Hands On: Sharp XV-Z17000 3D DLP Projector

An affordable projector delivers high-quality 3D in the home in a big way.

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Not to put any pressure on a product, but Sharp’s XV-Z17000 DLP projector review was essentially a make-it-or-break-it test for me. I’ve been skeptical about 3D’s relevance for the home, but had not had a chance to view it in my theater as a projection setup.

The verdict came quickly when I flipped the switch during Despicable Me (via a Sharp Aquos 3D Blu-ray player) to go from 2D to 3D: this projector “makes it,” so to speak.

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That’s not to say 3D in the home works for all shapes and sizes, which has been part of my gripe with the technology. I’ve seen demonstrations of 46-inch flat-panel 3D TVs and though the video quality was crisp, I can’t endorse it with the same fervor. This projector cemented my opinion that 3D needs to be big to have impact in a home theater or media room — perhaps no less than 70 diagonal inches, which still keeps some TVs in play.

But serving up a big picture is just one of many reasons Sharp’s XV-Z17000 works very well as a 3D solution. When you factor in overall image quality, ease of use, picture adjustment options and cost, the product showcases that not only can you have great 3D in the home, but you don’t have to break the bank to achieve it.

Features
Sharp says the XV-Z17000 can output up to 1,600 ANSI lumens for a bright picture, which is particularly important when using the 3D function. I found the brightness quite satisfactory for both 2D and 3D projection, though as with most projectors you should keep in mind the amount of ambient light your room receives.

The unit incorporates an HQV Reon VX-210 imaging processor, five-speed/six-segment primary color wheel, dynamic contrast ratio of 40,000:1 and full 1920 x 1080 HD resolution.

From the menu you can adjust tons: contrast, brightness, color, tint, sharpness, blue, red, color temperature and iris; make advanced signal adjustments like gamma, film mode, brightness boost and detail enhancement; make screen adjustments such as keystone, background, logo, menu position and image shift; and change projector settings like auto power, economy mode, one-touch play, system standby, demo mode, RS-232 and fan mode.

The XV-Z17000 is highly portable at just 12.8 pounds, includes a sliding lens cover, runs down to 23dB and in Eco mode the lamp can last up to 3,000 hours.

For 3D viewing, two pairs of active-shutter 3D glasses and built-in IR emitter are included.

Setup
I felt a little trepidation that a 3D projector might require different steps than a conventional projector, but that notion was mistaken. Compared to others I’ve reviewed, the XV-Z1700 installed like any projector … almost.

Setting the lightweight unit down in my usual projector spot, I connected from the rear panel a Kordz HDMI cable to the Blu-ray player, generic component cable to the HD cable box and power cord to a Tributaries power conditioner.

That’s when the curveball came, as I began aligning the projector up with my 92-inch Elite Screens ezFrame 16:9 screen. My biggest knock on this projector is its inflexibility relative to others in its price range when it comes to installation. At $4,999 in many ways the XV-Z1700 is a bargain, but it does not feature horizontal or vertical lens shift (you can make horizontal and vertical keystone screen adjustments) so placement must be pretty precise.

Also, focus and zoom are manual, but that seems to be less of an issue when you’re relying on carefully calculated placement anyway. So I moved the projector to a spot closer to the screen for a better-fitting and better-aligned image. The compromise I had to make was that it didn’t fill the entire screen, but roughly 86 diagonal images instead — still plenty big.

Performance
Out of the box, the XV-Z17000 impressed me with its brightness and vibrant colors. I spent quite a bit of time testing its 2D prowess before viewing 3D material, including content from HD broadcast cable, Blu-ray, standard DVD and my PC (via the projector’s VGA port).

As a 1080p 2D product, the projector offered superb landscape detail and color rendering during scenes like the desert attack in Transformers on Blu-ray. Black-level detail looked solid as well, judging from night scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on Blu-ray and dark sports jerseys of Butler and VCU during the NCAA Tournament, for example.

