Sanyo PLV-Z2000 3LCD Projector 
Home Theater Front Projectors LCD Projectors
Written by Kevin Miller   
Tuesday, 01 January 2008

There is no doubt that HDTVs in general are getting more affordable, meaning more accessible to the masses, while performance and features are improving to a degree. Front video projectors are no exception to this trend. Enter Sanyo’s latest 1080p 3LCD front projector, the PLV-Z2000, which is a perfect example of just such a projector. The PLV-Z2000 delivers reasonably good performance for the dollar, offers generous connectivity and has a solid feature package to boot. Set-up flexibility is quite good with some features that are usually found only on much more expensive projectors.

The look of the projector is not attractive, to say the least. You may want to take pains to camouflage it on your ceiling. It is a squarish box with a relatively small footprint, measuring nearly six inches tall by 16 inches wide and 13-and-a-half inches deep, weighing in at a reasonable 16 pounds. My review sample was finished in white; the projector is not available in black or a variety of other finishes. Both vents (intake and outtake) for cooling the unit are located on the right side of the chassis when in a floor-mounted configuration, and on the left if ceiling-mounted. The one cool design feature is the motorized door that opens when first powered up to expose the lens, and closes when you shut off the projector, presumably designed to protect the lens assembly and to reduce dust issues. The manual states an extremely low 19dB noise level from the fans; I believe the spec, as it was nearly whisper quiet.

The remote control has an intuitive and intelligent design. As such, it is relatively straightforward and easy to use. To my pleasant surprise, it is also fully backlit with the touch of a button on the upper left side of the unit.

Direct access keys for all the inputs and picture controls make adjustments on the fly quick and easy in the dark. One caveat is that there is a reset button near the very top of the unit, which could cause you to undo all your work inadvertently. Internally, the menu system is quite simple and straightforward to use.

The feature set on the PLV-Z2000 is quite extensive. However, as with many budget-priced displays and projectors, the PLV-Z2000 has a few features that are better left turned off or unutilized. These are the types of features that marketing departments often dictate to design teams and, rather than enhancing performance, actually keep the projector from delivering the best performance. You’ll find all these dubious features in the Advanced menu on the second page of the Image Adjust menu. They include Auto Black Stretch, which automatically changes black level depending on the content of the picture, Contrast Enhancement, which simply lowers the black level, Transient Improvement, which appears to do nothing at all, and Dynamic Gamma, which if it’s anything like a dynamic iris, would change gamma depending on picture content, which is a feature you definitely don’t want to engage. Gamma is similar to black level. It always has to be constant, no matter what is going on in the picture.

Finally, there is a Color Management System, which is fairly complex. This is a feature that virtually no manufacturer has been able to make work properly by my standards, and one that has the potential to correct color and make a huge improvement in picture quality. I was excited to try it, but ultimately disappointed as it doesn’t work well at all. While you can greatly improve the primary and secondary colors, it ruins the color decoding in the process. I have seen this exact phenomenon on other HDTV displays, both flat panel and front projection.

Of course, there are some features worth talking about, as they help in the set-up and fine-tuning of the picture. The most useful of these features is definitely the horizontal and vertical lens shift, both of which greatly ease the difficulty of the physical installation of the projector relative to the screen. There is such a thing as too many choices, and the PLV-Z2000 has perhaps too many picture modes in what Sanyo has labeled Image. It complicates the decision-making process and may in fact be confusing. I found Natural to be the best choice of the seven preset Image settings. There are another seven User Image settings as well. Talk about flexibility. It turned out that Natural was the only mode or Image that didn’t negatively affect color decoding. The others negatively affected the color decoding.

The Sanyo has four settings for the level of the lamp’s light output that are symbolized by a half a light bulb to indicate half power, a full light bulb to indicate full output, and A1 and A2, which appear to be the same as the other two settings. There is also an iris that can be set to Fixed, which has a Normal and a Fast setting, and also has a range from -63 to 0. I left it at -30, which is the factory preset in the Natural Image mode. A variety of user-selectable color temperatures are of course on board and include Default, Low 1, Low 2, High 1, High 2 and User. The User color temperature shows up in the menu when you utilize the three grayscale controls, Red, Green and Blue, to calibrate the grayscale.

Connectivity options on the PLV-Z2000 are fairly generous for a front projector. Two HDMI 1.3 inputs head up the connections. There are also two component video inputs. To insure backwards compatibility, an S-Video and a composite video input for legacy sources like VCRs are also on tap. I was happy to know that the 8-pin Mini DIN can carry RS-232C communications but, disappointed to find no 12-volt trigger for electric drop-down screeens.

