Sharp XV-Z200E/201E £2500
1st Mar 2005 | 00:00
It looks the part - what else can the Sharp offer?
No, we haven't just lumped two projectors into one review to save space. The simple fact is that there's just not enough difference between the Z200E and Z201E to justify treating them separately. In fact, the only difference between them is that the Z201E has a special short-throw lens, making it more attuned to the needs of small living rooms than the longer-throw Z200E.
Both projectors look the same - and those looks are very appealing. They adopt the vaguely triangular look of Sharp's cheaper XV-Z91E, as well as the same appealing two-tone colouring and glossy finish. They're also both set atop the same fancy foot arrangement that allows you to tilt and rotate the lens through all manner of angles - ideal for getting the picture on your screen no matter how awkward your living room shape.
Where the Z200E and Z201E start to differ from their Z91E brother is in the connections department. To be specific, they introduce an all-important HDCD-compatible DVI input - which should make them both compatible with Sky's upcoming high definition signals.
The other key step up with the Z201E/Z200E comes from the DLP chipset used. The so-called 'Matterhorn' model improves enormously on the one found in the Z91E by upping native resolution to 1,024 x 576. This is significant because a) it shows a key shift to a native, movie friendly aspect ratio of 16:9, and b) it delivers the right amount of horizontal lines (576) to perfectly suit the UK's PAL standard.
Having said that, we also point out that 576 lines are not enough to deliver an unscaled high definition feed.
Other claimed improvements over the Z91E are a contrast ratio of 2,000:1, and a brightness of 800 ANSI Lumens - both of which have the potential to make large inroads into some of the Z91E's mediocrities.
The Z200E and Z201E are equally easy to set up and use, thanks to the handy little 'foot' arrangement, together with vertical and horizontal keystone correction, plus manual vertical image 'shifting'.
The Z200E and Z201E score major points for their feature counts. Practically every option we could think of - plus a few we couldn't - has been provided for, including a bewilderingly array of colour adjustments; some gamma presets; a peak white emphasis toggle; and five memory slots for your own favoured picture presets.
The Z200E/Z201E both deliver good pictures. Arguably their greatest strength is their contrast range. The darkness of space as the Millennium Falcon takes on a posse of Tie Fighters looks impressively well realised.
This extra contrast talent seems to pay dividends with colours, too. Star Wars' various lightsabres look so rich and strident we were worried they were going to scorch strips in our screen. Crucially, though - and here the Z91E becomes a particularly distant memory - it's not just vibrant colours that impress, but subtle flesh tones also look extremely realistic. Well, they do if you use the 6500K temperature setting.
There's also a clear benefit with the Z200E/Z201E when it comes to fine detail, with impressive textures visible on the Death Star's surface as the Millennium Falcon is dragged powerlessly towards it.
Unfortunately, though, the Z200E and Z201E suffer with a surprising inability to suppress those old-school DLP problems of green dot crawl over dark areas, and fizzing dots over horizontal movement. For instance, the walls of the Death Star trench as Luke zooms between them, look distinctly dotty at times, while the blackness of space above the trench looks strangely 'alive' as the green dots flicker.
This inability to deal well with a couple of fairly basic DLP issues really is a pity (even a couple of our budget group test models handle them better), since it counteracts enough of the Z200E and Z201E's good stuff to make them look a little out of place in their rather loftily priced environment.