For many years a leader in LCD front projection, Sharp took the plunge into DLP (Digital Light Processing) display technology in the fall of 2001, when the first 1280x720 DLP chipsets became available from Texas Instruments. Since then it has been a major player in the single-chip DLP home-theater projector market. With a suggested list price of just $4495, the recently introduced XV-Z2000 is, as of this writing, the least expensive DLP front projector utilizing TI’s third-generation HD2+ chip.
On the HD2+ TI filled in the microscopic dimples at the center of each tiny micromirror on the original HD2 chip, and made the metal substrate that the chip sits on black. Both of these innovations resulted in marked improvements in the black-level performance and contrast ratios of projectors using this chipset—not that you should believe the ludicrous contrast ratio numbers you read on spec sheets for HD2+ projectors. The contrastratio front is the video-display industry’s latest assault on consumer gullibility, and the methods used to measure same often have no correlation to viewing real-world program material.
Fit ’n’ Finish and Connectivity
The XV-Z2000 projector is compact and simple with little or no design flare—a squarish box with the lens assembly located on the far left of the chassis when the Sharp is table-mounted, and the far right when it is ceilingmounted. The top and bottom of the unit are finished in a dark gray metallic color, while the side-fan’s intake and exhaust grilles are black. Aesthetically the XV-Z2000 bears no resemblance to Sharp’s more expensive projectors, past or present. The current flagship XV-Z12000 (reviewed in Issue 59) is sleeker and far more attractive.
The XV-Z2000 weighs in at a mere nine pounds and measures just 12" wide by 3" high by 11-1/18" deep. Connectivity is a bit limited. There is a single DVI input that the manual says can be used for either computer or HD sources—it’s even HDCP-compatible—and two component- video inputs compatible with standard and high-def signals.
Features and Setup
As you might expect, convenience features like PIP (Picture-In-Picture) are few and far between on front-projection systems. The XV-Z2000 does, however, include a number of what I call “picture-enhancing features,” and several that aid in the actual setup of the projector. Among the former are selectable color temperatures labeled in degrees Kelvin (starting at 5500K and going up to 10,500K in 100 degree increments). I found the 7500K setting measured closest to the NTSC broadcast- standard color temperature of 6500K. There are also several gamma settings, and choosing the right one is important for optimum overall picture quality. GAMMA 1 had the smoothest ramp up out of black and the most linear grayscale performance.
By far the coolest set-up features on this little budget-priced projector are electronic zoom and focus. These are normally found only on DLP projectors costing three or four times as much as the XV-Z2000. In fact, Sharp’s flagship XV-Z12000, at $10,000, doesn’t even offer this kind of flexibility. Electronic focus is the feature that provides the most convenience and consequently saves you the most time.
Obviously, you could manually zoom the picture to size it correctly, though standing at the projector and trying to focus from that distance is a neat trick. Being able to put your nose on the screen while adjusting focus electronically keeps you from wearing a path in the carpet from projector to screen, and ultimately results in better overall focus.
The HIGH CONTRAST and HIGH BRIGHTNESS IRIS modes are meant for relatively small and larger screen sizes, respectively. I found the HIGH CONTRAST mode to produce quieter, less noisy blacks on my 72" Stewart StudioTek 130 (1.3 gain white) screen. I suspect the HIGH BRIGHTNESS mode, which appeared to produce significantly more light, would be useful in driving larger screen sizes, where more light output would be necessary. [When I reviewed Sharp’s XV-Z12000 I found the HIGH BRIGHTNESS iris mode useful for goosing up the light output for sports or video-based material, but preferred the black levels and contrast of the HIGH CONTRAST mode for movie watching. –Shane Buettner] There are a number of PICTURE modes in the projector, which allow you to store sets of adjustments that can be recalled and used with the Z2000’s various inputs. I would certainly prefer to have completely independent memories tied to each input, but at this price beggars can’t be choosers.
The remote seems to be identical to the one included with the far-pricier flagship XV-Z12000 and is extremely well designed. The on-screen menu or GUI (Graphical User Interface) is straightforward and intuitive to navigate. There are direct-access keys for input-switching, aspect-ratio control, ZOOM and FOCUS functions, and changing PICTURE modes—all of which are convenient for the end user and make programming a Crestron or AMX touch-panel remote a snap for custom installers. All the keys are backlit, making adjustments in a darkened home-theater environment easy.