Sanyo PLV-Z3 review

Fighting for the power of LCD

Our Verdict

This Sanyo is probably the best budget LCD projector we've seen to date - and as such definitely warrants a trial run, perhaps against a DLP model

Not for the first time in home cinema projection, DLP has its hammer poised to drive that final nail into LCD's coffin. But Sanyo isn't about to let that hammer come down without the sort of frantic scrap even the titular hero of our The Bourne Identity test disc would be proud of.

The PLV-Z3 certainly has the looks to scare off a rival or two. With its neat trapezoidal shape and indomitable jet-black colour scheme it brims with confidence. It's got the inputs that matter, too - including an HDMI jack for pristine all-digital connection to a HDMI/DVI-equipped DVD player.

For analogue connectees there are two sets of component video inputs, both able to handle our beloved progressive scan and high-definition pictures. PC users, meanwhile, are catered for via a standard 15-pin jack. With projectors for a grand or less increasingly common these days, we need to find reasons why this Sanyo costs a little more. And they're easy to uncover.

First, there's its tasty native resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels, potentially making it a winner with high-def fodder. The quoted contrast ratio of 2,000:1 is also extraordinary, leaving most LCD rivals for dead and even giving good DLP models a run for their money.

There are plenty of features too, including multiple movie-friendly picture presets, progressive scan and 'Film' detection modes, lamp output level adjustments for reducing fan noise and a 'transient' improver for sharpening edges. Let's cut to the chase: can the PLV-Z3 save LCD's bacon? You bet. At times its pictures are almost breathtakingly good.

Take for instance the shots at the end of The Bourne Identity, where Jason Bourne returns to his girlfriend. Predominantly vibrant shots like these look sensational on the Sanyo thanks to impressive brightness levels, impeccable fine detail portrayal and, most strikingly of all, an almost complete absence of picture noise. Practically every other projector at this sort of money, regardless of which technology it uses, suffers with some visible noise, be it grain, dot crawl or visible LCD panel structure. But for 99 per cent of the time, the PLV-Z3 is as clean as the proverbial whistle.

Colour coordination

Also impressive is this projector's affinity with The Bourne Identity's tricky colours. Director Doug Liman uses a predominantly muted palette, packed with low-lit flesh tones - but unlike many budget rivals, the PLV-Z3 handles it all with aplomb, even avoiding the green tone common to almost all other budget LCD models. Add in edges that suffer neither glimmer nor jaggedness, and you have a serious contender.

The only flaw is a slight shortage of contrast. The Bourne Identity's fondness for dark scenes reveals the PLV-Z3's contrast ratio quote to be extremely optimistic, as what should be inky blackness is slightly lost behind a veil of mist.

Critically, though, we reckon that what the Sanyo PLV-Z3 lacks in contrast against DLP models it makes up for in its freedom from picture noise and the 'rainbow effect'. We suggest you audition it against a top DLP rival such as the Screenplay 4805 and see which one suits you best.