Product Review

Sanyo PLV-Z4 Three-Panel 16:9 LCD Digital Projector

Part I

February, 2006

John E. Johnson, Jr.



● Resolution: WXGA (1280 x 720)
● Brightness: 1,000 ANSI Lumens
● Contrast: 7,000:1
● Display Type: Three 0.7" PolySi
    LCD; 16:9
● Lens: f/2.0-3.0; 21.3mm - 42.6mm
    (Zoom Ratio 2:1); Manual Zoom
   and Focus
● Lens Shift: Manual Optical Lens
    Shift (Vertical and Horizontal)
● Keystone Correction: Digital
● Inputs: HDMI with HDCP (High
    Bandwidth Digital Content
    Protection) x 1, Component RCA
    (Y,Pb,Pr) x 2, S-Video x 1,
    Composite Video (Single RCA) x
    1, Computer RGB x 1
● Resolutions Supported: 480i, 480p,
    575i, 575p, 720p, 1080i
● Size: 5" H x 15" W x 12" D
● Weight: 11 Pounds
● MSRP: $2,495 ($1,999 from



After reviewing the Sanyo PLV-Z1, Z2, and Z3, it was natural that we would test their latest iteration, the PLV-Z4.

Progressive differences among the earlier versions included an increase in resolution, the addition of an HDMI input, and an adjustable iris.

The Z4 adds an electronically controlled lens cover, a higher lens zoom ratio, more contrast, and more brightness. The resolution has not changed since the Z2 (1280x720).

Several projectors out there have irises that are dynamic, that is, they open and close to varying positions while you are watching movies, depending on the brightness of the scene. If the scene is bright, the iris opens, to maximize the light, and during a dark scene, the iris adjusts to a small opening, to deepen the black areas. Sometimes, video processing adjusts contrast during these operations, so as not to lose highlights or shadow detail.

In the case of the Z4, it appears that there are two irises, one of which the user can set, and the other is dynamic under certain circumstances. That is, you can set the user iris to adjust the overall brightness, and this setting does not change during the movie. The other iris changes dynamically during the movie, depending on the brightness of the scene.

By combining different menu settings with the iris, different overall effects on the final image are available. For example, in the Natural mode, the iris closes down, contrast is set to the middle level, and this produces an image that is similar in brightness to a commercial theater. In the Powerful mode, the iris opens up fully, the lamp brightness is turned up, and color is turned up.

Although I always use the Natural mode, or whatever name the projector has for that type of mode, for bench tests, I actually preferred the Powerful mode for viewing (the Vivid mode was also good). As you will see below, I took that basic preset and then adjusted the brightness, contrast, gamma, and color, to produce an image that I found particularly nice for watching movies on DVD, and high def satellite TV programming. I stored that setting in one of the projector's memory banks. My wife thought the image was beautiful, and said it reminded her of Technicolor movies from decades past.

Inputs and Connectivity

The Z4 inputs are located on the back of the projector, and include one composite, one S-Video, two component (RCA/BNC), one HDMI (HDCP compliant), and one computer.

A Service Port takes the place of the more standard DB-9 RS-232 serial port.

Remote Control/Projector panel

The Z4 remote is backlit, but it is not automatic, which is a good idea because it saves battery power. You just press Light to turn on the backlighting.

The buttons are nicely laid out, are intuitive, and are useful. You can select Lamp (increases or decreases bulb brightness), Screen (aspect ratio), Image (takes you to the Image menu for changing any of the complete list of controls), and specific buttons for Brightness, Contrast, Color (saturation), the Iris (for reducing overall screen brightness), and Image Presets/User Presets. The bottom set of buttons lets you select the input.

There is a small panel on the bottom of the projector that, once opened, will let you use the included squeeze bulb to blow dust out of the optical path. Dust manifests itself as nebulous blobs in the image. I find that they come and go, so I don't worry about them. In fact, the air that you suck into the squeeze bulb could very well have dust in it, and make things worse.

Click Here to Go to Part II.

Copyright 2006 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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