We've always liked DLP better than LCD for home-theater projector performance, but until this year, the highest-resolution DLP projectors have cost significantly more than their LCD counterparts. Sharp's XV-Z2000 ($3,999 list) breaks the mold offering the HDTV-resolution HD2+ chip for much less than its predecessors. This little unit does a convincing job with high-def, especially in terms of delivering realistic blacks, but like anything built to reach a price point, it does have performance issues. That said, you'd be hard-pressed to get a better big-screen projector picture for less money.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more. The Sharp's design is sleek, compact, and basic. It looks nothing like its shapely, higher-end siblings, the XV-Z10000 and XV-Z12000; instead, it's a squarish box with the lens mounted on the left side (or the right side if it's ceiling mounted). The top of the unit has a dark-gray metallic finish, while the sides are black grilles for intake and outtake fans. If you've misplaced the remote, you'll appreciate the limited controls on the top of the projector.
Speaking of the remote, it's identical to the one included with the flagship XV-Z12000--except that instead of being fully backlit, it merely has glow-in-the-dark buttons. We liked how its sleek form fit in the hand, and we found its button array extremely well laid out and easy to use. The internal menu system, or GUI (graphical user interface), is also a breeze to navigate and understand. The remote includes direct-access buttons for all of the inputs, aspect ratios, and picture modes.
We mentioned at the outset that the XV-Z2000 comes equipped with the HD2+ DLP chip, which has a native resolution of 1,280x720. That's an exact match for 720p HDTV. All other video sources, such as 1080i high-def, DVD, and computer, are scaled to fit that resolution.
As you may have come to expect with a front projector, there aren't any real consumer features such as PIP (picture-in-picture) on tap here. On the other hand, we found a number of picture-tweaking and setup features very useful. Selectable color temperatures range from 5,500 Kelvins to 10,500 Kelvins. Although 6,500 Kelvins is the industry standard, we found 7,500 to be closer to the mark. There are four selectable aspect ratios: Stretch, SmartStretch, Sidebar, and Cinema Zoom. Stretch is for anamorphic DVD and HDTV sources, while Sidebar is for 4:3 material.
There are also several gamma settings, and getting the right one is important for overall picture quality for home-theater applications (more in Performance). The coolest setup feature for a projector in this price range is electronic Zoom and Focus, which allows you to size and focus the picture at the screen rather than back at the projector--saving lots of time in setup. The Iris mode choices are High Contrast, which we found to produce cleaner, quieter blacks, and the High Brightness mode, which might be useful for driving very large screen sizes or trying to compete with minor ambient light. The Picture Modes are memories you can store for different inputs, similar to independent input memories.
The connectivity options are a mixed bag. There are two broadband component-video inputs, one S-Video and one composite-video input, a DVI input that can also accept component-video signals and analog computer signals (via various adapters, none of which are included), and an RS-232 control port. If you have a lot of component-video sources, that input selection is great, but if you want to hook up, say, an HDTV receiver and a computer, you'll have to go component-video instead of digital with the former.
Moreover, the DVI input is unable to display a true 1080i signal--it downconverts those signals to 540p. The manual says as much, and we confirmed it in testing. With both our HDTV set-top box and our Sencore VP403 HDTV signal generator, the 2000 changed 1080i to 540p. The resulting picture was riddled with noise and quite unacceptable. The DVI input can accept 720p, however, making this issue somewhat less damning--if you have a DVI source that can convert 1080i HDTV to 720p resolution beforehand (almost all DVI sources can). If you don't, the DVI input is essentially useless for HDTV.The performance of the XV-Z2000 is surprisingly good for such a budget-priced projector. However, there is one glaring omission that prevents it from getting a higher performance score: lack of 2:3 pull-down detection. When we watched it on a standard interlaced DVD player, the opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection was painful to look at, riddled with motion artifacts and jagged edges. Therefore we highly recommend that you use a good progressive-scan DVD player with this projector.
Blacks appeared deep and inky-looking after we set up the projector properly. Unfortunately, we also found them quite noisy, with lots of roiling dots visible, especially from closer seating distances. This effect is probably due in part to the video processing.