Sharp's latest video projector combines the best of compact DLP portables with more heavyweight home cinema items. It keeps the image contrast that comes with the DLP format but includes high brightness modes for better visibility in ambient light.
It's also conveniently small, though not so tiny that it's unbearably noisy due to an overworked fan. Although the front and top are sleek and glossy, from the side and back it's fairly ugly, so it's a good candidate for a ceiling mounted position.
It's a versatile device that's particularly useful in smaller rooms due to its 1.5x zoom and a short throw lens. Fan noise goes down to about 28dB in Eco mode, which cuts the brightness to extend lamp life too. Oddly, however, its high brightness setting doesn't prompt a fan noise reduction.
Effectively replacing Sharp's XV-Z9000E, this model adds a DVI port and will also be compatible with high definition TV services. Equipment that uses the alternative HDMI digital output can also be linked to this projector with a straightforward adapter.
The XV-Z2000 is made for widescreen (16:9) display and can handle HDTV resolutions up to 720 lines in progressive scan or 1080 lines in interlaced format. The DVI port also accepts RGB signals from PCs via DVI or VGA (with an adapter), while the RS232 port enables you to control the projector from a PC's serial connection.
The on-screen menu is relatively easy to navigate. You can adjust the picture quality across a range of settings, including colour saturation, colour temperature and gamma correction (how bright the shadow areas are).
You may find that the defaults are adequate for most situations, with just the temperature needing a nudge towards the cool end to get flesh tones looking more natural. If you want settings for different material, you can store up to five sets of preferences in the memory.
Other adjustments include electronic control over the zoom and focus, digital keystone correction to tweak the image shape and full control over the various widescreen aspect ratios. If you use DVI, then the correct widescreen mode should be set automatically. There is no lens shift control, so the projector must be aligned as close to the horizontal centre of the screen as possible, though you get a small amount of extra height from the adjustable feet.
The six-segment colour wheel reduces the momentary multicoloured 'halo' effect (or socalled rainbow artefacts) but if your eyes are susceptible, you can still see this on bright highlights against dark backgrounds, especially the high-contrast nocturnal urban landscapes of Michael Mann's Collateral.
Regardless of which input you choose, the projector's 2,500:1 contrast ratio creates impressive results. The white elements are pure but not at the expense of the deepest black areas on screen. The analogue component connection provides a strong colour range but it's slightly soft on detail.
However, if a film is excessively grainy through DVI, then it's worth sticking with analogue. It's vital to have PAL progressive scan if you go the analogue route because even with up to 576 lines, you can see some jagged edges compared to a digital image.
The digital DVI connection brings higher clarity and slightly cleaner colours. If your player can also 'upscale' to create 720p pseudo-HD quality, then so much the better. Its ability with subtle shades is excellent, as seen in The Bourne Supremacy.
The motion can be juddery on some moving shots, suggesting that it doesn't adapt as well to the complexities of film framerates and progressive scan video as more expensive projectors. Neither does it perform its own upscaling or conversion to progressive scan, but as DVD players capable of doing this are already selling for less than £200, money is no longer a barrier to getting noticeable improvements.
As Sharp's new fully-HDTV compatible entry level projector, the XV-Z2000 is a powerful proposition. Available for below £2,700 at some retailers, it almost competes with the brand's own high-end XV-Z12000 for less than half the price. All it lacks are a few subtle refinements, but for a mid-range DLP, it packs quite a punch.