Epson first introduced the 1080 in April of 2007. Sanyo rolled out the PLV-Z2000 in November of the same year. Both projectors spec out to be virtually identical, but you need to take a closer look at both units to appreciate the differences.
Sanyo has cleaned up some previous shortcomings in earlier units, sort of. The PLV-Z2000 is a "sort of" unit. It's good, well, kind of. It throws a decent picture out of the box but the presets could be better. It's okay to look at, in a boxy, appliance kind of way, and it's tunable if you want clumsy picture controls wrapped in a slick interface. The Epson 1080 is another matter entirely. Where the PLV-Z2000 feels sloppy, the 1080 is precise. It's a great looking piece of furniture that does what you expect it to, and that's deliver a great picture at a very reasonable price. Calibrating the unit is simple (with the right hardware, of course), but unlike the PLV-Z2000, you don't need calibration to get a great picture. Epson has gotten it right with the 1080. Unfortunately for Sanyo, the home theatre market doesn't support "sort of" for too long.
Out of the Box – Initial Set up
Right out of the box, Epson’s 1080p presents well. The projector is sleek and stylish with great furniture value. The remote is large and easy to use, with a backlight button positioned at the bottom, well away from other buttons. It’s the same remote as the PowerLite 720 and so has the same advantages – ergonomic with easy access to powerful picture adjustments. Included in the box is a printed owner’s manual, remote, and power cord. Focus and lens adjustments are easy because of the exposed lens. This makes initial set up that much easier, but also provides for more portability of the 1080 if you want to take it with you and set it up quickly and accurately at a friend’s house, without getting fingerprints all over the lens.
Screen geometry was bang on and didn’t require any adjustment to see the full 1080 picture space. Interestingly enough, neither the 1080 nor the PLV-Z2000 has keystone adjustment. Instead, they rely on the incredible lens offset capabilities to compensate for any keystone required. This is ideal, as digital keystone ultimately robs resolution from the panel to accomplish changing the shape of the picture.
Sanyo, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to save a dollar or two and does not have a printed owner’s manual. Instead they include a CD. This is great if you have a PC in your home theatre room, or enjoy operating your laptop while you’re setting the thing up. The remote is small and aggressively back lit in an angry red colour. Turning on the remote’s backlight after you’ve spent a few minutes in a dark room is like getting slapped in the face. We would have preferred something more muted. The remote itself is small and cramped, but has most of the controls you want to see. As well, the PLV-Z2000 has a case reminiscent of an old PC. It’s essentially a large box. Installed on your ceiling it looks a little like an RV air conditioning unit. The recessed lens doesn’t lend itself well to small adjustments. We set the Z2000 up on our boardroom table and were constantly touching the glass while trying to adjust for throw and focus. Like the PLV-Z5, the PLV-Z2000 features a sliding door to “protect” the lens from dust. After putting a few hours on both units we can attest that the door does not protect the front glass against dust and the door is simply another thing that can fail.
Geometry required tweaking. Out of the box, the PLV-Z2000 required a significant adjustment screen left to get the full 1080 picture space on screen.
Both units have similar adaptability to your room – a 2:1 throw, with similar horizontal and vertical offset capabilities. For years this has been a hallmark of Sanyo’s PLV series. It’s nice to see other manufacturers taking note.
Performance – It’s in the Numbers
The PLV-Z5 and 1080 have been on the market for a while now, so the PLV-Z2000 has the benefit of newer technology. Sanyo has been pushing the new Ultra Black LCD panels in the PLV-Z2000, so we were anxious to see the unit perform. Epson has a 1080UB available in the new year so keep your eyes peeled for a review and another shootout as soon as it’s available.
PLV-Z2000, the Mini-Van of HT
The factory pre-sets on the Z2000 are much improved over the Z5, but they still don’t measure up. We obtained the best overall dark room picture using the Natural setting. Colours appeared washed out, but that had to do with the pronounced blue shift in the white balance, which we were able to calibrate out. Blacks looked good until we did a split screen with the 1080. In spite of the new UB technology, we weren’t able to get any better blacks out of the PLV-Z2000 than the Epson 1080, which is odd given the generational difference between the two units.
In pre-calibrated Natural setting we were getting colour temperatures out of our test unit that were by far the hottest of any unit we’ve tested. Average readings at 10-100 IRE were over 9000 degrees in low lamp mode, but were much closer in high lamp mode. This is counter-intuitive because the lamp should be redder at lower output and bluer at brighter settings. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to make the kind of adjustments required to adjust for the blue imbalance in low lamp mode so we left the PLV-Z2000 in high lamp mode and calibrated from there.
