To make the PLC-XP56 a truly networked projector, you'll have to pay $699 for the Sanyo PJ-Net Organizer Plus POA-PN02 networking module. It's a little awkward and complicated to set up: you'll need to manually configure the projector's IP address with the remote control, which is frustrating and time-consuming. Once on the network, the PLC-XP56 can lift images--and only images--from an FTP site; however, you'll need to preconvert them with the included Sanyo Network Viewer software. You'll also need to transform PowerPoint presentations into a series of images without audio or transitions. Despite this drawback, the rudimentary LAN access should go a long way toward easing the anxieties of mobile presenters fearful of forgetting the slide show. In addition, with any networked computer, you can check to see if the PLC-XP56 is in use, how it's connected, how hot it is, and how many hours the lamp has been on. The best part is that you do all this through a Web browser, so compulsive administrators don't need any special software to scrutinize the projector and, say, remotely turn it off.
Twelve prominent buttons, including four directional buttons, sit on top of the monitor and control the onscreen menu and other settings such as focus, keystone, input, and zoom--along with volume for the decent-sounding 2-watt speakers. You can also control all these functions with the large remote, though we're disappointed that a projector of this caliber doesn't offer automatic keystone correction. The onscreen menu offers many customization options but is hard to navigate due in part to difficult-to-decipher icons that are too large for the menus.
The Sanyo PLC-XP56 started quickly in our tests, throwing an image onscreen in 40 seconds; however, it took well over a minute to cool down. In our lab tests, the PLC-XP56 pumped out 4,340 lumens of brightness--just short of its 5,000-lumen rating, making it one of the brightest machines in its class. Its low-power mode dropped the illumination to 3,420 lumens and lessened the fan noise considerably. While the PLC-XP56 has a relatively good 88 percent image uniformity, the one we tested had a slight hot spot in the upper-left corner and a pink cast on the right edge. Its images were quite sharp, its projected text was easy to read, and its 246:1 contrast ratio was adequate for a lights-on show. Although it can display 247 of 255 standard shades of gray, they appear purple, and many complex patterns add flicker. As is typical for an LCD projector, our color-gamut tests showed the primary colors to be quite accurate, although greens were shifted slightly to yellow.
The projector also ran very hot. It is rated at a little over 1,500 watts, or about what a small space heater puts out. The single large exhaust fan is rather loud and blasts hot air. Two snap-out air filters will need to be cleaned or replaced regularly, as will the lamp, which costs $600 to replace.
Sanyo provides a comprehensive three-year warranty that promises to have a repaired unit on its way in less than three days; most repairs are done the next day. Like those on other projectors, the PLC-XP56's lamp is covered for the typical 90 days. Sanyo keeps its support Web site well stocked with specs, tips, and even downloadable technical drawings and remote-control codes. Should you need attention, Sanyo's projector division staffs a toll-free hotline during business hours, Pacific time. Inside the box, you'll find a thorough 54-page general manual, a 113-page network manual, and a CD of image-networking software, but no quick-setup sheet.