Spent about 22 hours (according to the lamp counter) with my new Z1 and my X1. Yeah, I know, I need to get a life. And for once, I think I can say I am totally burnt out on watching TV!
I kind of hesitate doing this side-by-side review, because it seems like everyone wants to rip on you for stating your opinion these days. But, hopefully this info will help people still trying to decide between the Z1 and X1.
These are only my opinions. Take them with as much salt as you wish.
If you donâ€™t want to read the full review, hereâ€™s the short version:
These two projectors are so close in terms of pq, itâ€™s almost impossible to say one is better than the other. Comparing the two side-by-side reminded me a lot of going to the eye doctor: "Is this better? Or is this better?" You can hardly see any difference, so you finally just end up telling the eye doctor, "Okay, that one. No, that one." I could actually tell more difference when flipping through the "color temp" settings on just one pj than I could when flipping between pjs.
After about 30 minutes of "back and forth" between the two pjs, my wife finally said, "If I have to look this hard to see any difference, maybe there just isnâ€™t any." Hmmmâ€¦sheâ€™s got a point. I often found myself "trying" to see differences.
So, if you own an X1, relax. Quit worrying that the Z1 is somehow better, and you maybe you should really have gotten it instead.
Or, if you own a Z1, relax. Quit worrying that the X1 is somehow better, and maybe you should really have gotten it instead.
So, here was the setup:
Both X1 and Z1 were setup with Avia prior to viewing. Both were setup to project a 92" wide picture onto a Dalite HiPower screen. Viewing distance was about 15 feet. Room lighting was 80% controlled. I set both pjs up to project exactly the same size image (I lined it up with both on), and they were each fed an identical signal using an AudioAuthority Video Distribution amp.
Viewing material consisted of DVDs, OTA digital and analog TV, DirecTV, and HDTV.
X1: Component to vga breakout cable (vga port) for DVDS, HDTV). S-video for OTA digtital, analog & DirecTV.
Z1: Component for DVDs, HDTV. S-Video for OTA digital, analog & DirecTV.
On Saturday, I had about 5 friends and neighbors over. On Sunday, I had 4 other people. And the results were very consistent with both groups.
Equipment: DVD player was a Panasonic RP62 in progressive mode. HDTV box was a Sony HD100.
Half the people preferred the X1. The other half preferred the Z1. And both halves changed their minds repeatedly. In other words, they really, really couldnâ€™t see much difference.
Here are my impressions:
X1 slightly better, but only if I looked really, really closely. Both of these pjs delivered what I consider to be very, very good black levels.
Z1 slightly better, but only if I looked really, really closely. Again, I think both of these pjs have excellent shadow detail.
Z1 slightly brighter in settings for watching dvds. However, the X1 does have the "presentation" mode, which really helps if youâ€™re watching low quality TV (like football) in ambient light.
X1 slightly better.
Z1 was a little greenish, Iâ€™ll have to tweak it a bit. Z1 colors were a bit more vibrant and saturated, but didnâ€™t seem quite as natural.
X1 seemed a bit more accurate and felt a tad more natural. Colors on both pjs are very impressive.
No one except me saw rainbows on X1. And I only saw a few, just for a millisecond. No one complained of eye strain or headaches. No one wanted to leave!
X1 wins (as you would expect) in this area. I would say the Z1 will give you screendoor problems if you canâ€™t be back 1.8X or more. I tried the slight defocus, and that did help.
I think both of these pjs have pretty damn good scalers. About the only artifacts I saw were "crawlies" in sky scenes and on standard def TV with the X1. I saw no artifacts with the Z1â€”no vertical banding on my unit, no jaggies (except on credits), no color shifts. Very solid picture on both units.
Watched Shrek, LOTR, Matrix, Oceanâ€™s 11 and Pearl Harbor. We did both extended viewing, and quick flips from one pj to another. Honestly, there just wasnâ€™t much difference between the two. They were both excellent, with excellent detail, color, and black levels. Both of these machines shine with anamorphic DVDS. I have no vertical banding on my Z1 that I can see. As for the "cropping" of the X1, I just really didnâ€™t see it. And I was comparing one image directly on top of the otherâ€”maybe a few pixels on each side, but I really, really had to look for it. So to me, the "cropping" of the X1 is a non-issue.
