Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
In November, Energy Star will update its certification for televisions with a new standard, Version 3.0, that for the first time takes into account actual power used when the TV is turned on. We've tested numerous HDTVs this year that comply with the new standard, and the Sharp LC-52D65U is the most efficient, if only by a few watts. Yes, there is one exception, Philips' Eco TV, but its efficiency comes at the expense of picture quality. The LC-52D65U delivers better picture than the Philips and many other entry-level sets, although its performance is not without its flaws. That said, the relatively affordable price, decent picture, and power savings of the Sharp LC-52D65U will certainly earn it a large share of admirers.
Sharp's latest Aquos is, well, sharper than previous years' rounded designs, with a perfectly rectangular hard-edged panel and an angled bezel surrounding the big screen. Below the screen stretches a thin gray strip for the speakers, separated from the glossy black surrounded by a chrome-colored accent line. One fly in the external design ointment is the glossy, plastic, nonswiveling stand, which doesn't seem up to the standards of the rest of the panel--maybe it's the rounded corners on the stand's base.
If you keep the stand attached, the LC-52D65U measures 49.3 inches wide by 33.8 inches tall by 12.8 inches deep and weighs a feathery 63.9 pounds. Ditch the stand and the panel comes in at 49.3 inches tall by 31.4 inches wide by 3.8 inches deep and 52.9 pounds. This is easily one of the most compact 52-inch televisions on the market.
Despite redesigning its displays nearly every year, it's been eons since Sharp touched its remote controls. The LC-52D65U's clicker is basically the same as the one that shipped with the LC-46D62U, which we reviewed in 2006. Our opinion hasn't changed, so we'll just quote that review: "Sharp's long remote will be familiar to anyone who's played with an Aquos set in the last couple of years. It has full orange backlighting, the ability to command four other pieces of gear, keys that are nicely spread out and well differentiated, and a generally logical button layout. We say 'generally' because the key controlling aspect ratio is stashed clear at the top of the long wand, the one for freezing the image is given an unduly important spot near the main directional keypad, and the one for changing picture modes is hidden beneath a flip-up hatch."
Sharp's menu system design is also basically the same as in previous years, and its blocky look seems dated compared with the slick menus available from Sony and Samsung, for example. The pertinent information is all there, however, and we liked the text explanations that accompany various selections.
The big selling point of Sharp's D65U series revolves around saving energy. According to our testing, this is one of the most-efficient TVs of its size on the market, and we assume that the smaller members of the line--it's also available in 42- and 46-inch sizes--will offer similar energy savings. Naturally all three are Energy Star 3.0-compliant, and include the requisite home/store initial setup query that modifies the default picture mode (more information).
This TV uses a new power saving mode that's notably not engaged by default--you have to manually select one of two options in the menu or hit the remote's dedicated button. We prefer the manual selection because we believe default settings should be as basic as possible. Choosing Standard power saving mode causes the display to "optimize power consumption based on video content" and, while choosing Advanced also incorporates a room lighting sensor Sharp calls "OPC." Additionally, you can adjust the sensitivity of OPC and choose to have the TV turn off automatically after a set period of time if it doesn't sense a signal (15 minutes) and/or you don't press any buttons on the TV or remote (3 hours).
In our testing of default mode versus the Standard power saving modes (we didn't choose Advanced because we do not currently account for room lighting sensors into our power test methodology), the LC-52D65U saved just 10 watts when we engaged power saving. That might explain why we could barely detect a difference between the picture quality in Off versus Power Saving mode. Check out the Juice Box below for the numbers.
A wide range of picture controls is available on the LC-52D65U. There are seven total picture modes, five of which can be adjusted, one of which cannot, and one, titled User, that's independent per input. Among advanced controls, the most notable addition is a new menu that lets you set white balance for red, green, and blue, which can help hone the TV's color temperature beyond the five presets. A full color management system is available, along with a film mode to control 2:3 pull-down; a setting that changes the picture dynamically to optimize contrast (we left it off); an "Image Compensation" setting that supposedly optimizes the picture for fast- or slow-moving content; four flavors of noise reduction; and Sharp's peculiar "monochrome" setting that turns everything black-and-white. In all, this is the most adjustable TV Sharp HDTV we've ever reviewed.
The LC-52D65U lacks picture-in-picture, but it does include an option to freeze the onscreen image so you can write down a phone number, for example.
Connectivity is excellent on the LC52D65U. As a late-model TV we expected a handful of HDMI inputs, but its total of five is generous by any standard. Four can be found on the back panel while a fifth is located on the right side. Other jacks include two component-video, one VGA-style PC (1,600x1,200-pixel maximum resolution), one RF for antenna or cable, and two standard-definition inputs (one composite- and one S-Video) that, if connected, each replace a component-video input. There's also an optical digital audio output, an analog stereo audio output and an RS-232 connection for custom control systems. That side panel adds another composite-video connection, but the USB-style port is for "service only," not for photos or music.