While Sanyo's TVs tend to be associated with the cheap price/average performance end of the market, its projectors are generally regarded as being some of the best in the business.
Though that's not to say they're ridiculously expensive. On the contrary, the brand's new high-contrast, Full HD offering, the PLV-Z3000, is available for less than £2,000. That makes it a cool £200 cheaper than the impressive Panasonic PT-AE3000 I tested recently, and with which the Z3000 seems to have at least a few things in common when it comes to specifications.
Before we get into these specifications, though, I'm afraid I have to report that the Z3000 is just about the drabbest projector I've ever seen. Its strikingly large body shows all the design flair of a breeze block, as a plasticky dark grey finish wraps around a style-free rectangular body to depressing effect. It's basically the AV projector equivalent of a dank rainy day in Stockport - hardly what you want in your living or cinema room!
Thankfully, things look up a little when you turn your attentions to the projector's rear and find a couple of HDMIs and two component video ports leading the HD charge. There's also a D-Sub PC port, and a control port for system builders.
It's as I start scanning through the Z3000's extravagant feature claims, though, that my objections to the thing's ugliness start to take a back seat. For there really does seem to be a lot going on here for such an affordable machine. For instance, unusually the projector runs with a 100Hz engine (which skips to 96Hz for 24p playback) in a bid to make motion look more fluid and smooth. Plus, like the Panasonic, it features adaptive frame creation processing.
Next, it sneaks a new optical compensating plate into the lens array that drastically reduces light leakage and so helps the Z3000 to claim a huge (by LCD projector standards) contrast ratio of 65,000:1. Also contributing to this contrast figure are a new variable iris system featuring a lamp-light volume control mechanism that can apparently adjust the lens iris adjustment every 1/60th of a second - easily fast enough to prevent you seeing overt brightness jumps during a normal viewing experience. What's more, Sanyo claims to have reduced the operating noise of the iris, so that you should seldom, if ever, hear it doing its opening and closing thing.
While we're on the subject of running noise, I was also mightily struck by Sanyo's claim that the Z3000 can run with just 19dB of noise provided you're using its low brightness settings. The 19dB figure is exceptionally low for such an affordable projector, and the projector mostly lives up to its boast, running more quietly than any other affordable projector I can think of unless you're foolishly running the lamp at full brightness.
Sanyo has also tried to make a big deal out of the fact that - so far as we know - the Z3000 is the first projector to carry a 5:5 pull-down mode to deliver a more natural, fluid image from 60Hz inputs. Which would be great if the UK actually had all that many 60Hz sources!