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Z3 test/review with HTPC/SMART III to follow

Discussion in 'Projectors, Screens & Video Processors' started by ROne, Nov 13, 2004.

  1. ROne

    ROne
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    My Z3 arrived yesterday - it being two years out of home cinema (and a home!) - I couldn't wait any longer. Previously I had a Z1 hooked upto a HTPC and made all the tweaks I could from the service menu, including a SMART III calibration.

    This review will be split into a couple of sections - one dealing with the projectors performance and issues with a budget DVD player (interlace) and progressive DVD player. The second section (to come) will deal with the projector and HTPC/SMART III experiences although this may take up to a few days to go at.

    I have a basic screen at the moment - in fact - the one that came free, it's a cheap screen with a few ripples here and there but it will do for the moment.

    Setting up last night, it's always interesting to give the projector the worst possible combination of sources just to see how it performs at the bottom end of the scale. So with a pacific and composite cable projecting onto a 72" screen and basic AVIA calibration I held my breath ... I've got to say it was extremely disappointing even with low expectations.

    First thing that hit me is the projectors DE-INTERLACER is awful, really bad. It's much more of a chore to scale/de-interlace a 720x576 picture to 1280x720 resolution in my experience of displays and it struggles - whereas the Z1 only had to fudge out a tiny bit of scaling with not too many artefacts (due to the lack of resolution) the Z3 struggles. Jaggies, Stair casing & combing everywhere. I did a quick check on the manual to make sure progressive was selected along with the appropriate type of de-interlace method (which is denoted as L1, L2 - L2 is our setting) and these were correct.

    Getting beyond this frustration I could begin to analyze the rest of the picture. Colours looked pretty good out of the box and grey scale tracking didn't look too bad. Uniformity/purity was about average, a little dash of green towards the bottom left edge of the screen - as with most of these artefacts your unit may vary.

    Contrast was good as well, although Black level was a bit disappointing - I would guess that the optical trickery which includes a automatic lamp regulator and motorised Iris may be well be the key to the 2000:1 contrast ratio rather than an out and out super low black level. Most scenes were very pleasing though - but I would say black-level was not a whole lot lower than the Z1. Shadow detail was very good though, intensities in this quarter were very pleasing and this made up for some milky-ness.

    Not a completely successful evening then - so next day I was off to get the much lauded Pioneer 575 with progressive scan. The 575 is a bit cheap and to me shows its Chinese origins unlike the better built japanese stuff that they seem to reserve for higher end products nowadays. The case is flimsy and it weighs nothing - menu system is horrible even though it's a duplicate of my 5100 HD-recorder menu which I also hate. Quite fiddly to select the progressive features and make sure the picture influences are all at default.

    I must say at this point the Sanyo’s manual is very sketchy on detail - we have some interesting features, Iris, Gamma control, Panel adjustment, Overscan adjustment and some RGB offset controls. In fact most of the stuff from the Z1's service menu that I spent hours messing with is now on view - but with lack of instruction to back it up - it's almost back to the drawing boards with research.

    The vertical band adjustment is of particular interest - the bain of the Z1 - is now accessible by virtue of basic menu test card where you can adjust the panels individual colours in light and dark areas. It must be said though the vertical banding of this unit was pretty non-existent, not invisible; you could occasionally see lines here and there but it was probably the single biggest improvement over the Z1 for me. I did have a brief tussle with the adjustment but it already seemed optimised.

    Anyway with the pioneer now connected I could hopefully get past the de-interlacer of the unit and see how the scaler alone would fair.

    The results were good, all the nastiness of interlace video almost gone - only some very small stair-stepping on a few diagonals. To get rid of these we definitely have to 1-1 which I am hoping to do with the HTPC in the coming days.

    Colours much better as well but to be expected from component over composite. I did another calibration and got a pleasingly smooth picture and settled down to watch Godsend. A good film for ignoring the story and assessing the quality of the projector! Overall some sombre tones held up quite well with virtually none of the compromised LCD feel.

    At the very limits where maybe you have 10% of screen area in brightness while the rest in darkness the projector does suffer in the same way as other LCD units but it does make up for it in other areas.

    Screen-Door is a vast improvement again not invisible but definitely reduced on the scale of picture horrors, and the best I have seen.

    Well there it is - an evolution rather than rev ... you know the score. There are still many unanswered menu offerings like transient improvements and contrast enhancements that I refused to use as the trickery count reminds me of the old days of fudging graphic equalisers to get better sound when you need better speakers.

    I still can't get my head around the Iris adjustment though, any information with regards to this and other tweaks would be most welcome.

    TBC ... HTPC and SMART III system shortly.

