Sanyo has a proud history of punching above its perceived weight in the projector department. Its latest LCD effort,the PLV-Z4, is at the vanguard of a new wave of affordable HD Ready models and boasts an HDMI input,1,000 ANSI Lumens brightness and a colossal claimed contrast ratio of 7,000:1.
The PLV-Z4 is nicely turned out,with a smart rectangular case housing a motorised lens cover and,at a minimum of just 22dB, one of the quietest cooling systems around.
The projector,which can handle 720p natively and downscaled 1,080i, is only modestly bright by LCD standards,but stacks up well against most DLPs and scores points for its 12bit colour processing,rather than the bog-standard 8bit variety one might have expected.The zoom range is wide enough to throw a picture slightly larger than 2.2m from a distance of around 3m,which makes it ideal for smaller rooms and a mechanical lens shift gives you a decent amount of leeway when positioning the projector.
Getting the thing going is confusing at first,but once you get used to the quirky setup system you'll find it incredibly flexible, with adjustable irises on both lamp and lens to ensure an optimum mix of brightness and contrast.Colour and monochrome test screens also come in handy and the remote control is backlit.
You won't regret mastering the adjustments,as the picture needs a little work to achieve its full potential.Our sample, for example, appeared to over-egg the warmth a little on factory settings and flesh tones contained a little too much yellow for our liking.The projector can deal with a wide range of different levels of ambient brightness,however,and a maximum of eight presets should cope with most eventualities.
The quality of standard definition material, though is a little suspect. The dreaded 'chicken wire effect' is relatively pronounced, particularly up close and slow movement,such as leisurely camera pans,create noise.
Diagonal lines are particularly susceptible to this,although horizontal ones don't come away completely unscathed, either.Blacks are good,although these are also occasionally plagued by rogue speckle.
Make the jump to HD,though, and the PLV-Z4 really begins to show what it's about.Detail is tightened up, artefacting is all but eliminated and the overall performance matches that of many much more expensive machines.
Overall, the plus points easily outweigh the minus ones with this Sanyo. It's very versatile,should be right at home in even the least theatre-like front rooms and knocks out a perfectly respectable picture with barely a whisper from the cooling system.Its forward-looking specifications should also stand you in good stead for a good few years to come and the price is about as low as it could possibly be for a projector of this quality.
If you are looking for an affordable means of preparing for the HD revolution and are prepared to overlook its foibles with standard definition stuff in the meantime,the PLV-Z4 could be just the thing. Iain Macintosh