The LCD projection camp owes much to Sanyo's LCD-based PLV-Z range. The PLV-Z1 and its PLV-Z2 successor both appeared just in time to stop us declaring LCD nothing more than DLP's poor relation - and some might argue the same burden of responsibility now falls on the shoulders of the PLV-Z3.
The unit has clean lines but is unexciting. It's not exactly a supermodel, but the trapezoidal shaping and matt black colour scheme both lend it an air of contemporary cool.
Connectivity is good. The PLV-Z3 boasts both an HDMI jack and two sets of component video inputs, all ready for high-definition material or progressive scan fodder. You also get regulation composite and S-video inputs, while PC use is catered for by a standard 15-pin D-Sub jack.
The paper specs of the PLV-Z3 appear to place it in a different AV league than many of its budget LCD compatriots. There's a quoted 2,000:1 contrast ratio - a figure which, if not wildly exaggerated, puts the PLV-Z3 in the same black level ball park as key DLP contenders.
A healthy 1,280 x 720 resolution bodes well for high-definition playback, too, while the 800 ANSI Lumens brightness rating is well suited to video use.
More evidence that the PLV-Z3 has been built specifically for home entertainment use comes from the provision of Pure Cinema, Creative Cinema and Video picture presets, plus Progressive and Film 'pull-down' options.
Other tricks include three different lamp output adjustments, separate adjustments for the gamma, offset and gain elements of the red, green and blue image components, and transient improvement for sharpening outlines.
Even with no significant operating system issues, the PLV-Z3's simplicity and flexibility stands out. It's an absolute doddle to set up, with tricks like manual horizontal and vertical image shifting helping no end. The onscreen menus are attractive and flawlessly organised.
At times the PLV-Z3 is remarkably good. And those times are with bright scenes from pretty much any source, but especially high-definition video and progressive scan DVD.
The most appealing facet of such scenes is their extraordinary noiselessness. With only the very slightest compromise to fine detail levels, practically all traces of the dot noise that afflicts DLP models have been removed. This has an impressive impact with high-def pictures, which look detailed and cinematic.
I also liked the PLV-Z3's colour reproduction, which is up there with the best in the budget LCD projection world. Edges display a complete absence of jaggedness, glimmering or ringing, while patches of fine detail portray no signs of moiring interference. For the majority of the time the chicken wire effect is invisible.
There's only one weakness with the PLV-Z3's pictures: contrast. The 2,000:1 ratio claims look optimistic, as there's still more greying over of dark scenes than with DLP models.
Sanyo's latest PLV-Z model is another top-flight LCD offering. Although its contrast falls short of that of DLP rivals, there are sufficient picture strengths elsewhere to permit this contrast deficiency to be offset by the PLV-Z3's freedom from DLP's rainbow effect and green pixel noise. One to short list.