    Added: My current picture settings:

    575p
    Contrast: 13
    Brightness: 1
    Colour: 0
    Gamma: 0
    Color Temp: Mid
    RGB all 0 for the moment
    Sharpness: -7
    (Bypass progressive)
    Lamp mode: Theatre Black
    Iris: -42 (god knows why!)
    Gain, Offest and RGB gamma all at default
    Auto Black Stretch: off
    Contrast Enhancement: off
    Transient improvement: off
    Overscan: 10

    Lots of progress has been made in this thread if you want to go straight to my best settings,

    HERE

    MY BEST D65 HDMI CC30R white screen HTPC VMR settings
     
  2. Comer

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    Excellent work ROne

    I was just reading this on my Z3 from a HCPC when I got the "Predator Look" (See here) .

    Pj completely locked up

    Looks like the new Z3 has a design flaw.

    Conor
     
  3. ROne

    ROne
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    that's bad news Comer (I seem to remember you had your fair share in the past.) What is the likely trade off in picture quality between HDMI and VGA? Have you tried VGA yet?
     
  4. zAndy1

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    I fail to see how it can be a design flaw as I've been using mine on the HDMI input with a 720p signal from my Lumagen HDP and not had any problems at all. Maybe I've just been very lucky...

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  5. inzaman

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    Comer, thats pretty bad are you going to send the unit back and try another Z3 or has it not happened since?
     
  6. Comer

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    Hi Andy, TBH I don't see how it could be anything else. I am using the very same setup as with my HS10 and there are a few posts on Avs with the exact same problem...picture turns green and projector completely locks up, have to pull the plug to switch it off.

    I don't see any point in replacing it with another Z3 as I believe it's a problem with the Z3 itself (hope I' wrong) I am going to try VGA cable today and compare pq. If it's comparable with HDMI I may rip up my f*****g floor boards again (that's gonna take a couple of hours :suicide: ) and put it in place peminantly and wait to see if someone or Sanyo come up with some kind of fix.

    There is not another pj that suits me at the mo and I couldn't face moving my mount back for the HS10 again.

    BTW, I agree with everything ROne has said:
    When I fired the pj up first with component in from a PS DVD I was very disappointed with picture quality and contrast, in fact I thought it was rubbish compared to the HS10 from the PC.
    Black levels are a little dissapointment to me (perhaps my expectations were too high) but contrast and shadow detail are better than on the HS10, but not night and day mind you.
    I way not running the HS10 at 1:1 matching for the past few months so that I could get the pj to run at 50Hz. For this reason I do find the image a little sharper. I do see what looks like very slight VB but it's not really any worse than FPN on the HS10. Like others I found that the VB utility in the menu was at optimal settings by default.
    Fan noise is very quiet but now that I have the pj in the same room (unlike the HS10) I would not like to have a pj that is any louder.
    It's also brighter that the HS10 but then my lamp had 500hrs on it.

    One thing I have learned from this is that when you consider that the HS10 is two generations old, it's still a dam fine projector.

    Conor
     
  7. zAndy1

    zAndy1
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    Under exactly what situations does this problem manifest itself? Is there something you can do that brings it on every time? Like I said, I haven't had any problems with mine (touch wood) so perhaps I'm not using the source/input/resolution that shows up any problem?

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  8. zAndy1

    zAndy1
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    Projector central said the deinterlacer/scaler in the Z3 was so good there was no need for an external scaler (ever since I read that I don't attach much credence to the projector central reviews!). Surely it can't be that bad? I have to admit I haven't used mine yet as all my sources go through my Lumagen HDP..

    Cheers
    Andy
     
  9. Comer

    Comer
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    I have tried a VGA cable but can only get a scrolling desktop with the computer input...any ideas?
     
  10. KraGorn

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    A scrolling desktop is often a sign that the video drivers think the display can't handle the set resolution .. how are you setting this, using Powerstrip?
     
  11. Ekko Star

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    Well it had it's fair share of faults if you got a bad one, but have to agree Sony certainly know how to make a PJ.

    Also have to say the Z3 does sound a little bit dissapointing now, must go get a demo of it, but am not holding out much hope on the strength of things said here.

    Are you gonna switch brands ?
     
  12. ROne

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    They are talking rubbish (as always) - anyone who contests the de-interlacer being anything but crap can come to my house and I will point out the obvious difference. Projector central reviews are never anything other than zealously worded pieces of text, but this is obvious to me as they are like estate agents for displays!

    Actually Andy that would be a useful benchmark for you to compare the two as you can fill a helpful gap there - I no longer have an outboard de-interlacer (did have the ISCAN). Please try it!

    I once had a toshiba MT-7 with pixel-works chip inside it and this was also poor. I am assuming it has a different version although the MT-7 was also a 1280x720 projector.

    Anyway I think we can get a lot of good stuff out of this projector yet - if the greyscale tracking looks to be in place then we can improve everything else.

    I would say to anyone buying it - you will need a progscan DVD (and a good one at that) at the very least, but this should be mandatory.
     
