I received my Sharp XV-Z30000 tonight. I realize I'm quite late to the game when it comes to reviewing this projector, but I thought I'd give my initial impressions after spending the night with it. I was planning on posting my thoughts in the morning but I decided to do it now while everything is still fresh in my head.
The first thing I noticed before looking at the projector was the excellent packaging. A rather large box with a great layout and plenty of foam to protect the unit. A large carton is used in a separate section above the projector for all the included accessories. Each accessory has its own compartment in the carton to make sure nothing moves around during shipment. They're also individually wrapped which I thought was a nice touch. While the latter is common the former was nice to see. Most companies throw all the accessories in a single box and which means they're allowed to move freely in shipment. You can tell Sharp spent a good deal of time making sure the unit wasn't going to get damaged in shipment. Kudos to them.
Taking the projector out of the box and stryofoam sleeve revealed an aesthetically pleasing projector. The one thing about the look of the projector that none of the reviews or pictures I've seen show off was the cool circular accent piece on the top of the unit. Even though it's obviously plastic, it looks like frosted glass and the "SharpVision" logo has a 3D quality to it due in part to the way it was painted on top of the accent piece. It's all matte black, which I like, and will fit into any home theater environment quite nicely. The unit has a decent solidness to it that you don't normally find with DLP projectors around it's price range. Build quality over all is excellent. The remote is nicely laid out and looks a bit familiar to the one that came with the Sharp XV-Z20000 (for those who've also used that unit). The one complaint I have is that it isn't back lit. This was a bit surprising considering it's MSRP and the fact that DLP projectors that I've had costing thousands less came with back lit remotes. The buttons do glow in the dark, but are no where near bright enough to make out what each button does. Luckily all the more commonly used buttons are easy enough to remember where they are after a few uses. No big deal, it was just a bit surprising to see that missing.
Setting up the projector was very easy. All the controls are motorized which is something you just don't see on most DLP projectors that have an MSRP under $20000. Other than the Sim2 D80 , this is the only other DLP unit I've owned that has fully motorized lens control. I've owned 24 DLP projectors. a large portion of them costing a lot more than the Sharp, and this is only the second one that's had fully motorized optics. What gives DLP? Is it really that
expensive to fully motorize the lens? Kudos again to Sharp. Another thing to point out here is that there's no lens offset to the projector. Many manufacturers that utilize the .65" DLP DMD use a forced lens offset. What this does is increase native contrast. It's a trick that they can use instead of designing a costlier, more efficient, light engine and optics. this ties in nicely to what I said earlier about the build quality of this unit. It achieves the same, and in some instances more, native contrast without using that optical trick. using an offset is a pain in the neck to have as it restricts placement flexibility and typically the amount of vertical and horizontal lens shift. Speaking of lens shift, It has plenty of vertical and horizontal for unheard of placement flexibility for a DLP projector. The projector's lack of optical offset is ideal for someone like me, and many others, with a HP screen, which necessitates the lens be as close to center screen as possible to get the maximum amount of gain from it.
The unit is very quite for a DLP projector. This is another area where it pulls far ahead of it's DLP competition. In eco+quite mode it's subjectively as quite as my JVC DLA-X90 in low lamp mode and actually a tad quieter when both are in high lamp mode. This is extremely impressive considering how compact the chassis is and how much light this unit is able to put out. The only quieter DLP projector that I've owned was the LED driven NuVision ProVu P2. That unit has a massive chassis and a lot of noise dampening material inside to achieve it's low audible noise.
Once set up and running I put the unit through an auto-calibration with the use of my Spyder4Elite colorimeter and accompanying Windows program that runs the unit. This is not what most consider a reference meter, but because it's known this unit cannot achieve reference color, (there's no way to tame the over-saturated green primary) I figured it couldn't hurt. I'm also not a color Nazi so it doesn't bother me if this meter doesn't get it to "reference" status. Either way the software informed me the greyscale had an average delta error of 3.16, which are errors almost imperceptible to the eye, and the gamut chart showed that (who guessed it) the green primary was over-saturated. I also had the software do a 2.2 gamma curve. After the calibration the subjective color looked great. No complaints. This calibration limits me to HTPC use only, but because I only use my HTPC to view content it fits my needs perfectly.
One thing I noticed out of the box is that, by default, "Detail Enhancement" is at 0. Normally this means off, but in the case of the XV-Z30000 it means "middle" as shown by the slider for that setting. Lowering it to -30 got rid of an annoying noise issue that I wasn't sure was defeatable. It also got rid of an annoying over-sharpened look that all content had. Most images looked "cooked" and very digital. This look was similar to what high amounts of Reality Creation on current Sony projectors looked like. Turning this and other sharpening/detail enhancing features off made the image look far more natural and appropriately sharp. My unit seems to have a great lens sample. I read some reports of bad focus uniformity. I used a little vertical lens shift for this initial viewing and even still pixels from edge to edge were evenly delineated and distinct. There is a very small amount of CA that is only noticeable with my nose to the screen. Native optical sharpness is excellent for a .65" DMD DLP projector. It's as sharp looking as the Mitsubishi HC7900DW I had a few weeks ago.
Motion looks excellent for this price range. Subjectively I think the JVC DLA-X90 handled pans a bit better, but only by a small amount. Quick movement with 24p material revealed a little more detail compared to what the X90 could muster. DLP still has a visible advantage with motion resolution, but the LCoS chips from JVC and Sony are catching up when it comes to rendered 24p content with adequate motion resolution.
