Sharp XV-Z2000 DLP Projector Reviewed

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Sharp XV-Z2000 DLP Projector Reviewed

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Early adopters are a funny bunch. When a new and exciting technology comes along, we just gotta have it. (Notice I said "we".) Sometimes, as was the case with LaserDisc, that technology may be something unique and revolutionary, but it never quite catches on with the masses. For some early adopters and fans of upscale niche products, that's just fine. After all, if everyone knew about it, wouldn't it be a little less special? Perhaps. In some ways, it's not unlike having a favorite small band and worrying that if they get discovered by too many people, the band will change and you'll have to stop listening to those sellouts. Where LaserDisc failed, DVD succeeded, and nowadays everybody and their mother-in-law owns a DVD player. Although early adopters and hardcore video enthusiasts may get nauseous when they see $19.99 DVD players, at least they still have the high-end, high-priced, high-resolution digital projector niche to call home. Or do they?

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For some time now, DLP projectors featuring Texas Instruments' HD2 and HD2+ chipsets have been unattainable for much less than $10,000. These units, able to display 720p HD signals natively and featuring reduced pixelation and gold-plated connections, have traditionally only found homes in big-budget theaters. With Sharp's HD2+ powered XV-Z2000, priced at only $4,499, all of that is about to change.

Unique Features
The presence of TI's HD2+ chipset is certainly unique at this price point. The HD2+ features a 0.8-inch DMD panel with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels. This means that for 720p HD material, such as ABC's Lost or FOX's 24, the XV-Z2000 can display the signal natively without the need for scaling (expanding or compressing the signal to fit its panel). This is great news for fans of ABC and FOX -- two networks who favor the 720p HD format -- but just remember that other HD outlets, such as NBC, CBS and UPN, broadcast at 1080i, so some scaling would be required when watching HDTV from those providers. Don't get too worked up over this issue though, because picture resolution is like aspect ratios: there are numerous varieties out there and there will always be tradeoffs if you like to watch a variety of sources and different sorts of programming.

The XV-Z2000 has a rated light output of 1200 ANSI lumens when using the projector's "High Brightness" mode. This unit features what Sharp calls a "Powered Optical Iris System". This boils down to a simple toggle between "High Brightness" mode and "High Contrast" mode. If you're using the projector in a dedicated theater where you have good light control, I would recommend "High Contrast" mode, as this provides for greater shadow detail and blacker blacks. In addition to being a line item in the menu system, you can also toggle the Iris setting with the touch of a button on the supplied remote.

A welcome connection option on the XV-Z2000 is its DVI-I port. Although HDMI has become the more common digital interface, DVI makes perfect sense on a front projector where audio does not come into play. What's nice about the DVI port on the XV-Z2000 is that it's DVI-I (integrated) as opposed to DVI-D. DVI-D means digital only, which is fine for connecting a DVD player or HD set-top box. However, a DVI-I connection allows for analog or digital traffic. This means that with the appropriate cables and/or adapters, you could conceivably use the DVI port on the XV-Z2000 to connect a PC's analog output or a DVD player's component video output. The latter would be a rarity, since the XV-Z2000 already provides two sets of component video inputs, but it's still nice to have the flexibility.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
I said it when I reviewed Sharp's XV-Z10000, their DT-200, their XV-Z12000 and I'm going to say it again. Sharp has got to stop packing these fragile, expensive units in flimsy cardboard enclosures. Once unpacked, it is absolutely impossible to re-pack the unit safely amidst the mess of multi-flap cardboard dividers. If Sharp's reasoning for this is purely environmental, I'd rather see them skip the printed owner's manual and put it on a CD-ROM. If you ever need to ship one of these units, be sure to opt for the insurance.

Once I finished fuming over the cardboard packing, I was amazed to discover this svelte little machine has some heft -- almost ten pounds in fact. Considering its relatively diminutive form factor, it weighs two or three pounds more than similarly-sized competitors. This won't affect ceiling-mount installations, but be sure you anchor to something sturdy.

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