Sharp XV-Z15000 DLP Projector

Price: $2,500 At A Glance: Outstanding video processing • Deep blacks (with auto iris) • Brightness to spare for a big screen

Sharp has a long history in the home theater projector business. It began with a successful run of LCD models. But the company soon shifted its projectors to Texas Instruments’ DLP technology, which appeared to be ready to dominate the projection business for a time.

However, with the development of new and vastly improved LCD chips and designs in the recent past, all that has changed. LCD (and its second cousin, LCOS—a variation on liquid crystal technology) now dominates the projection market. Sharp is sticking to DLP, and its new XV-Z15000 is one of the first DLP designs to sport a new 0.65-inch digital micromirror device (DMD) from Texas Instruments. The DMD is the imaging chip at the heart of the DLP system.

The XV-Z15000 differs from earlier Sharp designs in a number of ways, not the least of which is its far lower price. It’s also much smaller. In its black, rectangular case, it weighs less than 13 pounds. It even has a carrying handle that slides out from one side.

A protective shutter that you can slide in front of the lens takes the place of the usual lens cap. The lens is smaller than those on most projectors these days, but then so is the projector’s very limited zoom range. A 100-inch-diagonal (87-inch-wide) screen requires a screen-to-projector distance of 10.3 to 11.9 feet.

The projector doesn’t have any kind of lens shift. The best setup geometry on that same 100-inch-diagonal screen requires you to position the projector about 7 inches below the bottom of the screen. If it’s any higher, you’ll get an image with trapezoidal distortion. This much offset might be fine for a ceiling mount, but it can cause problems in a tabletop setup. The Sharp does offer an extensive set of keystone adjustments to correct almost any sort of image distortion that’s due to non-optimal placement (even for projection on a convex or concave surface!). But it’s always best to avoid any keystone correction. It can produce artifacts and reduce resolution.

The XV-Z15000 has six different preset picture modes. You can adjust each of them manually, and you can use the same mode with different settings at each input. The color temperature adjustment has five steps (–2 to +2), plus it has separate red and blue controls to fine-tune the color calibration. But the latter are overall color adjustments only. There are no separate high and low controls and no green.

The Sharp’s color management system (CMS), offers two modes: C.M.S.1 and C.M.S.2. Each of these modes offers four different adjustments: Hue, Saturation, Value, and Effect. Value is the brightness of the adjusted color. I’m still trying to figure out what the Effect control is supposed to do. The manual only suggests that it affects the range of the color correction. But each of these CMS modes only adjusts a single, user-selected color. This means that you can correct, at the most, two colors with both CMS options operating together. This severely limits the range of control over the projector’s color gamut. As we’ll see, the Sharp’s out-of-the-box gamut could use some major correction. A full-featured CMS system provides complete and separate adjustment for each primary and secondary color: red, green, blue, cyan, magenta, and yellow. This one does not.

It also has a five-position Gamma control, an Overscan control, and a Video Setup control (for analog video inputs at 480i).

Among the controls I left largely unused were Bright Boost, Detail Enhancement (which the projector doesn’t need), Dynamic Range (I left it in Auto), and two flavors of noise reduction: Digital Noise Reduction (DNR) and Mosquito Noise Reduction (MNR).

Two different lamp brightness settings are available under the Eco+Quiet control. A Fan Mode also offers a High setting for high-altitude operation. The projector is respectably quiet overall, particularly in Eco+Quiet.

The projector has two iris controls. IRIS1 selects either High Brightness or High Contrast. IRIS2 engages or defeats the auto iris.

The Sharp’s remote is compact and offers direct selection of inputs, picture modes, and IRIS1 and IRIS2. However, unlike the Epson’s remote, it lacks backlighting, and its small, closely spaced buttons aren’t easy to locate in the dark.

Video Processing, Etc.
The Sharp’s video processing doesn’t use (or doesn’t claim to use) any of the well-known video processing chips. But the results could hardly be better. With minor exceptions, it earned excellent scores on all of my usual 480i-to-1080p and 1080i-to-1080p tests. This included proper handling of 3:2 pulldown (inverse telecine) in all cases.

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