Sanyo may struggle to make much of an impact on the TV world these days, but it’s still a force to be reckoned with when it comes to projectors. Its more or less annually upgraded ‘Z’ projection series always scores startlingly good sales.
Based on Sanyo’s new Z800 model, though, it certainly seems unlikely that design has any part to play in the brand’s enduring projector popularity. It’s without doubt one of the ugliest home cinema projectors we’ve clapped eyes on, with a totally dull block of a shape, a startlingly large footprint for such an affordable projector, and a strangely unpleasant white finish. The best that can be said about its appearance is that its build quality feels pleasantly robust, and that its whiteness might help you reduce its visibility by mounting it against a white ceiling.
The Z800 makes a more positive impression with its connections. Two HDMIs dominate, but there are also two component video inputs, an S-Video input, a composite video input, and a D-Sub PC input. A 12V trigger jack for automatically driving a motorised screen would have been appreciated, perhaps, but not having one probably won’t bother most of its target market.
The Z800 really impresses with its setup flexibility, though. For a start it has a 2x optical zoom, making it unusually adaptable to different room sizes. We were also mightily pleased to find optical image shifting ‘wheels’ down the projector’s right side, for moving the image up, down or from side to side. These wheels weren’t quite as responsive to our movements as we’d have liked them to be, but it’s still possible to position your image accurately on your screen without having to faff about with nonsense like drop-down legs or, worse, digital keystone adjustment.
Heading into the Z800’s onscreen menus via a compact, backlit remote control, we find the menus looking clear and boasting a sensible, fuss-free layout and a few interesting features.
There’s a series of picture presets, for instance, as well as a very welcome five slots into which you can store your own preferred settings for different source types. The presets are a little vague with their names at times - Creative Cinema, anyone? But it doesn’t take much experimentation with them to sort the wheat from the chaff. (If you were wondering, according to the rather hit and miss instructions manual, Creative Cinema is ‘For viewing contrasty 3D images in a dark room’. Even though the projector definitely doesn’t project 3D in the way we’re now thinking about the term!)
If you fancy setting up your own presets, though, we strongly recommend that you give it a shot. Not least because the Z800 goes a startlingly long way to give you bags of calibration flexibility.