We began as usual by adjusting the Sharp LC-46D62U for optimal picture quality in our dark lab. We did not perform a service-level calibration on the LC-46D62U, but for our full user-menu settings, you can check out Tips & Tricks above.
Lined up against the other LCDs in our testing facility, namely the JVC LT-40FN97, the Samsung LN-S4096D, the Vizio GV46L HDTV, and the Westinghouse LVW-47w1, the Sharp's superior black levels came through easily. We watched the HD-DVD of Apollo 13, and the letterbox bars above and below the picture--along with other dark scenes, such as the void of space when the ship heads toward the dark side of the moon and the shadowy recesses of the cabin during the blackout--all appeared a deeper shade of black on the Sharp than on the others. The result was a punchier picture in every scene, dark or otherwise, and the attendant excellent color saturation that goes hand-in-hand with deep blacks.
According to our measurements, the LC-46D62U's black levels also bested other LCDs we've tested, such as the Sony KDL-40XBR2 and the former champ, Samsung's LN-S4051D. Even more impressive, it appeared just a hair darker than the Panasonic TH-50PH9UK, a plasma we've cited as an excellent black-level performer. It's safe to say that with this Sharp, the "black-level gap" between LCD and plasma is gone. Note, however, that when seen from off-angle, the darkest areas of the LC-46D62U's picture did wash out somewhat and become lighter than the Panasonic's, which remained constant regardless of viewing angle. The Sharp's off-angle viewing was as good as any LCD we've seen, however. By the same token, like all plasmas we've tested, the Panasonic reflected more ambient light than any LCD.
Aside from its slightly deeper black levels, the Sharp didn't render dark scenes quite as satisfactorily as the Panasonic did. Detail in shadows between the two was about equal, with a slight edge if any going to the plasma, but here's where our main complaint with the Sharp appears: its bluish color temperature. Compared to the more-natural-looking plasma, and indeed to other LCD displays we've tested, such as the aforementioned Sony, the Sharp's black areas were noticeably bluer. The blueness wasn't restricted to dark scenes; the white suit of Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) had the bluer tinge too, and the discoloration was mostly visible in skin tones. When Jim gazes up at the stars in his backyard, for example, we noticed that his face and that of his wife on the chaise lounge appeared a bit bluer than they did on the Panasonic, which exhibited a much more accurate color temperature.
It's worth reiterating that we did not calibrate the Sharp's color temperature (the service menu of the LC-46D62U was not conducive to effective calibration), so the Panasonic and others will definitely appear better; on the flip side, the Panasonic, the JVC LCD, and others have much more accurate warm or low color-temperature presets than the Sharp, which is still woefully blue by high-end HDTV standards. That's too bad, because other aspects of the Sharp's color, namely color decoding and primary color accuracy, are perfectly acceptable.
As we mentioned, we discovered some uniformity problems after this review first published. We didn't notice at first, but once we saw the problems, they became difficult not to notice. The LC-46D62U's screen has distinct horizontal "bands" of slightly reddish color across the middle, with similarly sized, slightly greenish bands above and below the reddish bands. They were faint but became visible mainly in shots where the camera followed an object or panned across a scene. During the liftoff of the rocket, for example, the sky and clouds turned reddish, then greenish, as the Saturn V ascended into the stratosphere. We also noticed fainter vertical lines that were darker or lighter (as opposed to discolored). When the wives gather at the hotel before the launch, for example, the camera sweeps over the scene to reveal vertical lines or bands in the rooftops. The scene then cuts to Mrs. Lowell in the shower, and as the camera panned toward her, we saw horizontal bands, one faintly reddish band across the middle of the screen and faintly greenish ones above and below.
Both of these kinds of issues were more visible in flat fields of moderate brightness, as opposed to black or white fields. While we have seen similar uniformity problems on other LCDs, they were fairly serious on the Sharp and visible regardless of which input or resolution we checked. We've also heard reliable reports of this problem with other Sharp LC-46D62U and LC-52D62U LCDs, so the problem is not restricted to the sample that CNET reviewed.
When we set the Sharp LC-46D62U to Dot-by-Dot mode, the 1080i multiburst pattern from our Sencore HD signal generator revealed that it resolved every line. The sharpness came across on program material too, from the fine stubble on Lowell's haggard face to the bits of ice and condensation on the instrument panel. We did discern a slight increase in detail between the Sharp and the lower-resolution Vizio and Panasonic by looking very closely at certain scenes; a wicker planter in the background behind the worrying wives, for example, looked sharper on the 1080p set, as did Lowell's stubble on a close-up, but as usual, the difference wasn't drastic by any means. It's worth mentioning that the Sharp also accepted 1080p sources via component-video, a feat no every 1080p HDTV can match.
With standard-def sources delivered via the component-video input at 480i, the Sharp LC-46D62U delivered image quality that was about average. It engaged 2:3 pull-down quickly and resolved every detail in these lower-res images (as long as sharpness was set to a middle level), but had a more difficult time smoothing jagged edges than many sets we've tested recently. We did appreciate its ability to quiet the faint snow often seen in lower-quality sources when its noise-reduction control was turned up.
Update: As we mentioned above, after this review posted we connected a PC to the Sharp's HDMI input and, lo and behold, it actually could handle a 1,920 by 1,080 source despite the manual indicating a limit of 1,280 x 1,024. When we set the aspect ratio mode to Dot by Dot there was no overscan -- a good thing -- and according to DisplayMate the television resolved every detail of the PC source.
|Before color temp (20/80)||8238/7780K||Poor|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 1365K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.633/0.324||Good|
|Color of green||0.261/0.608||Average|
|Color of blue||0.143/0.068||Average|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|