Shootout: Three Budget HD Front Projectors Page 4

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Making allowances for these factors, I sat back to watch some movies. In the scene from Pan's Labyrinth where Ofelia enters her mother's room - and other scenes from this dark movie as well - the Z5 showed good black depth and decent shadow detail when I used the custom Iris settings described above. (With the iris controls turned off, dark images like this looked flat and dull.) But on better-lit scenes, the Z5's picture did not have as much punch as the Sony VPL-AW15's. Overall, its image was bright, but the projector fell a bit short relative to the Sony LCD when it came delivering a sense of film-like 3D depth.

Native 720p clips, such as an episode of Lost and a soccer game from ESPN-HD, looked very crisp and solid on the Sanyo. Colors were vivid, yet balanced, and the picture appeared packed with fine detail. In contrast, the 1080i programs that I watched didn't look as detailed as they did on the Sony and Planar models - the difference was subtle but fairly easy to spot during a three-way comparison. On the other hand, black-and-white films on DVD, such as Only Angels Have Wings, looked fantastic on the Z5. Picture uniformity was exemplary for an LCD projector, with no sign of color tinting at all on the classic movie's monochrome image.

BOTTOM LINE The Sanyo PLV-Z5 delivers very good video performance, and at $1,700 it's priced right (Sanyo is additionally offering either a $100 rebate or a free digital camera with the purchase of a Z5 until August 31, 2007). This projector's excellent setup features and extensive video adjustments also help it to stand out from the crowd. If you've never owned a piece of Sanyo gear before, the Z5 would be a fine introduction.

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