“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Sanyo PLV-Z5 LCD Projector- Build Quality



Sometimes a product comes out that is so revolutionary, so intriguing, and so extraordinary that you almost catch your breath when observing it. This is not that product. The PLV-Z4 was that product…. And still is. The Sanyo PLV-Z5 makes a few improvements on the Z4 platform, but essentially it is the exact same projector under a new name. This happens a lot in the industry, and I think it’s a good opportunity for our readers to snatch up older models for a great price – or to at least realize the great bargains they may get on close-out deals. Call me practical – I just love to save people money whenever I can. The new PLV-Z5 is a GREAT chance to save some money and, if anything, reinforces just how good the PLV-Z4 was (and still is). With that said, the debut price of the PLV-Z5 is a full $1000 less than the PLV-Z4. Sanyo recognizes that prices have come down and, like other manufacturers, they are eager to position their products as a value option. Add to this typical street pricing and rebates which knock off up to $650 more – and you’ve got a good deal no matter which way you go.

Differences Between the PLV-Z5 and its Predecessor

When I said there were scant differences I wasn’t kidding. The new model ups the lumen output by 10% to 1100. It also tweaks the output capabilities to garner a 10,000:1 stated contrast ratio (in Vivid mode, full on/off). The lens throw ratio is slightly adjusted from 1.5 ~ 3.0:1 to 1.35 ~ 2.7:1. There are also two HDMI inputs on the back of the PLV-Z5, giving users an additional option for hooking up that new gaming system or cable box. Case color has also changed slightly form a two-tone gray to a brushed silver look in the new PLV-Z5. This year’s model also supports downconversion of 1080p/60 content – a very nice addition and something that shows it is ready to handle any HD format up to the maximum resolution (though 1080p/24 isn’t specified). The new Sanyo carries the same 3-year warranty and 90-day lamp warranty as the older model so nothing is lost there. All in all it’s an excellent value – just not a revolutionary update. I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? We did find some significant differences that will come up later during the calibration portion of the review.

Out of the Box and Build Quality

The Sanyo remains one of the best built consumer projectors on the market at this price. The automatic lamp cover is a feature that is much-appreciated by consumers and installers alike – plus it’s really cool. Weighing in at over 10 pounds, this isn’t a lightweight unit and its stability helps keep the picture locked onto the screen and ensure that your money is going towards some quality components.

The PLV-Z5 comes with bottom access for the lamp, which is incidentally rated to 3000 hours if you don’t intend on using Vivid mode for viewing. Replacement lamps cost around $350, which about average for a projector in this price range (and a bargain compared to the $999 Xenon replacement for the Sony “Ruby”). In terms of maintenance, the Sanyo PLV-Z5 offers the same cool “squeeze blower” which users can use in conjunction with the Cleaning mode to blow dust off of the LCD panels. With this system you don’t have to worry about getting permanent dust blobs on your picture – wish everyone had this so well figured out.

Though not new to the PLV-Z5, one of the pleasant surprises you’ll find on the Sanyo (as opposed to most other models) is a set of RGB panel cleaning holes which are located on the bottom of the projector and protected by a removable cover. After a period of time, some LCD projectors can accumulate dust on the LCD panels which can show up on the screen as smudges or colored blotches. Detailed cleaning instructions are included in the manual but basically you put the projector into Cleaning mode, flip it over and insert the blower (the supplied blower only) and tilt back and forth until any dust blobs are gone (you can view them in real time on your screen or a wall). That’s it.

Inputs, Controls and Connections

On the back of the new Sanyo PLV-Z5 you’ll see an almost identical clone of the Z4, with the addition of another HDMI input. Absent again (grrrr) is a 12VDC trigger that could have been used to activate an electric screen.


Sanyo PLV-Z4 inputs


Sanyo PLV-Z5 inputs

While the addition of another HDMI input is nice, I think that this product still eludes custom installers who prefer to control units with RS-232C. It appears to be something that Sanyo has purposely decided not to pursue in its positioning of this product in the consumer marketplace. At its sub-$1500 street price it’s understandable – but I still want my two-way serial control!

This time around, the Sanyo takes a 1080p/60 input – it merely scales it back down to its native 720p format. After trying several patterns I have to say that it does the scaling quite well indeed. What you’ll want to do is send it both 1080p and 720p from any HD sources you may have and see which looks better to you – every source component is different and you’ll need to compare the scaling of the source versus the PLV-Z5. The HD15 input still handles PC resolutions up to 1152x900, plus the popular 1024x768 and HDTV resolutions.

Setup and Menu System – Changes from PLV –Z4

We went through the entire menu system in our review of the PLV-Z4 projector, so we’ll stick to changes in this review. There are scant few, but since the old system worked so well that’s really not a negative.

Working from top to bottom we see that the PLV-Z5 adds another Cinema mode, called “Brilliant Cinema” which cranks up the Color control and provides a richer image with higher overall contrast. Gone is the Powerful mode which opened up the projector completely. Vivid now holds that duty and it does it quite well. The Image adj., Picture adj., and Screen menus are identical in all respects to the PLV-Z4. The Input menu changes only in that it offers the second HDMI input option.