Network HD content such as NBC’s The Office, CBS’ NCIS, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars and cable broadcasts like Law & Order: SVU on USA, House Hunters on HGTV and Man vs. Food on Travel displayed excellent flesh tones and textures of real-world material.

Of course, one would expect such achievements from a typical $5K projector. I really wanted to know if 3D functionality would be an additional feature that takes the XV-Z17000 to greater heights or merely exist as a seldom-used setting. Although I did not have a wealth of content to explore, I was pleasantly surprised to conclude the former.

Without satellite or cable 3D content at my disposal, I looked at two Blu-ray 3D discs, AIX Records’ Goldberg Variations Acoustica and Universal’s Despicable Me, which provided me real-world and animated perspectives.

Activating 3D requires no more than pressing a 3D on/off button on the remote and a power button on the glasses. Because the technology’s potential ill effects are well documented, I like that Sharp acknowledges this within its on-screen message as you make the switch: “Changed to 3D mode. Put on 3D glasses and press the power button on the glasses. If you are in bad physical condition or feel uncomfortable watching [the] 3D picture, please stop watching [the] projector.”

I watched the Goldberg disc first, an intimate live music recording which I’d also seen demoed on a flat-panel 3D TV. The first thing I looked for was crosstalk, or the double-image-like blurriness that can occur, which it had near the edges of the flat-panel display. I didn’t notice any with the Sharp unit, and that remained so on Despicable Me.

The glasses felt comfortable enough, and the 3D effect added nice depth to some camera angles. It convincingly rendered the space on stage for details like the various microphones’ placement in front of the musicians and the guitarist’s proximity to the equipment rack behind him. Also, clarity became enhanced in certain aspects, such as how much one of the guitarists’ shirt collars extended from his skin, the drummer’s hands moving behind his hanging chimes, and the mass of electrical outlets and wires on the floor between guitarists.

In some respects, the “cleanness” of the image is an aspect of 3D that has been a detriment for me. On every demo I’ve seen, implementing the effect adds a “glassy,” almost fake look to the image, and particularly on real-world content it can feel like an “effect” rather than a natural viewing element — though we do look at life in 3D, when it comes to movies and TV our eyes have been trained to calculate the depth of those 2D images.

Overall, though, that’s a minor personal preference, and one that I managed to overlook relative to my overall enjoyment of this immersive home 3D experience. Also, the 3D viewing of Goldberg underscored my impression of the XV-Z17000’s attention to detail and black-level performance, on items like the percussionist’s Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, the wonderful wood grain of the upright bass, and the black brush drumsticks and piano keys.

For an animated film, Despicable Me delivers reference-quality video in 2D, the version I viewed for a few scenes before switching to 3D (easily done on the movie’s menu). Watching this movie in crystal-clear 3D on a big projection screen is what really sold me on the technology. The XV-Z17000 delivered an experience that to me epitomized what home theater is all about.

The 3D image’s colors, punch and depth were dramatic, exemplified by the scene in which Gru, the main character, orders his tiny, yellow minion creatures to assemble and they start jumping and whirling about while metal objects stir against the factory backdrop. But even a simple scene in which Gru walks down the street, with a water fountain, trees and buildings behind him, demonstrated the rich layering created by the projector.

Also, viewers will appreciate the 3D menu that includes an adjustment for 3D image depth — if the perceived 3D is too strong for your eyes and feels like you are straining, you can ease the effect by dropping the depth a few notches.

Conclusion
While I try to enter a review without preconceived opinions, I couldn’t help it when it came to 3D. Demos at tradeshows involving all types of TVs and projectors had never truly overwhelmed me, and I was not expecting to be as impressed as I was with the Sharp system.

And don’t worry about the glasses detracting from your comfort — my 4-year-old daughter sat with me and wore them through all 95 minutes of Despicable Me without complaint.

I still don’t look at 3D as an everyday viewing option, but I think as long as the screen size is adequate and the display technology does it justice, the “wow factor” potential is there. Components like Sharp’s XV-Z17000 could be your ticket to making family movie nights special.

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