With some HD Ready DLP projectors now breaking the £2,000 barrier, the key question for Sharp's XV-Z3000 is simple: can it deliver enough of a performance step-up to justify its extra cost, or is it just overpriced?

It's certainly a dapper dresser. The chunky body wears its bulk superbly thanks to a colour combination of gloss white and gloss silver, together with curves in all the right places.

It's excellently connected too, boasting two high definition-capable component video inputs, an HDMI socket, a PC port, and a 12V trigger output for automatically activating a motorised screen.

The HD friendliness of the connections turns into full HD Ready status with the discovery of a 1280 x 768 resolution DLP chipset. But that's just the tip of a healthy feature iceberg that also includes a Kelvin-based colour temperature adjustment, Texas Instruments' BrilliantColour engine for upping brightness levels without ruining colour tones, further Colour Management, and three Iris presets.

The gentle touch

The XV-Z3000 is friendly to set up. A digital image shift utility helps you get the image to the right height, while edge straightening is helped by a handy keystone correction system that lets you adjust the geometry in all four corners.

Many users will also appreciate the XV-Z3000's short throw lens which delivers a 100in diagonal image from just 3m away.

Tested with a DVD of The Village, the XV-Z3000 just about does enough to justify stepping over the budget HD Ready boys - but it's a more marginal decision than we'd have ideally liked.

We're immediately blown away by the simple directness and clarity of the picture, partly down to some acute fine detailing. But also key is the suppression of most forms of common noise, including grain, dot crawl, and DLP's problems with fizzing over motion.

Edges are free of haloing and glimmering, even when a yellow village outfit contrasts sharply against a black backdrop. And finally in the plus column, the projector's greyscaling subtleties give dark shots a real sense of depth and scale.

While these strengths justify the XV-Z3000's above-budget price, extended viewing reveals a problem or two.

For starters, while the XV-Z3000 largely avoids DLP's fizzing noise over motion, that motion can also look rather juddery. Next, no matter how much we played with all the picture adjustments we struggled to find a truly satisfying balance between brightness and contrast - a fact which impacts slightly on colour vibrancy, too.

Level crossing

Although the XV-Z3000 claims a prodigious 6,500:1 contrast ratio, we didn't find its black levels as deep as we would have expected.

Finally, during quiet scenes of The Village, we found the Z3000's running noise quite distracting, even in Low Lamp mode.

While these problems might stand out against higher-end company, however, none of them is really bad by £2,500 standards. In fact, in the context of its own price, even when it's bad the XV-Z3000 is still pretty good. And when it's good, it's great.