Sanyo PLV-Z3

1st Jan 2005 | 00:00

This budget DLP is a match for any of its rivals

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

Sanyo's latest PLV-Z model is another top-flight LCD offering

Like:

<p>Good connectivity</p><p>Easy to set up</p><p>Impressive hi-def pictures</p><p>Little noise</p>

Dislike:

<p>Poor contrast</p>

The task facing Sanyo's PLV-Z3 projector today is a simple one: as an LCD-based model, has it got what it takes to stand tall against the 'flavour of the month' DLP models out there?

The PLV-Z3 certainly looks confident. Unusually dressed all in black, with a cute trapezoidal shape, it cuts a strangely macho dash on your coffee table - almost daring DLP rivals to come on and have a go if they think they're hard enough.

The PLV-Z3's AV seriousness is clear from its connections. The highlight without question is one of our beloved HDMI jacks, but we also admire the provision of not one, but two component video inputs. What's more, all of the aforementioned jacks can handle both progressive scan and high definition feeds. Also included are the S-video and composite video stalwarts, plus a standard 15-pin PC jack.

A run through of the PLV-Z3's specifications proves an interesting exercise. In fact, on paper it sounds like it's got all budget LCD competition - and quite a bit of DLP too - well and truly licked.

The most remarkable claim is a 2,000:1 contrast ratio - almost double what most LCD projectors dare boast. The 1,280 x 720 native panel resolution is also impressive for such a low-priced model and bodes well for its high definition prowess. Finally, the 800 ANSI Lumens brightness rating, while not especially high, is actually the figure that we've found seems to deliver the most natural colour balance for video viewing.

The PLV-Z3 carries an unusually plentiful supply of movie-friendly features, including Pure Cinema, Creative Cinema and Video picture presets, along with Film and Progressive adjustments. There's also an unusually flexible lamp output system, giving you exceptional control over your lamp's life and the amount of fan noise the projector makes.

Performance

Thankfully, the generally very positive first impressions of the PLV-Z3 aren't spoiled by its performance. In fact, fed the right sort of source material, it's a match for any of its budget rivals.

That sort of material is predominantly bright, high-definition or progressive-scan stuff piped in via either the component or, more spectacularly, the HDMI jacks. The PLV-Z3's impressive native resolution pays great dividends with these high-quality sources.

Having less need for heavy duty scaling results in a fantastically clean, noiseless picture free of dot crawl, grain, digital artefacting and even, for much of the time, LCD's 'chicken-wire' effect.

Admittedly, this sumptuous smoothness is achieved at the expense of a touch of fine detail, but given that the picture still looks unwaveringly sharp, especially via HDMI, it's a trade we're happy to make.

Although exceptional with premium sources, the PLV-Z3 is also very good with 'ordinary' things like a Sky Digital box. The need for upscaling these images to suit the projector's native resolution means there's more noise and softness around, but it's nothing serious. In any case, you'll be too busy noticing how good the projector is with colours, which are both vibrant and more natural than most of its LCD peers.

In fact, we have just one issue with the picture, really: contrast. This is surprising, given Sanyo's (apparently optimistic) 2,000:1 contrast ratio claims, but there's no doubting that dark picture areas do suffer from a little tell-tale greying over.

Still, this is certainly not a reason to discount the PLV-Z3. After all, while DLP models might deliver a better black, the Z3 avoids DLP's problems with colour banding and fizzing noise over motion. In the end, whether you go for this projector or a rival DLP model may come down to a matter of taste.

But whichever projector flavour you ultimately choose, there's no denying that the PLV-Z3 certainly does enough to keep LCD in the budget projection hunt. John Archer

High definitionHome cinemaProjectorSkySanyo
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