Sharp XV-Z10000U DLP Projector
But visualize the operation of a single-chip DLP and the mind reels: hundreds of thousands of tiny mirrors, each working its little tail off as it flashes on and off at incredible speeds, all in perfect (one hopes) synchrony with a rapidly rotating color wheel. The flashing mirrors provide the shades of gray from black to white, and filters on a segmented wheel provide the color.
While conventional CRT projection has reached a remarkably high level over the many years of its development, the technology is now relatively mature. Parts for new CRT projectors are still available, but they're in short supply. And the quality of refurbished parts, including those vital projection tubes, is by no means certain to be equal to the originals.
Digital projection now gets most of the R&D dollars. In the past year, for example, Texas Instruments, the source of the Digital Light Processing chips used in DLP projectors, brought out their HD2 digital micromirror device (DMD). The HD2's mirrors rotate 12° away from the light-producing bulb (the mirrors in the HD1 chip rotated just 10°), thus directing any stray light from an "off" pixel farther away from the projection lens and improving the contrast ratio.
The new chip has delivered. We've tested models from four manufacturers now, with another in the review pipeline, and all of them look and measure better than HD1 designs. They still can't equal the blacks and shadow detail of a good CRT, but they're getting there. SharpVision's XV-Z10000U is no exception. In fact, it just might have edged its way to the front of the pack.
Lights, Mirrors, Action
In its basics, the Sharp XV-Z10000U is little different from other new widescreen DLPs we've reviewed. Its features include the new 12° HD2 chip; a rotating color wheel with red, green, and blue segments; a single, high-quality zoom lens; and a full complement of inputs, including HDCP-compliant DVI-I.
Beyond these standards, each manufacturer adds its own gee-whiz features, and the XV-Z10000U is loaded with them. Most manufacturers provide a vertical keystone adjustment, but the Sharp also includes a less common vertical size adjustment that compensates for the size change that often accompanies digital keystone correction. Picture controls include the usual Contrast, Brightness, Color, Tint, and Sharpness, along with Color Temperature, adjustable in +/-100° increments. There's a White Emphasis control (I left it off), a four-position Digital Noise Reduction control (ditto), multiple setup memories, and picture settings that can be adjusted separately for each type of input (the two component inputs share the same settings). A Fine Sync menu is useful primarily for optimizing computer images.
Go to the Gamma menu and you'll find three different factory gamma options: two user-adjustable settings with separate red, green, and blue gamma controls, and a more flexible, computer-aided gamma setup using the SharpVision Manager software program (supplied).
In the Color Management System (CMS) menu, you'll find yet another set of controls for tweaking the color. These do not affect the color temperature, but instead provide Lightness, Chroma, and Hue controls for each of six colors: Red, Green, Blue, Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. (For more details on the Gamma and CMS adjustments and the SharpVision Manager software, see the "Calibration and Performance" sidebar.)
A full selection of aspect ratios is provided, including a Smart Stretch mode, which can be used to fill a 16:9 screen with a 4:3 image, keeping the center of the image relatively unaltered but applying a variable degree of stretch to the sides. Many users don't like such distortion, but this one worked as well as any. Two other features, Digital Shift and Subtitle, function only with Smart Stretch and Cinema Zoom, which is normally used to expand a non-anamorphic letterbox movie to fill the screen. Digital Shift moves the image up or down slightly, and Subtitle scrunches the image vertically to ensure that subtitles remain visible.
Besides the conventional Contrast control, there are two other ways to control the Sharp's light output. The Economy mode reduces fan noise but also decreases light output by just over 23% (measured). In addition, a switch below the lens appears to function much as the mechanical iris control on NEC's HT1000 (reviewed in the July/August 2003 Guide). The NEC's iris is continuously adjustable; the Sharp's, called the High Contrast/High Brightness control, offers only two positions, but I did not find this to be a limitation. The control didn't affect the fan noise. For reasons discussed in the "Calibration and Performance" sidebar, I ultimately used the High Contrast setting with the Economy mode off. This resulted in more fan noise than any other DLP we've reviewed to date, but it produced the best balance of light output, contrast, and black level from the Sharp in my viewing situation.
The remote control is excellent. There are no more buttons than necessary. It's illuminated, though the backlighting shows only cryptic icons on the buttons themselves, not the names of the controls, which are printed nearby but invisible in the dark. For the occasional installation where the typical wireless operation won't work, the remote can also be direct-wired to the projector.
Apart from a detailed calibration, which is recommended but not required to get a viewable and very respectable image from the XV-Z10000U, setup will take you about 15 minutes tops, even if you're a DLP newbie and have to refer to the manual. The long-throw lens lets you set the projector well back in the room, if desired. With my 80-inch-wide screen, I could position the front of the lens anywhere from 12 to 16.5 feet from the screen. The manual zoom, focus, and vertical lens shift functions were all smooth and positive in their action.