For an entry-level budget front projector, the PLV-Z2000 does a lot right. Color decoding is accurate for both SD and HD formats, and video processing is reasonably good, with 2:3 pull-down for motion artifact elimination with film-based DVDs. The company claims 14-bit processing, but I could not verify that. The video processing also de-interlaces 1080i HD, properly preserving all the resolution in the signal, which I verified using the excellent Silicon Optix HD DVD test disc, with my Toshiba HD DVD player set to output 1080i. Unlike much of the competition out there, the PLV-Z2000 does pass all the resolution in a 1080p source at the HDMI inputs. This is not the case with many projectors I have tested in the last year or so. However, like many an HD display on the market today, the PLV-Z2000 gives up some of that resolution at the component inputs. That shouldn’t be of too much concern, as none of the HD DVD or Blu-ray players will output 1080p via component video, and since those are the only 1080p sources available today, you will not lose anything.

One very important thing to note on the Z2000 is the HDMI set-up under the Setting menu. Unfortunately, the factory preset is wrong for video and home theater. The Normal and Expanded settings in the HDMI set-up are related to the correct color matrix for computing and for video. These settings affect black, white and contrast ratio. The reference for computing is RGB 0-255, and for video is Y, Cb and Cr 16-235. To get the latter, you need to go to HDMI set-up and change it to Expanded from its factory setting of Normal. This threw me for a loop at first, as I wasn’t getting below black or above white. Sanyo has it backwards here, unless their primary market is the professional market, where PCs would be the predominant source material. A projector intended for video should have the factory preset to Expanded, which is correct at 16-235. Unfortunately, this is an all too common a mistake in the industry, which ends up costing the consumer, as it results in a loss of contrast ratio and detail in white and black.

In any case, this revelation changed my opinion of the black level and contrast ratio performance parameters of the 2000. Blacks suddenly became richer and deeper, and shadow detail was much improved. The lens on the machine is reasonably good, considering its price, with very few chromatic aberrations. This was evidenced by the fact that images from top-quality sources, like HD DVD and Blu-ray, were quite sharp. White field uniformity, while not perfect, is reasonably good on the Sanyo. This is an inherent performance issue with LCD-based projectors, and I was therefore pleasantly surprised by its performance in this regard.

To test blacks, I looked at some scenes from the excellent HD DVD transfer of Batman Begins (Warner Home Video). The jail scene, where Christian Bale’s Batman meets Liam Neeson’s character for the first time, revealed excellent shadow detail. Seabiscuit (Universal Studios Home Video) on HD DVD looked pretty impressive, with good skin tone rendition and good color saturation. Chapter 13 at the race track is a really good scene to get a handle on a projector’s color reproduction. At one point, when they are all lining up for the race, almost all the primary and secondary colors are represented in the different jockeys’ uniforms all at once. As an example, the inaccurate red stuck out when viewing the Tobey Maguire character’s jockey uniform, which is supposed to be slightly orange, but appears to be candy apple red on the Sanyo. Also on HD DVD, scenes from the remake of King Kong (Universal Studios Home Video) were impressive. The T-Rex fight scene looked pretty good. Since this is all CGI, and the colors used are really muted, the projector’s less then perfect color accuracy on red and green is not so apparent.

Chapter 4 of The Italian Job (Paramount Home Entertainment) on Blu-ray looked impressive. This is a good sequence for evaluating black-level performance, contrast ratio and color saturation simultaneously, as part of it takes place in a dark, murky underwater environment, and part of it is in broad daylight during a boat chase through Venice. This scene showed off the projector’s good blacks and high contrast ratio, as well as good color saturation. On my Time Warner Cable feed, I watched a variety of dark and bright material. Of course, cable HD can’t compare to our optical formats in sharpness and detail. Nonetheless, the Sanyo availed itself well with 1080i and 720p cable sources.

The Downside
I was disappointed at the discovery that the HDMI set-up was incorrect. I wouldn’t harp on this if it weren’t for the fact that I know most people setting this projector up will not catch this, and therefore most folks will not experience the full potential of the PLV-Z2000. The primary and secondary colors, particularly red and green, were way off. This is one of my pet peeves, as it drastically impacts the overall color accuracy of a display, and virtually all projectors under $30,000 fail this test, with the exception of my reference SP-H710AE 720p one-chip DLP projector.

Although the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 does have some issues with color accuracy, it’s important to remember nearly all projectors under about $30,000 have similar issues, albeit not quite as severe. I think the issue with the HDMI set-up being wrong at the factory default is a notable problem, and I hope that Sanyo addresses this, considering how easy it is to correct. With that said, the Sanyo PLV-Z2000 is pretty impressive when you compare it to the competition. For example, it definitely will give the Sony VPL-VW50 a run for its money in terms of clarity, black-level performance and light output. The feature package and connectivity are both comprehensive for a front projector. If you are on a very tight budget and want to get into front projection, then the $2,499 or less PLV-Z2000 should be on your shopping list.
Manufacturer Sanyo
Model PLV-Z2000 3LCD Projector
Reviewer Kevin Miller
Chipset 3-Chip

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