The benefit of 1080p was apparent the instant the PLV-Z700 finished its first warm-up and began displaying scenes from the Blu-ray Disc version of the surfing documentary Step Into Liquid. Viewing my 6-foot-wide 16:9 screen from a mere 3 feet away, I couldn't see the outlines of the pixels that made up the image. The picture looked smoother and more detailed than any I've seen from a projector listing for less than $2,999. In many shots, droplets of water in the waves were clearly visible.
The colors looked realistic and mostly accurate, even if they didn't jump off the screen as they do with many more expensive projectors. The tan skin tones of the sun-cooked surfers seemed just right - and as a Southern Californian, I'm quite familiar with the appearance of this species. The deep blues and greens of the ocean looked vivid and inviting. When I switched to the Blu-ray version of The Fifth Element, I was delighted to see the movie's exaggerated colors displayed cleanly, with subtle details that might otherwise be masked by pumped-up color showing through.
The PLV-Z700 uses LCD panels, which aren't well known for delivering deep, dark blacks. But even compared with most of the $3,000 LCD projectors I've seen recently, the PLV-Z700's picture looks slightly washed out. You can play around with the
iris and the lamp brightness setting to deepen the blacks, but this budget projector never manages to match its more elite brethren. Still, the dark parts of the picture look pretty good, even in the scenes from Step Into Liquid that feature brilliant whitecaps highlighting a dark ocean. They just never look great.
I did notice a couple of niggling little problems. The Sanyo projector's picture uniformity was just okay, exhibiting a tilt toward red at the top and toward blue at the bottom. And even after I calibrated its picture, dark grays and blacks sometimes looked a little reddish. I can't say that any of these flaws ever distracted me while I was watching regular DVDs and Blu-rays Discs, though. Also, standard-definition material upconverted by the projector looked soft - a problem you might be able to fix by setting your source components or your A/V receiver for high-def output.
There's no doubt that Sanyo's PLV-Z700 is a remarkable bargain. I'd prefer it to any inexpensive 720p projector, even those that might enjoy certain performance advantages. Given a choice, though, I'd rather spend an extra $1,000 and step up to a higher-end model that delivers deeper blacks. If you're buying a projector, you should insist on 1080p - and the PLV-Z700 allows even budget-minded home theater enthusiasts to make that demand.
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