, fast-moving flick that is a good test for clarity and contrast ratio. Chapter 3 in particular was crystal clear, with plenty of snap and pop to the picture. I also watched Kingdom of Heaven on Blu-ray, which is a superb transfer. Colors were quite realistic, and the disc had a smooth film-like quality to it.

HD channels from my Time Warner Cable feed were somewhat of a letdown after seeing some of the best HD DVD and Blu-Ray has to offer, as these new DVD formats have much higher bandwidth than broadcast HD providers, and the difference is clearly visible. On my HD cable channels, I noticed that the video processing in the Sharp was a little noisy. The SD channels like TCM were particularly nasty-looking. Running the cable box HDMI output into a newly-arrived review sample of the DVDO VP50 video processor cleaned up the standard-definition cable channels like TCM nicely. If you want to get the absolute best performance from the XV-Z20000, mating it with the DVDO VP50 is the answer.

The Downside
The primary colors are not accurate and the CMS (Color Management System) doesn’t work well as a fix. At $10,000, I was a little disappointed that the zoom, focus and lens shift functions are still manual at the projector and not electronic, as with earlier Sharp 720p projector designs. It makes the job of sizing, focusing and shifting the picture so much easier when you can be right up on the top of the screen rather than way back at the projector.

My current reference projector is the Samsung SP-H710AE 720p one-chip, because it has nearly perfect primary and secondary colors, and otherwise produces the most CRT-like smooth picture of any fixed pixel projector I have yet worked with or seen. Even though it is 720p and not 1080p resolution, it still produces better images, because the overall color accuracy is near perfect and the gamma implementation emulates a CRT. Both of these attributes provide awesome contrast ratio and extremely realistic color reproduction.

Conclusion
With that said, compared to most of the competition in 1080p resolution projectors, whether 3LCD, LCS or DLP, the Sharp XV-Z20000U definitely stands out as one of the best. Relative to one-chip DLP projector designs, the Sharp 20000 has a large lamp (220 Watt SHP), which is rated at 1000 ANSI lumens, and is capable of lighting up larger screen sizes than most of the competition. The lens is also impressive, delivering crisp, sharp images with very few chromatic aberrations. I was pleased to find that both the component and HDMI inputs accept and display all the resolution from 1080p HD sources, which is something most other projectors can’t claim. There is no question that the Sharp is a top performer in the 1080p DLP front-projection category. At half the price, the Sharp XV-Z20000 bests the Marantz VP-11S1 in most areas of performance, including gamma, grayscale tracking and overall color accuracy. If you are in the market for a front-projection home theater, and want the best performance at around 10K, this Sharp should definitely be on your list to audition.
Manufacturer Sharp
Model XV-Z20000U DLP Video Projector
Reviewer Kevin Miller
Chipset 1-Chip





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