Times are tough enough for Sharp without the company having to convince people to pay extra for esoteric add-ons like 240Hz, 3D, and the extra yellow pixel of Quattron. But that's exactly what it's trying to do with the LC-LE847U. It costs hundreds more than the company's step-down sets, including the highly recommended LC-LE640U series, and occupies the same size range as Vizio's lower-priced, entirely decent E601i-A3 series. Meanwhile, if you consider 3D a must-have feature, the company's own LC-LE745U is a much better value. Compared with those LED TVs, not to mention the numerous plasmas that outperform it by a country mile, the Sharp LC-LE847U just can't compete.
Externally there's almost nothing that separates the LE847U from its less-expensive brother the LE745U, and both look very businesslike. I appreciate the narrow frame around the image -- which does thicken up a bit along the bottom -- and its matte black coloring.
That frame is, unusually, made of actual metal, for a higher-end yet still understated feel. The corners have little plastic bumpers that unfortunately spoil its shape a bit, but are probably there to prevent freak accidents caused by the sharp corners.
Unlike the stand of the even-less-expensive LE640U, the LE847U's has a swivel on the 60-inch version (not the 70-inch one, however) and a textured matte finish, not glossy on the base. The 847U is definitely a nicer-looking TV on the outside, but the improvements are subtle.
I have no complaints on the connectivity front. Four HDMI ports is plenty, and the analog connections (one component, two composite, one VGA for computers) are as complete as I'd expect. A pair of USB ports, one facing the side and one the bottom, rounds out the package.
One great feature of the remote is the trio of programmable buttons giving instant access to your favorite apps. Another, new for 2012, is the big red Netflix button. The remote can control three other devices directly via infrared.
If you're comparing by content, Sharp falls short of most major-name competitors, missing Amazon Instant and sports services like MLB.com. The company has improved the selection since I tested the LE745U in June, however, adding Pandora and Rhapsody, and offering easier access to Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, and Flickr by moving them from the Vudu apps interface (which is still available) to the main Smart Central hub.
Aquos Advantage Live is Sharp's excellent live help feature. I appreciated the full onscreen manual -- a copy of the PDF version, complete with table of contents. Many makers today skimp by not including a full paper manual as well, but not Sharp.
The browser is, as usual, worse than any tablet, phone, or PC browser. The most annoying part, and a deal-breaker for all but the most emergency, last-resort situations, was having to use the normal TV remote control to navigate.
Sharp didn't change much about the menu system from last year, and it's serviceable if unremarkable. Navigation among the choices along the main top strip could be snappier, and I prefer overlays to Sharp's method of reducing the picture size to make room for its menus.
Five tweakable picture modes, a gamma slider, a full color management system, and both 2-point and 10-point grayscale controls make the LE847U as adjustable as LG'S and Samsung's TVs, and more so than Sony's lineup and most of Panasonic's. Unfortunately, the 10-point system didn't work well.
Like many high-end LED TVs we've tested this year, the Sharp LC-LE847U didn't produce picture quality commensurate with its price. In its favor, it was able to maintain fidelity in bright lighting situations, color in bright areas was OK, and the extra yellow pixel of Quattron didn't make color accuracy worse after proper adjustment. On the other side of the ledger, that fidelity isn't great, falling short of what you see on many less-expensive sets like the Vizio E601i-A3 and especially Sharp's own entry-level LC-LE640U. Lighter black levels, lack of punch, and bluish discoloration especially in dark areas were the main culprits.