The Sharp XV-Z9000U Video Projector


The worlds first HD DLP Front Projector
4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios
Compatible with 1080i and 720p
Resolution: 1280 × 720 pixels
Brightness: 800 ANSI lumens
Contrast Ratio: 1100:1
Retail: $10.995.00


More than a decade ago, Sharp decided to design LCD front projectors for the home theater. They pioneered that market, and LCD projection soon became associated with their name. Therefore I was very curious when they decided to market a Digital Light Processing™ projector, or DLP for short. Why would they make that switch? I believe they saw a better platform for the home theater, and decided to go with it. The resultant product is definitely a statement to the rest of the industry.

The dancing mirrors of this Sharp DLP projector are in a ballet that creates an amazing movie theater quality image. Ever since I first read the Texas Instruments paper on the design of the DLP I have been waiting for a product that would do justice to its potential without a stratospheric price. Sharp has certainly achieved that goal in the XV-Z9000U.

The XV-Z9000U is a single chip DLP that hosts a myriad of inputs including composite, S-video, component, and RGBVH. It accepts RS232 control inputs, and has a hard-wired IR code input to go with the usual IR remote control. It accepts NTSC, NTSC component, VGA, SVGA, XGA, SXGA, 720p HD, and 1080i HD. All go through the scaler to be converted to the native resolution of 1280 by 720. The user menu is intuitive, but replete with adjustments. The service sub menu allows the full calibration of the unit. With little tinkering it could be set to a very linear 6500 degrees Kelvin, and a well-depicted gray scale. Compared to setting up a CRT, this was a breeze. I was ready to critically view some of the best-transferred films available.

In order to evaluate the internal processing, I used a Faroudja 3000 outputting at the Sharp's native rate of 720p connected to the 15-pin input. I also used a 1080i HD output from an RCA DTC 100. They both ran through an Extron switcher. Now for the good stuff!

Hollow Man [Columbia Tri-Star 50723] is a very well transferred movie. The special effects in chapter four and the multiple monitors in the background create a feeling of space and depth with intimate detail. As Kevin Bacon disappears step by step, his internal organs are clear and have depth. You never feel you are watching a computer-generated image. The colors have a movie level of intimate detail, and are neither cartoonish nor TV in quality. The blacks are so deep that they allow the images to stand out from the background, with a detail level that gives faces depth. A minor flaw is visible in the facial coloring, and the writing on the monitors. A look at color bars confirms it. The green primary in the Sharp is slightly off, looking somewhat lime green. It is hard for a manufacturer to find a bulb that will allow all of the primary colors to look like the CRT phosphors they are intended to replace. This inaccuracy shifted the facial coloring slightly, almost making everyone look as if they were under florescent lighting. The good news is that the red and blue primaries are incredibly deep and beyond only the best filtered CRTs.

Switching from the Faroudja 3000 to the internal processing only slightly defocused the crystal clarity of the unit. Gray scale was not as well delineated, slightly diminishing the three dimensional quality. Some of the detail on Kevin Bacon's face was lost and the overall depth decreased. The difference was akin to the difference between the Faroudja 3000 and their Native Rate Processor. This still rates it an excellent performer.

The Fifth Element [Columbia Tri-Star 82409] helped better define what is great about this projector, falling short of only the best CRT projectors. A wonderfully done computer generated scene is Chapter 8, the Nucleolab, where Leeloo is being assembled inside a glass-covered unit. It is detailed, three dimensional and palpably real. In chapter 10, on a ledge, as you are brought in to a close-up of her face, the detail of the coloring of her hair, and her eyes is there with depth and fine detail.

When displaying the dark space scenes in Fifth element, the deep blacks turned to dark gray. The black level was about as good as the average film projector in your local movie theater, but not the absolute black you get from a fine CRT projector. No detail seemed to be lost, and the effect was minimal. The detail level in chapter 10, looking down into the multi-layered traffic just before Leeloo jumps into Bruce Willis' Cab, depicted excellent depth of field. Small images were clear, but flatter than on a CRT. Switching to the internal processor diminished the depth only slightly.

High definition images made the loss of detail more evident than DVD sources. This is probably due to the 750 lines of horizontal detail limit through the Sharp's internal scaler. While somewhat better than the DVD images, they were not close to the open window effect from a CRT. Still, without the direct comparison, the image quality was simply awesome, and almost four times as bright as the CRT. This is a unit you can live with, and enjoy without feeling you have been cheated out of anything.