Nothing beats a projector's picture for sheer wow factor. Sanyo's PLV-Z3000 may be briefcase-sized, but it can project 300in, full HD images. Deep inside the lightbox are three Epson-made 0.74in liquid crystal panels.

As a budget full HD projector, we didn't expect the Z3000 to be packed with gimmicks. Yet this rather blandly-styled beamer incorporates a shutter to keep dust and scratches at bay.

Built into the top surface are basic operating controls, while on the side are recessed thumbwheels for vertical and horizontal lens-shift. Sensibly, these wide-range controls are coupled with a locking device. Once you've centred the image on the screen, engage the lock and you're spared any 'drift'.

Advanced blacks

The short-throw 'real-focus' lens benefits from a 2x zoom. It's key to Sanyo's 'advanced black optical' system, which contributes to a claimed 65,000:1 contrast-ratio.

You can't fault the Z3000's connectivity, either. Both HDMIs will accept signals ranging from interlaced standard-def 480/576i to Blu-ray's glorious 1080p/24.

There are also two hi-def capable component inputs, plus composite and S-video. Big-screen PC gaming enthusiasts will appreciate the VGA/D-sub input that will, with an optional cable, also accept Scart-type RGBs signals.

The Z3000 uses Pixelworks' DNX for its scaling/video processing. Then there's the support for 100Hz processing. To ensure that judder isn't a problem, dynamic predictive-frame interpolation video smoothes motion by generating pseudo-images between frames.

Also important is the 5:5 pull-down, for the best results from 60Hz film-derived footage from NTSC DVDs or pre-24p Blu-ray players, for example. The Z3000 is one of the world's cheapest projectors to support this. It's also conversant with x.v.Color, provided that your source is too.

Any room viewing

Thanks to its optical design, the Z3000 should be suitable for any viewing room. For a 100in presentation, it can be positioned between 3m and 6.1m away from the screen.

The lens isn't motorised, so adjustments can't be carried out from the backlit remote control.

Using a standard front-projection setup (rear-projection and ceiling mounting are also possible), we simply turned the lens rings until a sharply focused picture filled the screen. There's a 'gunsight' test pattern mode for this purpose.

The lamp's 'eco' mode reduces brightness and power usage and damps fan noise to a mere 19dB.

Unfortunately, there's no 12v output for conveniently triggering motorised screens (or a RS232 port for system integration). The menu system is logically organised, and standard adjustments such as contrast, brightness and saturation have dedicated handset buttons.

Advanced tweakers and installers will appreciate the comprehensive colour management functions, enabling you to pick suitable adjustment points from the picture. There's also a 'before and after' display, plus eight memories.

Other controls include comprehensive white balance adjustment and gamma tweaks, smooth motion correction level, noise-reduction and overscan. Seven preset viewing modes and five choices of aspect ratio (including 4:3, 16:9 and adjustable zoom) can be selected from the remote.

Projecting skills

Out of the box, the Z3000 produces visuals that most will find more than acceptable. Of the seven aforementioned preset modes, the default is 'brilliant cinema'.

A showcase as far as the Z3000's high brightness is concerned, this mode is probably useful if you're viewing in a brightly-lit room. But it's distinctively 'impressive' – and the high colour-saturation doesn't help.

With the Z3000 installed in a darkened room, I engaged the 'eco' lamp mode - which improves black levels to the extent where the variable-iris (which can crush shadow-depth) can be turned off - and carried out a calibration.

We calibrated the machine in a darkened room by engaging the 'eco' lamp mode. The picture became less overpowering, with improved colour fidelity.

Black levels and contrast range are respectable, but some rivals manage better. With PAL DVDs the pull-down correction isn't needed; such material is remarkably free of motion judder.

With hi-def from Blu-ray and Sky, the Z3000 shows its true potential with a beautifully detailed picture, backed up by a solid dynamic range and black level.

Our review Blu-ray player is a first-generation model without 1080p/24p output; indeed, its best results are obtained via 1080i/60. This gave us a chance to take advantage of the 5:5 pull-down functions and sometimes Smooth Motion had to be engaged for optimal fluidity.

Good value

For the asking price, this is a worthwhile projector that – apart from the non-motorised lens and lack of screen-trigger output – proved to be a joy both to install and to use.

Few projectors of any price pay Sanyo's attention to NTSC/60Hz pics, and if you have an extensive collection of imported DVDs or LaserDiscs then the Z3000 should be short-listed.

Our only serious reservation is the pixellation with standard-def HDMI sources – both 50 and 60Hz. This can be tamed by reducing the sharpness, but you shouldn't have to.