Sharp XV-Z30000 3D DLP Video Projector
Price: $4,999 At a Glance: Vivid, bright picture • Good black level and contrast • Excellent color with PC-accessible picture controls
Editor's Note, 7/24/2012: The Sharp XV-Z30000 has benefitted from recent improvements to its picture controls that allowed Home Theater to elevate it to Top Pick status. Please see Tom Norton's addendum under the Grayscale & Color Gamut Update link for his comments and the measurement data for final calibrated color.
When I reviewed Sharp’s XV-Z17000 last year, I was impressed by many aspects of its performance, but also put off by a number of obvious shortcomings that appeared to come from the projector’s apparent roots in the business-projector world.
The new XV-Z30000, however, retains and even improves upon that earlier design’s strengths. It doesn’t eliminate all of its weaknesses, but it puts some of the most significant ones to rest. While it resembles its predecessor in some ways, by and large it’s a clean-sheet redesign.
The XV-Z30000 is a compact, single-chip, DLP design. Its lens is mounted front and center, protected by a clear cover. The latter remains in place when the projector is in use, with the picture projected through it.
The roughly 2:1 zoom ratio can fill a 100-inch-diagonal, 16x9 screen at throw distances from 10 feet, 4 inches to 20 feet, 9 inches. (Sharp has conveniently provided formulas for this in the owner’s manual: for a 16:9 screen, minimum distance = 0.1032 x screen diagonal; maximum distance = 0.2079 x screen diagonal.) The lens’ zoom, focus, and shift (vertical and horizontal) are all motorized—a major upgrade from the manual lens in the XV-Z17000. Just as significant, the lens offset in the new model offers a much more practical range of vertical mounting positions. The older projector had to be placed either very low or very high to fill the screen without producing keystone distortion (a trapezoidal rather than a clean, rectangular image). There is a keystone control here (horizontal and vertical), but with lens shift it’s not needed. (Keystone correction reduces image resolution and is always best avoided.)
Another new feature is a lens memory with two different settings. Each of them saves not only zoom, focus, and shift, but most other important picture settings as well, including Picture Mode. I did find that minor lens shift tweaks were needed when I switched between the memories. But this feature is nevertheless a godsend for users who have need of it, such as using the zoom method to go from a 16:9 to a 2.35:1 screen.
The exhaust vents are located along the curved front of the chassis. There’s a significant amount of light leakage from these vents—not enough to affect the onscreen image but enough to be annoying, depending on the viewer’s location relative to the projector. The XV-Z30000 isn’t as quiet as the latest, near-silent Sony or JVC designs, but even with its lamp on high (Eco+Quiet Off), while standing 3 to 4 feet from the projector, the fan noise was masked by most soundtracks and was never distracting.
The Sharp refreshes at 120 hertz (60 Hz for each eye in 3D). In either 2D or 3D, the projector converts 24 fps (frames per second) sources—essentially all movies on Blu-ray—to 60 Hz by adding 3:2 pulldown. This isn’t the best approach, as it throws away the advantages of 24 fps (which avoids frame judder). But on a wide range of program material, it produced no obvious visible artifacts.
Each of the 11 Picture Modes can be set up separately for 2D and 3D. I worked with User1 and User2 for 2D, and Dynamic (3D) for 3D. Using Dynamic mode doesn’t exactly send a thrill up a video perfectionist’s leg (more likely a chill), but you need all the brightness you can get with any projector for 3D, provided it doesn’t do serious damage to the image. Dynamic mode also engages the Bright Boost control—a control I’d never recommend for 2D.
A CLR Temp (color temperature) control offers five fixed-white balance settings. Finer adjustments, which you’ll need for a precise calibration, were limited in my sample to single overall red, green, and blue controls, not high and low. The adjustment possible with two so-called CMS (color management system) controls was even more limited. Each can deal with just one color, chosen by the user. After hours of tedious fiddling, with test tools at hand, I decided the visible benefit of these CMS controls was so subtle and inadequate that I left them off for all the results presented here.
The single color temperature/grayscale adjustments, however, proved more useful than you might expect, since the grayscale deviations out of the box were relatively uniform across the brightness range. After a few hundred hours of use, however, that might not necessarily be the case. It will depend on how consistently the projection lamp degrades with age at high and low brightness levels.
There are two iris controls. Iris1 (Manual) offers just two fixed settings: High Brightness and High Contrast. Iris2 (Auto) engages a dynamic iris that closes down on darker scenes to enhance the projector’s black level.
The Eco+Quiet control switches between the high- and low-lamp modes. Sharp claims a lamp life expectancy (to half brightness) of 3,000 hours with Eco+Quiet set to On (low lamp), but does not specify the life expectancy with it off (high lamp). A critical viewer will likely want to use the lamp on high with a screen of the most preferred sizes, and should plan on replacing it much sooner than its specified life—perhaps in as little as 1,000 hours. The MSRP for a replacement lamp is $500.
A gamma control offers five different fixed settings. The -1 position ultimately worked best for me in 2D, but other settings were useful on some sources. The measured gamma is a little non-uniform with Iris2 selected (Auto), but that’s typical for a dynamic iris. The projector also offers Custom Gamma control, but this proved less useful than I had hoped, so I didn’t use it.