After calibrating dozens of units we have certain expectations, and the PLV-Z2000 wasn’t able to come through on any of them. Nomenclature is weird (what exactly does “Gamma –1” mean???). It’s a convention that Sanyo uses on all critical picture adjustments, like colour temperature and gamma. This is confusing. On a projector in this class we expect the unit to be easy to use certainly, but we also expect it to cater to the enthusiast market as well.
Picture adjustments were limited to small tuning of the clumsy white balance controls, and similar adjustments as you’d find on your 10 year old CRT TV – colour, tint, brightness and contrast. Because of the limited adjustments we weren’t able to fully compensate for the blue shift, although high lamp mode got us much closer.
The post calibration picture was much improved over the factory default, but the limited picture adjustments provided made the PLV-Z2000 impossible to peg at 6500 degrees across the luminance spectrum. Colours were richer and had more impact, but again, given the newer technology represented by the PLV-Z2000 we can’t say we weren’t disappointed.
Interestingly enough, the PLV-Z2000 doesn’t support 1080P at 24 fps. Now this shouldn’t prevent you from purchasing one, but it’s another indication that the PLV-Z2000 was rushed to market and isn’t intended for the HT enthusiast.
There are more advanced picture adjustments available, allowing for colour level, phase, and gamma on any value in the displayable palette. Simply select the colour to be adjusted using an on-screen pointer and tweak away. These adjustments don’t help with getting the unit dialed in at D65, but do provide for some improvements. Consider this a colour decoder adjustment and use it as a last resort.
Blacks were good, but again, not any better than we were able to obtain from the older Epson 1080.
It’s almost as if Sanyo thinks that you don’t need to know what the projector is doing with your video, glossing over the important controls with a paint roller. It feels like it’s trying to be all things to all people, and failing. Now, don’t assume it’s a bloody awful projector. It’s not. It actually throws a pretty good picture overall, but at this level, with the competition being what it is, pretty good just isn’t enough.
Epson 1080 – Pure Sports Car
Like it’s little brother, the Epson 720, the 1080 is a tuner’s paradise. Unlike the PLV-Z2000, menu controls have actual numeric values, allowing the average enthusiast a better understanding of what the projector is actually doing with your video. It feels more like a sports car and less like a mini-van. Factory presets are strong, so it was a toss-up between Theatre Black One and Theatre Black Two. Colour was more vivid with Theatre Black One so we started there.
We measured a blue and red colour shift below 30 IRE with the factory preset of 7000 degrees which disappeared when we set the Absolute Colour Temperature to 6000 degrees. With that one adjustment colour temperature across the board was virtually flat lined at about 6700 degrees across the board. Using the RGB white balance adjustments in the Advanced menu we were able to dial in the unit at a median 6500 degrees, ideal for accurate colour reproduction. Epson appears to have mastered the fine art of catering to the HT enthusiast while maintaining strong presets for the novice or casual user, given that the out of box performance is so bang on.
Where the Epson 1080 really surprised us was in the quality of the black levels. Even with the factory default of Gamma 2.2, blacks were smooth and dark. Adjusting to Gamma 2.4 provided comparable black levels with the newer PLV-Z2000, even with the better UB LCD panels.
The Bottom Line
The Epson 1080 outperforms the Sanyo PLV-Z2000. While the Sanyo can be calibrated to look almost as good as the Epson, the Epson has better picture controls for finer tuning. As of this writing, they both come with a $300 mail in rebate, but Epson is currently offering a free lamp. Frankly, this makes it a no-brainer for us, and clearly puts the 1080 over the top. Even without the lamp, we fell that the 1080 offers better value. Combined with it’s sleek good looks, do yourself a favor and go with the Epson 1080.
We’ll be doing another head to head with the 1080UB vs the Sanyo PLV-Z2000. This will be an apple to apple comparison, given that both units with feature the newest technology. Given the exceptional performance of the non UB 1080 compared to the Sanyo PLV-Z000, we can’t help but look forward to even better performance from the 1080UB. Bear in mind that this comes at a significantly higher price tag. Epson will continue to make the 1080 available after release of the 1080UB, giving you lots of options for a great 1080P native front projector. Keep your eyes on our web site for that.
Review by Mike English
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