The Z5 doesn't look very special, to be honest. It's a chunky affair with nothing significant in its sculpting or finish to make it stand out.

It certainly does stand out when it comes to connections, though. In fact, with two HDMIs and two component video jacks it's the best connected model in the test.

As with all of Sanyo's PLV-Z models, the Z5 uses LCD technology, in this instance delivering a native resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels and, thanks to a near-obligatory auto-iris system, a massive claimed contrast ratio of 10000:1.

Other eye-catching features include an overscan adjustment that lets you show HD sources either 1:1 or with differing levels of overscan; a variety of themed gamma presets; bags of progressive scan options; and a contrast boosting circuit. It's also worth saying that, unusually, the Z5's auto iris system uses an iris on the lamp as well as an iris in the lens, potentially providing unprecedented control over the contrast/ brightness balance which is so key to an LCD projector's success.

For all its complexity, the Z5 is very easy to set up. With a 2x zoom and manual horizontal/vertical image shifter standing out. This Sanyo is outstanding in some respects, but also suffers a couple of key flaws.
On the plus side, the picture performance is clean and artefact-free.

There seems to be no video noise or technology-related interference (such as LCD's chicken wire effect), giving you an instantly direct connection with what you're watching.

Black-listed

However the Z5's black levels are perfect. In order to achieve black levels with the sort of depth demanded by a good movie, the amount of brightness that has to be traded through the iris system sometimes feels excessive. In other words, dark scenes tend to lack a little sparkle and dynamism, especially where colours are concerned, compared with the best models in this round-up.

You can, of course, up the dynamics at the expense of some black level depth, but the bottom line is that I couldn't quite get a contrast/ brightness balance that I felt wholly comfortable with.

Another more minor issue is that the Z5's pictures aren't quite as sharp as I'd expect of an HD Ready LCD model. HD still looks hi-def, but there's certainly not quite enough clarity around to deliver a significant sense of 'wow'.

There's no doubt that the PLV-Z5 is rather intolerant of ambient light. If you can completely black out the room in which you're going to be using your projector - right down to using black walls - then the Z5 is just about worth considering. But for anyone else its lack of brightness in the pursuit of a good black level might just leave your movie experience a little flat.