Sharp XV-Z3000 DLP Projector

A deal in performance clothing

I love surprises. Ok, that's a lie. I hate surprises. How is giving me an attack of tachycardia (learned that one on House) anyone's idea of a good time. But, in the HT world, surprises are usually good. Take this $3,000 projector, for instance. By all accounts, it should be an average performing mid-to-low-priced HD projector. Then you look at the contrast-ratio measurement and see it's better than every other projector we've ever reviewed. Surprise!

Baby Brother
Well, I guess it's not too much of a surprise. Every one of the Sharp projectors we've reviewed has been excellent. Of course, they were at or above $10,000. The XV-Z3000, at less than a third of the price of the XV-Z12000MkII we reviewed, actually gets you a little better vertical resolution (768 vs. 720), the same number of component inputs (two), HDMI (instead of DVI), and an RGB PC input that accepts the projector's native resolution.

The remote is small but is backlit with an evil-looking dark-red color. It has all of the buttons you need or want, including direct input access, iris control, and so on. The button to activate the backlight glows in the dark. This is how a remote should be designed.

The menus aren't terribly exciting, but they have lots of adjustments. Most notable for gamers is the ability to adjust for overscan in both vertically and horizontally. That is, if you're not sending 1,280 by 768, which it displays perfectly.

Gray-scale tracking isn't great, but it's not terrible. Darker images tend to get a little warm, while the brightest images are a little cool. One of the most disappointing aspects of the XV-Z3000 is its lack of an accurate green color point (red and blue are basically fine). I've seen displays that are further off (the InFocus IN76 comes to mind), but the result is a slightly artificial look to green things, like grass. Then again, even if you spent a lot more money, you're going to find an inaccurate green more often than not.

It's that black level that's most impressive. Admittedly, 0.001 foot-lamberts is at the bare bottom of the range of our Minolta LS-100 light meter. But even if it's off by 0.001, then the resulting contrast ratio of over 3,000:1 would still be impressive. Best of all, thanks to the wide range of the iris and bulb modes, you can also get 27 ft-L out of the XV-Z3000 in it's brightest mode. That's enough to fill a pretty big screen or really blow you out of the room on a smaller one.

A word of note, though: When the bulb mode is set to Bright, the projector is noticeably louder than it is in the Eco+Quiet mode. Unless you're sitting pretty far away, expect to keep it in the Eco+Quiet mode. Even still, you're getting over 23 ft-L when it's running full-bore, which is plenty—and worth the trade off in overall noise.

Processing, for both film and video are both quite good. There were very few jagged edges on the flag test from the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark test DVD. The projector picked up the 3:2 sequence quickly. The different processing modes, 2D and 3D, all worked, but are useful for different things. If you see artifacts, chances are one of these modes will fix what you're seeing. In all, the processing was pretty similar to other projectors in its price range, if not quite as good as the higher priced models.

Using the HD DVD of 16 Blocks, the ZV-Z3000 showed off only a slight amount of noise in the image. This wasn't any worse than other projectors in its range. Detail was good, though I've seen a few other projectors that appear to have better resolution. All in all, the image was excellent, and you'd have to spend a lot more to get much of an improvement.

A Bargain
While other projectors, even ones at the same price point, may offer a little more detail or a little better processing, few can claim to be as flexible as the XV-Z3000. Do you want a projector with a great black level? This is it. Do you want a bright projector to fill a huge screen? This can also be it. Few projectors at any price offer as many adjustments as the XV-Z3000, and with those adjustments the projector comes pretty close to being everything to everyone. Sure a better green and a little less noise would be great, but, for the money, this projector is excellent.

Highlights
• Excellent black level
• Excellent light output

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