Sanyo PLV-Z4000 review

Same old, but better Sanyo's breadbin-style projector update squeezes more quality from its 3LCD chipset for less cash. Jim Hill rates it

Sanyo’s Z Series LCD projectors have given us some cracking 1080p models at aggressive price points – and now there’s a new flagship. The Z4000 keeps to the formula and packs in high-end features like optical lens shift, while the price hits a new low.

The most exciting area for home cinema projection is the entry-level full HD arena, for it’s here that you’ll find the hottest competition between brands and projectors, with 1080p resolution and 100Hz processing changing hands for little more than a grand. Sanyo has competed strongly here in the past, and the new Z4000 wades right in with its 3LCD technology and motorised lens cover.

What you’re getting is a full HD 3LCD projector with a bright 1,200 lumens lamp and features such as optical lens shift and 100Hz motion processing that you won’t find on a sub-£1,000 model. The dynamic iris also enables it to boast a 65,000:1 contrast ratio, while its operating noise level of 19dB is as quiet as projectors get.

Variation on a theme

But it’s nothing new when compared to the outgoing PLV-Z3000’s spec sheet. In fact, the only changes beyond the cosmetic are a reworking of the optical components and power supply to ensure it uses less than 1W in standby. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it, seems to be the philosophy. At least the recommended retail price is a little lower than the Z3000 at launch.

The finish is now a light-absorbing, matt black, so in a dark cinema room, it all but disappears with just a little light leakage from the side vents. It has the same form factor as previous Z models, which is very plain, but quite compact, so that it cuts a very unobtrusive profile when mounted on the ceiling.

It’s fairly well connected with two HDMI sockets at the rear, two component inputs and a PC interface. Sadly, there are no extras such as an SD card slot or USB port. The lens collar offers manual zoom and focus and it feels slightly loose, which means there is a tendency to defocus over time and you’ll find yourself making adjustments before each film. Yet the vertical and horizontal lens shift at the side is a godsend when it comes to lining up the picture, especially as the lens in this unit is mounted slightly off-centre. These controls also have some play in them, but at least you have a lock switch to stop your whole image drifting off the screen.

The accompanying remote has brightly backlit buttons and lots of them, so you’ll find shortcuts to all of the main picture adjustments and keys for each source input. Combined with the useful lens shift feature, it all adds up to a very quick and easy installation procedure. Calibration, on the other hand, takes a little longer, as there are no helpful test patterns provided and the scales for each parameter jump in big steps, so you’ll be tinkering for some time before achieving an optimum picture.

There are also six preset picture options to choose from with varying degrees of overly-pumped colours or washed-out black levels, but Natural provides a decent balance and makes a good first impression of this projector’s abilities. The lamp is no brighter than the previous model and as per the Z3000, it needs a really dark room to get anywhere near its claimed contrast ratio. With daylight banished, though, you can achieve quite dark blacks, vivid colours and reasonable greyscale definition. More impressive, however, is the overall effect, which is rewardingly filmic.

This is down to the way the sharp 1080p resolution of the 3LCD chipset is tempered with image processing that hides the panel structure of the LCD chips, giving a smooth, but highly resolved image. And it is helped here by the 100Hz processing, which ensures there is no judder during camera pans and no jerky movement on screen.

California dreaming

Using Kick-Ass on Blu-ray as a test disc shows off the projector’s vivid detail and snappy colours perfectly. This excellent disc from Universal Pictures has production values that really kick ass, too, and the polished sheen of the film is reproduced faithfully here with pooling light and reflections that look almost as glossy as they did in the cinema. Most of the film is shot in cheery Californian sunshine and the colours look suitably vibrant on screen.

When the film cuts to darker scenes, such as the nighttime capture of Big Daddy, the projector struggles a little to resolve detail in the black areas. Buttons on black suits that are plainly visible on an LCD TV are invisible here, for instance. To pick out more detail you need to completely black out the room and tweak the PJ’s brightness.

And while the bold colour palette is appealing, I found I couldn’t achieve a perfectly natural colour balance. You can manually shift the red, green and blue levels independently within the menu, but the skin tones always look a slightly sickly yellow whatever the setting. We’re not talking The Simpsons hues, but white skin always has a golden glow. It’s difficult to achieve pure whites and realistic reds and blues at the same time. Instead, you’ll find yourself opting for warm, pumped up colours and getting used to the whole, slightly yellowy, proceedings.


Something that this Sanyo deserves credit for is its fan noise, which is almost inaudible with the lamp in cinema mode, and it’s only when you turn it up or switch to dynamic in a lit room that you can hear the fan change up a gear.

It’s also easy to achieve a very large image thanks to the short-throw ratio and wide zoom range of the lens assembly. That means you can either plonk the Z4000 on a coffee table in front of you, or wallmount it behind your head to beam an image up to a maximum of 300ins. The only limiting factor here is the brightness of the lamp, which demands complete darkness if you plan to throw an Odeon-size image.

A whole new model from Sanyo that really pushed the technology to a higher level would have been very welcome, but what we have here is simply another incarnation of a good projector. The price feels right for this high-spec full HD unit and it has a good selection of key features, so I have no reservations in recommending it. The optical lens shift, 100Hz processing and incredibly quiet fan are all big plus points, while the automatic sliding lens cover is a nice touch. What it can’t do is compete with the similarly priced DLP projectors in terms of natural colour response, and until Sanyo can fix that, it remains a reliable rather than remarkable projector.


Sanyo PLV-Z4000
£1,800 Approx

Highs: Useful optical lens shift; appealing film-like image resolution; very quiet fan
Lows: Unrealistic colours; yellow tint; hardly improves on PLV-Z3000

Performance: 4/5
Design: 3/5
Features: 4/5
Overall: 4/5


3D ready: no
Full HD: yes 1080p/24
Component video: yes 2 x sets
HDMI: yes 2 x HDMI inputs
PC input: yes 1 D-Sub port for computers
12V trigger: yes 1 trigger port
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Brightness (claimed): 1,200 ANSI Lumens
Contrast ratio (claimed): 65,000:1
Dimensions (w/o stand): 400(w) x 146(h) 346(d) mm
Weight (w/o stand): 7.5kg
Features: 3x 0.74in TFT panels; 2,000hr lamp life (3,000 in eco mode); 19dB fan noise; short throw ratio; 300in max image size, backlit remote control