It’s worth noting, too, that the Z17000 doesn’t offer 2D to 3D conversion, and runs a little noisily when using the Dynamic picture preset that to our mind best suits 3D viewing. But the Z17000 is hardly alone in this latter respect, and actually runs remarkably quietly when you’re watching 2D footage using a tweaked version of one of the Movie presets.
The Z17000 is not, alas, as stand-out great with 2D as it is with 3D. The main reason for this is a slight lack of black level depth versus rivals like JVC’s X3 and, to a lesser extent, the Sony HW30ES.
Somewhat hidden by the dimming effect of your glasses during 3D viewing, the slightly limited black levels lead to dark scenes looking slightly grey and a little short of shadow detail in very dark areas. You can reduce the greyness by tinkering with the projector’s brightness and contrast, but only at the cost of yet more shadow detail and general image ‘punch’.
In most other ways, though, the Z17000’s 2D pictures are good. Colours look natural and subtle, motion is more ably handled than it is in 3D mode, and most strikingly of all, the exceptional detailing noted during HD 3D viewing is also apparent with normal HD material, allowing the Z17000 to do that usually high-end-only trick of revealing fine details in some HD sources that we hadn’t spotted before.
Shifting the manual iris to the High Contrast setting best suited to 2D movies does, it must be said, remove quite a bit of dynamism from the picture. But this doesn’t stop images looking cinematic by any means - unless you’re trying to use the projector in an environment containing ambient light (which we strongly suggest you don’t!).
One final feather in the Z17000’s cap is that it suffers scarcely at all with DLP’s dreaded ‘rainbow effect’ artifacts, where stripes of pure colour appear over bright parts of the image or in your peripheral vision.
The mid-range space of the projector market is getting seriously interesting right now. In their different ways JVC’s X3, Sony’s HW30ES and now Sharp’s Z17000 projectors all offer some serious quality for your money.
In the Z17000’s case, that quality is particularly evident in 3D mode, where the total absence of crosstalk is a revelation, leaving 3D looking cleaner and less tiring than it does on either of its key rivals.
The Z17000 isn’t quite as good as the other two models - especially the JVC - when it comes to 2D playback, though, predominantly due to its slight black level limitations. And since most of your viewing time will likely be spent with 2D rather than 3D material - and also because the Z17000 feels a bit too expensive - we’ve ended up only being able to give the Z17000 a score of eight overall. But if you want the best 3D projection performance you can currently buy without spending megabucks on something like the Sim2 Lumis 3D-S, then the Z17000 is your man.