I never once saw any RBE (rainbow effect) from this unit. Now, there is a somewhat hidden feature in the menus that allows you to control the speed of the color wheel somewhat. The setting is called "CBNR" and is only available for use with a 1080p24 2D image. The menu describes the feature as a "...function [that] reduces the color break noise." When you enable it, the screen goes black for a bit, and if you press your ear up to the projector, you can hear the color wheel change pitch. I didn't notice RBE before enabling the feature, but to those uber sensitive, it couldn't hurt enabling it for your 2D content. I'm not sure what Sharp is doing with it's color wheel but I've never seen a DLP projector this bright not have some sign of RBE. I'm not particularly picky with RBE. I see it occasionally on most DLP projectors, but it never really bothers me.
Contrast performance was the biggest thing that interested me with this unit. For a .65" DMD projector contrast performance is amazing. It's by far the best I've seen that has what I like to call a 100% of the time usable dynamic iris. Other .65" DMD projectors offer contrast performance similar but the DI is almost always terrible and annoyingly distracting to the point where I want to turn it off. Other than the Planar PD8150, this unit has the best dynamic iris performance I've seen on a unit that I've owned. I say on a unit that I've owned because I did watch various content on a Sony VPL-HW50ES last year and from what I saw over that 5 hour period I never once saw or noticed the DI in action or saw any artifacts such as brightness compression or clipped whites. Compared to the PD8150, the Sharp's implementation is about 95% of what the PD8150's looks like. There are a few scenes I use to specifically test a DI's performance and the Sharp slipped up a little bit more on these torture scenes than the PD8150 did. Other than those torture scenes I only saw it slip up once or twice. And what I mean is that, in these scenes, there was a quick mixture of extremely dark and extremely bright images and the software just wasn't sure which way the next bunch of frames were leaning towards in terms of APL and accidentally chose the wrong way to move the iris and as a result you see the brightness change in an obvious way. As noted, this was an extremely rare occurrence and most people probably wouldn't really notice it. I just happen to be particularly picky when it comes to DI performance especially when it comes to DLP projectors. Lately, with native contrast performance almost light years away with the other technologies, a DLP home theater projector NEEDS a well implemented iris that can be left on all the time to give a subjectively competitive image in regards to overall PQ and obviously needed to be competitive when it comes to subjective contrast performance. Unfortunately these implementations are few and far between. Lately what I've seen from other projectors claiming good Di performance are implementations that barely move the iris at all. This limits pumping issues because the iris simply doesn't have a large range of motion. But that doesn't mean the iris is implemented well. Obviously the black level suffers from the lack of range, but usually these projector companies also forget to code the iris software properly on when the DI should kick in. That is, say you're watching a movie scene that has a dialog between two or more characters. As the shots move to and from each character sometimes the amount of contrast in each shot is different. If the DI doesn't move in a quick frame accurate manner the shift in brightness is obvious and distracting as you go from one character to the other. A wide range of motion, frame accurate quick movement and quick dynamic gamma to match the DI movement is what's needed for a well implemented DI. This is the first DLP projector I've owned, other than the PD8150, that has had a DI that I would say meets my qualifications for great DI performance. The Mitsubishi HC7900DW had the issues mentioned before. It's most stable looking DI mode offered a very limited amount of range and kicked it far too late. It's performance was still, unfortunately, better than most of the other projectors I've owned in the past. I should note that the manual iris needs to be in the "high contrast" setting to give subjectively competitive contrast performance to other projector technologies like 3LCD. I also found that taking the unit out of "eco-quiet" mode gave the image more depth and subjective contrast. Using the manual iris in high contrast mode could potentially limit one's screen size options, but with the use of HP screen material, the lumen output should suffice for all but the biggest screen sizes when in this manual iris mode. I didn't pull out my lux meter to brightness match against the X90. I did it as best I could by eye. In an A/B side by side against the JVC DLA-X90 , the Sharp looked better in mid to high APL scenes regarding contrast and image depth. Once you go lower in APL the Sharp is simply no match for the X90. Compared to the PD8150, there was noticeably more clipping on extremely dark content. During one scene that took place in the Room of Requirement, in the last Harry Potter film all of Draco Malfoy's hair is completely clipped. This looked so obvious and unnatural that it gave me pause to look at other scenes in the film. I spent another 20 minutes looking at other very dark scenes and luckily didn't notice anything that distinct in terms of DI artifacts. The PD8150 handled that scene much better from memory. This makes sense considering the PD8150 has roughly 50% more native contrast so the DI and dynamic gamma work a little less hard. From memory the PD8150 had more dark scene prowess, but considering what the Sharp has to work with in the hardware department I'm extremely impressed with the results. Kudos again to Sharp.
Sorry for the huge wall of text, but I thought I owed it to this projector. It's a breath of fresh air when it comes to cheaper .65" DMD DLP projectors. It's overall performance is big step up from every other .65" DMD DLP projector that I've owned, due in part to it's fantastic DI that offers amazing contrast performance (for DLP). Combine that with fully motorized optics, lens memory, tons of features within the menu I didn't even cover and it makes this projector that much better compared to it's cheaper DLP brethren. It's quite unfortunate that Sharp was unable to sell this projector the way they hoped for. Until the Woot deal last year this was a relatively unknown projector in terms of performance. The MSRP of $4999 scared off many initial buyers who had no access to user reviews to give them comfort in a potential purchase of the unit. For the woot deal price, other than possibly the Mitsubishi HC5, this was the best new-in-box, warranty included, projector deal in recent memory. I only wish I had jumped on the Woot deal when it happened. I could have been using this projector ever since. If you're a DLP fan and find this projector for under $3000, I'd say don't hesitate to buy it. Even if you aren't sure you like DLP it's a great projector to consider especially if you plan on watching a lot of 3D. Overall the performance at it's price point is staggering and I haven't even checked out arguably the most provocative feature the Sharp has; 3D.