I thought the Z1 would win hands down here, but it really didnâ€™t. I guess it had a bit more detail than the X1, but again, itâ€™s not readily apparent. The Z1 was a tad "blockier" than the X1, but I really have to say both of these pjs do a wonderful job with HD. I loved the picture both of them put up.
Standard Def TV
This is probably the only area where I think one pj was consistently the winnerâ€”almost everyone preferred the X1. The Z1 looked good, but it was a lot softer than the X1. The X1 (probably because of the DCDI chip) actually makes most standard def stuff look pretty goodâ€¦not great by any means, but very watchable. The Z1 also does a nice job, but it was definitely softerâ€”even when I tightly focused it.
The X1 has the advantage in screendoor if you have to sit closer than 1.8X. But if you can get back at least 1.8X, the Z1 will amaze you.
Controls/Build Quality, etc.
The Z1 is a very slick looking unit. I LOVE the lens shift feature. It seems the unit is built very solid, except for the lens shift levers, which strike me as a little loosey goosey. Also, I didnâ€™t like the focus/zoom setup on the Z1â€”I kept missing the lever or the lens ring, and getting a big fat fingerprint on the lens. The X1 is easier to focus and zoom (the lens housing sticks out where you can reach it), but it doesnâ€™t have the lens shift feature, which makes setup for the Z1 a whole lot easier IMO. The Z1 is also a great coffee table unitâ€”the two legs on front make it easy to level, and the horizontal, wedge shape looks really good. Also, I really love the front flip-down panel on the Z1â€”much easier than the lens cap of the X1, because every time I put the lens cap on or take it off, I mess up the focus of the X1. With the Z1, just flip up the little panel. The X1 feels a little clunkier than the Z1, but itâ€™s quite solid. One thing I really donâ€™t like about the X1 is that goofy "foot" in the front. Makes it hard to get it level on a coffee table. Plus, thereâ€™s only one adjuster foot at the back, on the right-hand side. They should have put one on both sides.
Remote/Power cord, etc.
The Z1 has a nicer remote, IMOâ€¦feels more substantial and more home theater like. The X1 has a better power cordâ€”the Z1â€™s is just too damn short, and has a weird "3-tube" connector to the pj.
So, since they both have almost identical picture quality, how do you choose. Here is how I am making recommendations on which to get to my neighbors and friends (because even after viewing both, they could not decide). In my mind, picture quality and viewing enjoyment are so close, it comes down to other things. Hereâ€™s what Iâ€™m telling my friends.
Choose the X1 if:
1. You donâ€™t see rainbows
1. You watch a lot of standard def tv
1. You want to sit closer than 1.8X
1. You need a longer throw distance
5. You want to watch football games, etc with some ambient light in the room, and you need the brightness of the presentation mode.
6. You donâ€™t have a progressive scan dvd player, and donâ€™t want to buy one
7. You already have a 4:3 screen.
Choose the Z1 if:
1. You can sit back 1.8X or more
2. You like really vibrant colors
3. You want a short throw pj and prefer the pj in front of you, rather than behind you.
4. You donâ€™t watch much tv
5. You have a progressive scan DVD player (although the Z1 looks very, very good even with and interlaced signal)
6. You want something that will sit nicely on a coffee table.
7. You already have a 16:9 screen
8. You're not terribly handy (like me), and want the lens shift feature for making less than perfect installations appear perfect!
Okay, thatâ€™s it. Bottom line, these are two very nice, very evenly matched projectors. Your decision will be based mainly on throw distance, rainbows and screendoor. And whichever one you get, stop worrying that youâ€™re missing out on somethingâ€”youâ€™re not. I have 22 hours of side-by-side viewing that pretty much bears that out.
Questions? Flames? Fire away.