  13. zAndy1

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    The Z3 is awesome, seriously I have not seen a picture on a projector like this, I'm not saying some of it isn't down to the fact I'm using a Lumagen HDP and therefore getting 1:1 pixel mapping but I'm very happy with this projector. It's a lot better than my old Z2 and it's better than the AE700 that I had briefly. I was going to get the H77 but scrapped that plan due to cost, I expected the projector I got instead to be a serious compromise but I am perfectly happy to live with this until I can afford a H77 or similar. Who knows how the HS50 will compare, personally I'm not bothered cos I've found an LCD projector that doesn't seem to suffer from LCDs bugbears i.e. VB/Screendoor.

    Cheers,
    Andy.
     
  14. Ekko Star

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    If the Z3 is re-affirming how good the HS10 is...then that's struggling to be called evolution in my book.

    Still I will give it a thorough demo to give it the chance.
     
  15. ROne

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    I would call it evolution from the Z1 but I can't speak for the sonys.

    I've found with all projectos that you have to work to get the best picture - and it's the one with the best potential picture that sometimes takes it's time to be the most impressive.

    I definately wouldn't write it off yet from anyone's perspective (maybe a Z2 owners? But they had problematic colours.) apart from those expecting a quantum leap in technology.

    If you are seriously bothered about picture quality you will not settle for anything less than a HTPC or a good scaler. And I don't see the Z3 being any different.

    However I don't want to turn this thread into a purchasing decions thread, I'm rather more interested in how well we can ge the Z3 to perform with the various sources and calibration. And then we will evalute the results!
     
  16. Ekko Star

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    Ok ROne keep us informed how you get on. However, you've put the dampener on the Z3 for me for now.
     
  17. ROne

    ROne
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    Hooked up to HTPC (VGA) this afternoon. In a word excellant. The signal path is much cleaner than the component with absolutely no vertical banding or screen door artifacts noticeable.

    You get a much more brighter image as well as the usual smooth image from the likes of theatertek.

    Running in 1280x720 at 75hz, judder (no tearing) was pretty low on both NTSC and PAL no jaggies or any other nasties.

    The weak link in this set-up is definately the DVD quality itself. You can pick up on compression and some colour ringing on Gangs of New York R2 which was probably in the mastering stage.

    Images have a greater apparent contrast on the VGA path as you are cutting out signal/scaler interference.

    I switched back to prog-scan component and it didn't look that bad, a slightly darker and less sharp picture but it looked pretty good.

    I would rate on a scale of 1-10 each source as follows.

    budget DVD player interlace: 3 Some vertical Banding, Staircase jaggies, A little screen door.

    progscan DVD player: 8 Tiny amount of VB, Some minor jaggies. No screen Door.

    HTPC: 10 No VB, No Jaggies. No screen door. Superb contrast.

    In the HTPC set up guise I would find this projector difficult to criticise. It could do with a slightly lower black level - that's about it. Basically as the signal path gets purer the artifacts reduce - a quite logical equation.

    I have found the IRIS function basically cuts down on light hitting the screen which lowers black level. I have set it at the minium aperture of -63. If you put a black screen up you will see this effecting the black level as it becomes more milky the closer you get to zero(+). I would imagine you would alter the iris depending on the size of the screen you have. Smaller image size - smaller aperture as the light falling on it is greater than when the image size is bigger or the projector is on maximum zoom where you would need more light.
     
  18. triumphtiger

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    It sure has!!
    Happened to me as well. After 24 minutes running 720p with a Denon dvd player (2910) connected through HDMI.
    The Z3 just froze, had to use the power switch to turn it off.
    1080i works fine though.
     
  19. dazca1

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    As I am new to projectors, can some one please explain what HTPC is please :)
     
  20. theritz

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    HTPC (Home Theater Personal Computer) or HCPC (Home Cinema PC) is a computer specifically suited to use with (usually) front projection, although they are now also used with Plasma and LCD screens, and with some RearProjection TVs. The main advantage is that a PC can (with appropriate software and graphics card) be set to output a resolution which matches the resolution of a display device. This means that the display device doesn't have to scale (resize) the incoming signal. PCs with appropriate software can also play dvds with better video quality than the majority of regular dvd players. The PC can also be used for media serving (music etc), and lots more besides.

    There's a separate forum for HCPCs - some reading there would help, and any questions would be better placed there than here, so as not to take this thread off-topic.

    Sean G.
     
