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Epson Home Cinema PowerLite 720p Projector
Sanyo PLV-Z5 Projector

Projector Showdown Review

Epson Home Cinema PowerLite 720p
MSRP: $1,299.99
Sanyo PLV-Z5
MSRP: $1,995
Epson Home Cinema PowerLite 720 Sanyo PLV-Z5
Epson 720 by the numbers - 1280x720P, 10,000:1 advertised contrast, 1600 ANSI Lumens (High Mode) Sanyo PLV-Z5 by the numbers – 1280x720P, 10,000:1 advertised contrast, 1100 ANSI Lumens (High Mode)
  • Incredible black levels with lots of subtlety
  • Powerful Presets
  • Rich, vibrant colour
  • Excellent bright room performance
  • Easy to use Menu system
  • Easy to install
  • Very tweakable
  • Back lit remote
  • 3 Year Warranty
  • Class leading projector in it’s day
  • Excellent (if redundant) connectivity
  • Easy to install
  • Back lit remote
  • 2 Year Warranty. However, if electronics are going to fail, they are going to fail right out of the box.
  • Awful presets
  • Difficult to adjust picture settings
  • Poor bright room performance
  • What's up with the retractable door?
Manufacturer: www.epson.com Manufacturer: www.sanyo.com


The Epson 720p is an exceptional home theatre projector with incredible image characteristics and an array of user adjustable controls. As we’ve written before, the 720 is a tweaker’s paradise, with powerful controls laid out in a simple, logical manner. The 720p has a large, back lit, user friendly remote, with most of the important functions included right on the remote.

The Sanyo PLV-Z5 was a great unit a year ago. Now, compared to the Epson, it’s beginning to show it’s age. Pre-calibration, right out of the box, performance is poor with a dim, washed out picture. Unlike the 720, the Sanyo requires that you tweak it to get an acceptable picture. The back lit remote is comparatively small and cramped, but well laid out and intuitive to use.

Out of the Box – Initial Set up

Both units are ridiculously easy to set up, with similar lens offset capabilities. On both units, offset adjustments are imprecise and require a lot of tweaking, but at this price point this appears to be standard. Both were set up in table top mode on our boardroom table, and required less than five minutes to get aligned and leveled properly. They both occupy a similar footprint. Where Sanyo has opted for a silly retractable door, Epson has integrated the exhaust port into a stylish design accent on the front of the unit.


Pre Calibration Presets

We connected both units a 720P component video input from a Sony PS3. We used several episodes of BBC’s “Planet Earth” and Disney’s “Cars” all on Full HD 1080p Blu-ray discs. Right out of the box, the Epson 720 looked substantially better. Epson clearly took the time to integrate useful presets based on a variety of ambient lighting conditions. We found that the Dynamic mode worked particularly well in a bright room, taking advantage of the 720’s 1600 ANSI Lumens, while Theater Black One was the best overall in a completely dark room. Colours were rich and vivid with acceptable black levels.

The Sanyo PLV-Z5 didn’t fare so well. The Presets can’t be intended for actual use – colour is muted and dim and blacks are grey with minimum detail, no matter which preset you use. This is a problem as 99% of PLV-Z5 users will never see what this projector is capable of doing without paying a lot of money for a professional calibration. A calibration DVD is a nice middle ground between a professional video calibration and nothing at all, but won’t yield the same results as a professional calibration, particularly with the PLV-Z5. Bright room performance with the Sanyo on a 106” Draper High Def Grey screen, even in Vivid mode, was marginal at best.

Post Calibration

Both units benefited from an ISF calibration. Epson features an Absolute Colour Temperature adjustment, preset to 7000 degrees K. For use with the Theatre Black One preset we adjusted this to a 6500 degree K, set Gamma to 2.4 (from the 2.2 “Factory” setting) and used Theatre Black One as the basis for our calibration. The Epson 720 demonstrated an incredibly consistent colour temperature over 10-100 IRE, averaging around 6900 degrees K. Post calibration got us no higher than 6700 degrees K, with a median around 6550 degrees K. There was a measured blue shift in the 10-20 IRE range that we weren’t able to adjust for completely, but managed to eliminate the blue shift at 20 IRE with a small spike at 10 IRE. Blue shifts are much less noticeable than red shifts, particularly at low light levels, so the small spike at 10 IRE isn’t a concern.

The Sanyo PLV-Z5 was all over the map. Out of the box, the projector has a pronounced blue shift that was confirmed by the numbers – colour temperature at 40-100 IRE averaged around 7400 degrees K. Post calibration yielded a much more accurate readings, with a median of around 6200 degrees K, allowing for a real red shift below 50 IRE, with the 50-100 IRE colour temps at 6200 degrees K and above.

Enough with the Geek Speak – How Did They Look???

The Epson 720P outperformed the PLV-Z5 both pre-calibration and post calibration. Blacks are noticeably blacker with the Epson, with greater dark area detail, a true indication of contrast ratio. Colours were richer and more vivid. An Antarctic underwater scene in the “Ice Worlds” episode of “Planet Earth” was particularly convincing, even down to the eerie daylight playing across the submerged birds. The PLV-Z5, on the same scene, wasn’t able to convey the same sense of actually being there that the Epson did. With the 720, whites in “Ice World” were a knock out – clean, crisp, with tons of detail. In all cases, content looked textured and three dimensional.

Again, our Sanyo didn’t do as well. There was a significant improvement with calibration, but we may be seeing the effects of the older technology in the PLV-Z5. It simply couldn’t keep up – blacks were improved but noticeably grayer than the Epson 720, even in an out of the box, pre-calibrated Theater Black One preset. Colours were improved but again, lacking in impact compared with the newer 720. There was less dark area detail than the 720, with muddier looking dark colours.

The Bottom Line – Epson 720 by a Mile

The PLV-Z5 was a great projector in it’s day. The Epson 720p, however, is the new kid on the block. It’s faster, handles better and has a cooler paint job. It’s simply a better projector and a real leap forward on any thing else that’s out there. The Epson screams for you to tinker, and responds with authority and confidence. The PLV-Z5 not so much, ironically, given it’s the one that requires the most adjustment.

Either projector will be a good addition to your Home Theatre. The Epson 720 was able to outperform the PLV-Z5 in every test we could throw at it. It’s simply a newer, better unit. The Sanyo has a prettier menu layout, bright and colourful in contrast to the black and grey layout on the Epson, but if you buy a projector based on nothing more than the pretty menu colours, give your head a shake. The Epson is the same price, perhaps a little less, making it a top buy. Even assuming a significant price difference, the Epson is still a better buy in our opinion. You simply cannot beat this projector at anything close to the price.

We look forward to Sanyo’s PLV-Z6 when and if it comes. Sanyo has always made among the best LCD Home Theatre projectors, so we expect whatever comes next to be a more fair shoot-out. For the time being though, do yourself a favor and grab an Epson. Based on the current model line ups, there really is no comparison.

Review by Mike English

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