Sharp XV-Z17000 3D DLP Projector Page 2
A full calibration produced an excellent white balance, though with some deviation from ideal at the bright end above 90 IRE. But the color gamut was poor. The position of the primary and secondary colors, not to mention their relative brightness, was skewed significantly from the HD standard (see HT Labs Measures). Surprisingly, these deviations didn’t jump out at me on the screen as clearly as I might have expected. The two linchpins of believable color for most of us, fleshtones and green foliage, looked natural on most sources, and when they didn’t, it was easy to accept them as creative license—common in today’s films.
Still, I wish the color was more accurate, and/or that Sharp offered more, and more effective, controls to get it right. But as it stands, with the best calibration I could perform, I rarely found its color flaws distracting in 2D. I was reminded that the color wasn’t quite right only when the occasional bright-red object entered the scene—such as the red chair in chapter 14 of Independence Day or the crew’s red-orange jackets on the bridge in chapter 6 (irony alert) of Crimson Tide.
Even on the big screen, I found the Sharp’s black level to be mediocre with the Iris2 (Auto) turned off. Surprisingly, this was bothersome only on the very darkest scenes with low inherent contrast and no bright highlights. The latter looked grayish and slightly washed out but not plugged-up or crushed. Still, shadow detail was good, and apart from those very dark scenes, I was never conscious of the poor measured black level and middling full-on/full-off contrast.
I briefly experimented with the Iris2 (Auto) feature on the Stewart screen. It did dramatically deepen the blacks, with readings as low as 0.001 foot-lamberts. Unfortunately, this feature made itself obvious by pumping the light output abruptly on transitions between bright and dark scenes. To add to that, it also made bright scenes look bland, two-dimensional, and lacking in pop. Except where noted, I left Iris2 off for all of the tests and observations in this review.
Despite my very real reservations about this projector (limited color controls, a poor color gamut, a too-high black level with an ineffective and sometimes unpredictable auto iris, and a vertical image offset making for a difficult setup), I was blown away by nearly everything I watched on that big, 2.35:1 screen. This included all or part of at least 15 different Blu-ray movies. They weren’t all pristine, but the combination of a big screen and the Sharp’s surprisingly bright, crisp, detailed images definitely separated great-looking titles (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Battle: Los Angeles, The Incredibles, Galaxy Quest, Star Trek (2009), Peter Pan (live action, 2003) from merely good ones (Unstoppable, Fiddler on the Roof, Forbidden Planet—though the latter two looked much better than expected, given their age).
I’m very sensitive to the rainbow artifacts that are inherent in many single-chip DLP projectors. But they weren’t an issue on the Sharp with its six-segment color wheel (RGBRGB). I can recall seeing rainbows only once on the XV-Z17000 in my dozens of hours of viewing.
The bottom line is that I kept pulling out more and more titles just to see how impressive they might look on that big screen. I was rarely disappointed. Of course, some of the credit must go to the immersion offered by a 101-by-43-inch picture viewed from little more than 10 feet away. But much of it goes to the Sharp’s ability to fill that screen with punchy, crisp, and compelling images.
When I switched to 3D, it was immediately obvious that the Natural picture mode was inadequate for a screen of this size. Even with Iris1 in high brightness, it wasn’t nearly enough.
As it turned out, the most effective 3D mode on that big screen was (gulp) Dynamic (Iris1 in high brightness), with a few minor tweaks (turning off Bright Boost, for one; it’s on by default in this mode). While Dynamic produced only a marginally higher measured peak brightness than more videophile-friendly modes, its creative use of a low gamma in the mid-brightness region gave the picture a considerably punchier look than any other mode apart from the comparable Game mode. If this jiggering of gamma to enhance subjective brightness sounds familiar, you need only jump over to our review of three Panasonic plasmas in our September issue to see the same technique used there.
Enough with the tech talk. How did 3D look on the Sharp? In a word, solid—and not just in the obvious way. Yes, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the higher brightness and the more vivid colors the Sharp produced in 2D. But for serious 3D fans, the vivid sense of depth, projected onto a large screen, will more than compensate. And the Sharp’s almost total lack of 3D ghosting was a welcome bonus.
I was never totally satisfied with the result of my 3D calibration on the Sharp (as in 2D, its wonky color gamut remained). Still, the visible results were satisfactory on most 3D discs, particularly the animated releases that comprise most of the current 3D catalog.
I expected dark movies to be troublesome in 3D, particularly in the Dynamic mode. But they were surprisingly effective—the 3D glasses helped by bringing the black level down along with the overall brightness. The most difficult title was A Christmas Carol. But I ultimately arrived at a compromise that produced a satisfactory (though hardly vivid) subjective brightness together with good shadow detail and an adequate black level. To get there, I had to dial in an even higher gamma than the one inherent in the Dynamic mode by using +1 on the gamma control. I also adjusted the contrast and brightness controls for the best visual result rather than obsessing over technically ideal settings.
Tron: Legacy and Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, two other very dark 3D titles, both looked amazing, if a few foot-lamberts removed from spectacular. Shadow details were visible in the right proportions, and the resolution was stunning (particularly in the astonishing animation of the feathers in Owls). The lack of brilliant, midday sunlit scenes in these movies kept me from being reminded that the Sharp’s maximum 3D brightness on this screen is but a shadow of its 2D self.
3D remains a work in progress on this and most other affordable projectors when it comes to producing a bright image on a very big screen at a sensible price. But even there, the best of the 3D discs I watched were a treat, despite my reservations about their so-so brightness and subdued colors.
Overall, I’d like to see more and better color calibration controls than this Sharp projector offers, a more accurate color gamut, and an auto iris that can deepen the blacks and enhance the contrast without compromising the image in other ways.
But apart from those black levels, the Sharp XV-Z17000 projector checked off the most important boxes for me. I definitely enjoyed the time I spent with it. 2D in particular drew me into movies on that big 101-inch screen in a way that smaller and/or dimmer 2D presentations—even technically better ones—do not. In the end, isn’t that what we want from a home theater display?