  21. dazca1

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    Thanks for that theritz
     
  22. Comer

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    Don't get me wrong, having seen the shadow detail and contrast of the Z3 I could not go back to the HS10. The HS10 is an excellent projector in all but two areas, 1) Shadow detail 2)Fan noise. Having fed the HS10 a 1:1 signal from a PC I did not expect the Z3 to give any sharper a picture...and it doesn't. The only disappointment I have with the Z3 is with black level but be aware that I have never seen a DLP pj or a CRT in proper setup so what the fudge do I know about black level. Perhaps my expectations were too high. I do think that the pq on the HS10 from component PS DVD player is better than from the same source on the Z3...I know that doesent make sense and I'm probably mistaken but that is what I thought when I first turned on the Z3. But from a HCPC the picture is really stunning, bright, punchy and very good contrast. So if this locking up problem is sorted it's definately a keeper.

    BTW ROne I tried 75Hz tonight and got more stutter than at 50Hz but also with what looked like quite a few flashing/shimmering pixels. A pity as I think that it may be the 50Hz refresh rate that is causing the lockup bug.

    Also after 14 hours I have my first dust blob so I can test the new removal feature tomorrow. 1,100 on the HS10 and not one single dust blob. :smoke:

    I'm sure my 5year-old is now asleep so I can continue to watch Star Wars V...Dath never looked so black beside his storm troopers (in my house anyway :) )

    Conor
     
  23. Ekko Star

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    Well can't comment on the HS10 too much as I have the HS20.

    HS20 = very fine PJ indeed. I have very little to complain about in the picture quality dept, superb build and a lovely bit of kit. No dust ingress problems for me either.

    You got to remember that it was built to a £3k spec when it was launched and not £1200....and it shows. ;)
     
  24. Comer

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    It can not be run at any other refresh rate than 56Hz from a PC and the stutter that this causes was ruining my movie viewing (stuttering is just a personal hate of mine) That said the picture quality is excellent from HCPC.
    As for build quality: yes you are right but I don't expect to keep this Sanyo for the rest of my life anf 3 years warranty looks pretty good beside the 1 year I had with the HS10, even with excellent build quality a component costing a huge percentage of any pj can fail after 13 months

    Horses for courses I guess
     
  25. Ekko Star

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    I don't bother with HCPC, don't feel the need to. Component from DVD SD9000 & SD900 is sublime for me, rich in colours, contrast and razor sharp.

    HS20 was a BIG move on in reliabilty over the 10. Anyhow I got myself a 5 year warranty on it that covers virtually all types of eventuality.

    I don't see the big move of a AE700 over a 500 and I dont imagine the Z3 is 'that' big over the Z2.

    In which case the 20 still rocks :smashin: only the 50 'could' push the boat out even further.
     
  26. Comer

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    Fair enough

    For me the Z3 is an improvement over the HS10:
    I don't need to use keystone
    I can have 50Hz at 1:1 pixel matching from PC
    It's much quieter
    Black kevels are improved and shadow detail/contrast are very much improved.

    Conor
     
  27. Ekko Star

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    My AE500 is up for replacement, 700 I have discounted and it is there the Z3 'may' have come into play.

    My HS20 is a defo a keeper. So the 50 or the Z3 is the 500 replacement for me. I don't believe from what I am hearing that the 3 is that groundbreaking a move on from that perspective. The 50 does though.

    Anyway probably going a bit off topic now.
     
  28. Comer

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    Hi ROne

    Just noticed that you used the VGA input instead of HDMI. Did you have any problems with a scrolling desktop (as I did) and if so how did you overcome this?

    BTW I'm using a Radeon 9200 with cat 4.9 driver

    Conor
     
  29. Tempest

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    Does the fact the the panel res on the new projector is lower than the old one, annoy you a bit?
     
  30. Sigismund

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    Thought I'd add a few thoughts given my experience of both the Z2 and Z3.

    For me the Z3 is a big step up from the Z2, although I've yet to utilize the Z3's full capabilities - I had the Z2 connected via DVi, but am still waiting for delivery of a DVi - HDMi lead so I've experience of interlaced component feed from a Sony DVD player and VGA from my computer.

    Using the Z3's progressive scan abilities shows the pj's "budget" nature - jaggies aren't handled particularly well, and the image looks a little soft. Using VGA and then adjusting the pixel clock in Powerstrip so that Mark Rejhon's Easy Calibration Test Pattern for HTPC's looked clean and sharp left me with a rich, detailed and fairly sharp image - and much improved over the Z2's DVi image, which I found suffered from a type of "edge enhanced" look.

    Contrast levels are much improved over the Z2, and can be made even better with the use of a Hoya filter - I now have a really punchy, "filmic" look that I would be happy with bar a niggling suspicion that the image I'm seeing suffers from a clour uniformity issue, with a red tinge to the left of the screen and a green hue to the right. I really need to go over my settings and check this though and if it's just the tinkerer in me that's caused it I will be happy (assuming I can get rid of it)... if not, and the colour uniformity problem is with the pj itself, well I guess I'll have to return it :rolleyes:

    And with this talk of lock ups with a 720p DVi - HDMi problem the Sanyo may be going back whatever...
     

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