Sharp XV-Z10000U DLP Projector Page 3

Other distractions sometimes found in DLP projectors are fan noise, light spill, and grainy images. Fan noise was moderately high with the Economy mode turned off (see "Calibration" for more on this), but the Sharp spilled no extraneous light. And from a normal seating distance, the image's pixel structure was invisible. More important, video noise of all sorts from the Sharp was very low. This is one of the XV-Z10000U's greatest strengths: When I fed it a clean source, it rewarded me with a smooth, clean picture—perhaps the "quietest" picture I've yet seen from a digital projector.

The Sharp also did a first-class job on high-definition material. Most of my HD viewing was via D-VHS D-Theater tapes. Independence Day looked outstanding, with good blacks, low video noise, excellent detail, and rich, highly saturated colors. And while High Crimes wasn't quite as vividly photographed, it provided even higher resolution. Along with U-571, it's the sharpest-looking D-Theater movie release I've seen so far; the Sharp left me in no doubt about that fact.

One downside was the flexibility of the Sharp's DVI input. With a DVI source, no video controls were accessible, not even Brightness and Contrast. For this review, I had only one DVI source on hand, the V Inc. Bravo D1 DVD player (reviewed elsewhere in this issue). A black-level-setup difference between the player and projector caused the Sharp's image to be noticeably washed-out, which called for a reduction of the projector's black level (brightness). But since no such control was available on either the player or the projector, the component inputs provided a better picture overall. The DVI image from the Bravo D1 was crystal-clear and tack-sharp at the optimal setting (for the Sharp) of 720p, but the black-level issue rendered the DVI input essentially unusable with this combination of player and projector.

In theory, no video controls should be needed with DVI, so Sharp is not wrong in closing them off. But DVI is too new for us to judge how theory will work out with real program material played back under real-world conditions, with real-world compatibility issues such as this one. In theory, we don't need all the controls usually made available with a component source either, but we know that they often come in handy.

The Sharp XV-Z10000U provided a slightly crisper image than the Marantz VP-12S2 from its component input, even with DVDs, though the difference was more evident on hi-def. But the Marantz is plenty sharp with HD if you use its RGB or DVI inputs. The color reproduction of both projectors was very good, though the Sharp tended toward slightly deeper, richer hues, even after a full calibration. The color wasn't necessarily more accurate, though, except in the reds, which were less orange on the Sharp. While the Sharp's blues looked a bit too deep and not entirely neutral, they never looked unpleasant or unrealistic. On the other hand, the Marantz's greens, while slightly yellow, looked more natural overall than the Sharp's, particularly on brightly lit foliage. Altogether, the color rendition of the two projectors was a tossup, with the Marantz looking just a little more subdued, the Sharp a bit punchier, even after full calibration.

Both projectors exhibited comparable brightness when the Sharp was used in its optimal mode, though the Sharp has the option of significantly increased light output in its High Brightness mode with the Economy setting off. Both projectors produced comparable blacks in their optimum setups, but on the most difficult material, the Marantz's dark grays looked more filmlike and less often crushed.

Compared with the half-as-expensive, lower-resolution NEC HT1000 (reviewed in July/August), the Sharp XV-Z10000U was a bit brighter and had more neutral colors, including flesh tones; after calibration, the two projectors' gray scales looked very similar except in the brightest 20%, where the NEC shifted slightly green. A subtle green shift was also visible from the NEC on normal program material, though only occasionally, and then mainly in a direct comparison. For example, the darkening blue sky seen as the plane takes off in chapter 7 of Charlotte Gray looked pale blue on the Sharp but blue-green on the NEC. Yellow also looked purer on the Sharp, and reds were less orange. Bright green foliage, however, looked more natural on the NEC.

The NEC had less overscan. In addition, it was slightly quieter than the Sharp with the latter in its Economy mode, and significantly quieter with the Sharp's Economy mode turned off. Finally, the NEC was slightly more susceptible to rainbows.

Apart from these factors, the differences between the two projectors were not obvious on DVDs most of the time. Looking closer, however, I could see fine details on the Sharp—strands of hair, facial textures—that the NEC's lower-resolution panels glossed over slightly. The NEC's downscaled HD performance couldn't match the full HD resolution of the Sharp, but it was closer than you might expect. And the two projectors' contrasts, and the overall quality of their blacks and shadow detail, were surprisingly comparable.

The Sharp XV-Z1000U may not be the best of the new HD2 projectors in every respect; there are others that better it—though only marginally—in specific areas such as shadow detail, low fan noise, some aspects of color reproduction, susceptibility to rainbows, overscan, and scaling. But as delivered, the Sharp does produce a strikingly good picture. And after calibration, it may well have the best-balanced performance, overall, of any DLP projector I've seen.