If you haven’t heard of Sharp’s XV-Z17000, we wouldn’t be surprised. Nor is there any point (for now, at least) googling the product name to find out where it’s available in the UK. For Sharp is currently treating its new 3D projector as a ‘limited distribution’ product, only available direct via the brand’s UK customer service department on 0800 262 958.
The background to this apparently odd distribution model is that Sharp actually pulled out of the UK projector market a few years ago. But such is the interest in all things 3D - especially where king-sized 3D is concerned - that the brand has decided to dip its toe gingerly back into UK projection waters with the Z17000. And as we’ll discover, we’re rather pleased it has.
Whatever else we might end up thinking about Sharp’s XV-Z17000 3D projector, though, it sure doesn’t look like something that will cost you four grand. Its shaping is of the classic ‘rectangular brick’ variety, and while its finish is glossy and black, it also feels plasticky and low-rent - a feeling underlined by the projector’s relative lightness compared with other recent 3D projectors like the JVC X3 and the Sony HW30ES.
Then there’s the lens, which is a disappointingly small affair housed within a flimsy looking lens ‘tube’, with simple zoom and focus rings wrapped around it. The rather measly x1.15 zoom isn’t anything to write home about, either. Indeed, it could make the Z17000 a non-starter for people with very large rooms given that Sharp has opted to equip its projector with a very short-throw lens.
Worse than the limited lens zoom, though, is the lack of true optical image shifting. While we might - just! - be able to forgive this on a sub-£1k budget projector, not including at the very least vertical shifting on a £4k home cinema projector is sinful. After all, the result is that many people will be forced to resort to using the Z17000’s keystone correction system to get the edges of their picture straight. And the moment you start manipulating an image with keystone correction you’re effectively digitally distorting it, thus removing the pixel for pixel perfection that’s the whole purpose of marrying an HD source to a full HD display pixel count such as that carried by the Z17000.
Sharp actually provides more keystone adjustments than usual, including Sphere and Rotation adjustments as well as the usual standard Keystone ‘trapezoid’ setting. But whoever decided that developing extra keystone settings would be better than providing manual image shifting should be shot. Or at least told off a bit...
So far, as indicated earlier, the Z17000 hasn’t set the right tone at all for a projector that costs £4k and is well-specced enough to boast 3D playback. But there is one bit of surprisingly good news about the Z17000’s chassis, namely that the necessary 3D sync transmitter is built into the projector, rather than being an external gizmo you need to accommodate separately.
Its connections aren’t bad either, including as they do two v1.4 HDMIs, a D-Sub PC port, and an RS-232 port for integrating the projector into a wider connected AV system. It’s a pity there are no 12V trigger outputs, but this isn’t a disastrous point by any means.