In the Setting menu, “Blue back” has been replaced by a more intuitive “Background” option that can be set to either Blue or Black. For you Scottish fans a new “Highland” option is added on Page 3. OK, it’s actually there to present an option to those living at altitudes of 4000 feet or more above sea level (hello, Denver readers). This engages the fan at higher speeds. From what I could hear, however, Sanyo put in a long ramp up and down time for the fan speed, so the increase isn’t readily noticeable. With most other projectors I’ve used, engaging Bright mode or the high altitude option kicks the fan into overdrive like a badly-tuned turbo charger. Not so with the Sanyo. The only other difference I noted was that more data is provided in the Information menu. You can now get info on the Input, Lamp status, Screen mode and Image mode in addition to the Signal type, Sync frequencies and Lamp time.

Throw Distance – What Are Your Screen Options?

16:9 Screen Size
Diagonal (inches)
Distance (Feet)

wide tele
70 7.0 14.0
80 8.0 16.1
90 9.1 18.1
100 10.1 20.1
110 11.1 22.1
120 12.1 24.2
130 13.1 26.2
150 15.1 30.2

It’s clear that the Sanyo has the capability to project up to a 107-inch screen without requiring more than a 1.0 gain screen – according to the charts, that is. In practical terms, we got 30 cd/m2 at the screen using Pure Cinema mode and 134 cd/m2 in Vivid! This was on a 100-inch Stewart Studiotek 130 screen, so if you are using a negative gain gray screen you’ll see a bit less in terms of performance. Since 12 foot-lamberts is the nominal industry standard in a completely light-controlled room, the Sanyo PLV-Z5 would seem to have enough light to fill quite a large screen – even in the conservative Pure Cinema mode.

Ambient Light Control and Screen Recommendations

The Sanyo projector, like its predecessor, works best in Pure Cinema mode within a light-controlled environment. We recommend either a white screen or negative gain screen depending on what the ambient light conditions are in your viewing room. Vivid mode is excellent for daytime viewing when you can’t control the light entering the room, but be aware that you still won’t get crisp color performance- this is only a 1,100 lumens projector and not made to handle daytime projection as its primary function.


Confused about what AV Gear to buy or how to set it up? Join our Exclusive Audioholics E-Book Membership Program!

The Dukester posts on January 30, 2007 09:07
Rob Babcock
I guess the $64,000 question is how does it stack up vs the Panasonic PT-AX100U, bang-for-the-buck-wise? Seems like the Panny gives perhaps a tad more filmlike picture and higher overall performance, but the Sanyo has the auto lense cover & panel cleaner, plus is $500 cheaper. Seems like that makes the race almost neck and neck.

Also to compare apples and oranges, how it stacks up with the Optoma HD72 DLP that is in the same price range.
Rob Babcock posts on January 30, 2007 01:37
I guess the $64,000 question is how does it stack up vs the Panasonic PT-AX100U, bang-for-the-buck-wise? Seems like the Panny gives perhaps a tad more filmlike picture and higher overall performance, but the Sanyo has the auto lense cover & panel cleaner, plus is $500 cheaper. Seems like that makes the race almost neck and neck.
Audioholics posts on January 29, 2007 23:18
And since we received our sample from ProjectorPeople off the shelf - it definitely wasn't tweaked, so my assessment should be accurate - at least for those who share my other criteria.

It's 2007, though - all projectors should be pretty flat by now when in Cinema mode… at least on a unity gain screen in a light-controlled environment.
Intradio posts on January 29, 2007 22:26
Great Z5 Review!

Well, after reading many posts, mostly speculation, about how bad the out-of-the-box calibration is, on the Z4 and the Z5 would probably be no better, it is refreshing to read a review that confirms my experience.

I don't know about the Z4, but I have been super satisfied with my Z5 right out of the box. The only adjustment I have made was to turn down the color a tad for the component input. That's probably because I use it for the HD satellite TV box. I use my upconverting oppo to feed DVD's via HDMI and the detail, color, sharpness, etc. is beautiful. My screen is a 100 inch Da Lite da-mat, unity gain. HT is in the basement with pretty good, but not perfect, light control. I wouldn't recommend going bigger than 100 inch unless it's a higher gain, or you can make your HT totally dark.

I have 104 hrs on it now which is long enough to notice any bugs and I'm happy to say there is none. The review is a mirror image of my experience, so far, with my Z5. Needles to say, I'm a happy camper.

Live long & Prosper,
patnshan posts on January 29, 2007 16:15
Both of these projectors have gotten great reviews. I have a light controlled room where I will be installing a 110" diagonal SMX Screen that has a gain of 1.16. Seating distance is 11'.

What are the differences between these two that will help me make a decision? Any thoughts on which of these two I should purchase?


There are HUGE threads on AVS forum discussing the merits of these two and others comparable.
I am trying to decide myself which to get.
Post Reply