Sharp Aquos LC-D85U review:

Sharp Aquos LC-D85U

Calibration the Sharp LC-46D85U took a bit more doing than on previous Sharp models that had fewer controls, but we were able to improve the picture somewhat. Unfortunately, the white balance controls weren't comprehensive enough to fix the tendency of the grayscale to become quite blue in dark areas (20 IRE and lower). Brighter areas, however, stayed close to the ideal color temperature, thanks in part to the controls we were able to adjust. We also tweaked the color management system in an attempt to improve primary and secondary colors, but we couldn't make much headway. Check out the Geek Box for more details and the bottom of this blog post for our full picture settings.

Before our formal image quality tests, we checked out the image quality impact of Sharp's power saver setting. We're happy to report that, unlike with the Philips Eco TV, the effects were subtle and didn't affect our enjoyment of program material at all. We did detect some slight variation in the backlight brightness with test patterns, but that's about it. Engaging power saving only saved a tiny bit of power, however, so videophiles might want to leave it turned off anyway. Note that we didn't test any mode that engaged the OPC room lighting sensor; as usual, we find that its automatic adjustments aren't as effective from a picture quality perspective as simply changing the picture mode manually for different lighting conditions.

For our comparison, we lined the LC-46D65U up next to a few competing 120Hz LCD models, including the Sony KDL-46W4100 and the Samsung LN52A650, as well as Sharp's own 60Hz LC-52D65U. Reference displays also included the Pioneer PRO-111FD and the Sony KDL-55XBR8. Our movie of choice this time was the spectacular Baraka on Blu-ray, delivered via the PlayStation 3.

Black level: The LC-46D85U didn't deliver as deep a shade of black as any of the other displays in the lineup, including the company's own less-expensive LC-52D65U. In dark areas, such as the starry sky wheeling above the tree at the very end, the night surrounding the eclipse in the title sequence, or the shadows around a monk lighting candles, blacks and shadows looked slightly brighter than on the D65U and a good deal brighter than on the other displays. Shadow detail, on the other hand, was relatively good; better than the other Sharp, which had a tendency to appear a bit bright in middark areas, but not at the same level as the Samsung or the reference displays.

Color accuracy: In brighter scenes, such as the "Monkey" chant, the LC85U looked more accurate and closer to the reference than its less expensive brother, and skin tones, such as those of the subway riders, again looked accurate. Our biggest complaint had to do with the bluish tinge we saw in dark areas and blacks, which was more prevalent than any of the other displays aside from the Sharp D65U, which was about the same.

Primary colors, like the lush greens of the Balinese jungles or the blue sky above a volcano, appeared relatively true, although the greens did look a tad bluer than on the reference displays. We also noticed that deep reds and yellows, like the dresses of the tribeswomen in the body adornment section, seemed somewhat too orange and pale, respectively, and not quite as vibrant or saturated as the reference displays. As usual we chalk up most of the comparative lack of saturation up to the LC-46D85U's lighter black levels.

Video processing: One advantage the LC-52D85U has over other 120Hz LCD displays we've tested is that it can achieve blur reduction without having to resort to dejudder. In terms of motion resolution, the LC-46D85U measured between 500 and 600 lines with Fine Motion Enhanced mode engaged, and the standard 300 to 400 with it turned off. The former number compares favorably with the other competing 120Hz displays in our test--Sony's KDL-46W4100 and Samsung's LN52A650--with their dejudder modes engaged. If asked to split hairs, however, we'd give the slight nod to the dejudder-equipped sets in terms of lines resolved on the test pattern. Of course, turning off dejudder on those sets, which we prefer to do especially with film-based material, drops motion resolution down into the standard 300 to 400 range again.

We found it almost impossible to detect any real-world difference in blurriness (as opposed to differences brought out in test material) between, in this case, the 120Hz D85U and the 60Hz D65U. Then again, we couldn't see any disadvantage to FME, so we'd recommend leaving it on.

We also checked out how the D85U handled 1080p/24 sources, and the results were as good as we've seen on other 120Hz displays. We switched our PS3 to 1080p/24 output, turned off the dejudder processing on the Samsung and Sony LCDs, and compared them all using some of our favorite Blu-ray scenes, such as the flyover of the aircraft carrier from I Am Legend and the pan over the workbench from Iron Man, and the D85U looked good, without any of the telltale hitching motion seen on displays that perform 2:3 pull-down. In these scenes it was impossible to tell any difference between the 120Hz displays' handling of 1080p/24 material.

The Sharp successfully resolved every line of 1080i and 1080p sources, and deinterlaced both film- and video-based sources correctly.

Uniformity: As we mentioned at the top, the LC-46D85U sample we reviewed exhibited the same kind and intensity of uneven backlight "banding" we complained about on previous Sharp models. In dark to midbright full raster patterns from our Sencore signal generator (from zero to 70 IRE, or 70 percent of available light levels) we could see evidence of horizontal and vertical bands of varying brightness. They were most obvious in dark to middark areas, but visible in all of them. We noticed the bands in lots of program material, too, but they showed up best in flat fields like the sky behind an ascending space shuttle, for example, or the gray side of a passing subway car in Baraka.

It's puzzling that the bands appeared on the D85U sample we reviewed but not on the D65U right next to it in our comparison. We can only assume banding varies from model to model within Sharp's line, and, for some reason, we got one "bad" one and one "good" one. We don't think the difference in series has anything to do with it; in other words, we don't assume all 85U models have banding while all 65U models do not. The same goes for screen size. We asked Sharp to comment on the banding, and the company said it couldn't do so by the time this review posted. If we have an update, we'll modify this review accordingly.

When see from off-angle, the Sharp's screen washed out more quickly than either the Sonys or the Samsungs, and bluish discoloration set in that was again somewhat more noticeable than on the other LCD displays.

Bright lighting: As with other matte-screen LCDs, the Sharp LC-46D85U performed well in a bright lighting environment. It showed dimmer reflections from in-room lighting sources than either the Samsung LCD or the plasmas, although it didn't maintain black levels as well as the Samsung. Compared with the matte-screened Sonys, it seemed to reduce reflections even more effectively, although the difference would probably be difficult to discern outside of a side-by-side comparison.

Standard-definition: The LC-46D85U performed below average with standard-definition material from the HQV test disc. It resolved every line of the DVD format, although the detail shot, which includes the grass and the stone bridge, appeared relatively soft. It did a worse job reducing jaggies in moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag than most displays we've tested recently, although its three strengths of noise reduction performed well when asked to clean up difficult, low-quality shots of skies, flowers, and sunsets. Finally its film mode kicked in quickly to provide proper 2:3 pull-down detection.

PC: Unlike most 1080p LCDs, the Sharp LC-46D85U isn't that adept with PC sources delivered via VGA. The manual states that the highest resolution the TV can accept via analog is 1,600x1,200. In our tests, that resolution worked OK, except that it didn't fill the screen. The highest resolution that did was 1,360x768, which looked even worse than we expected, with blocky lines and, in the 10-point font size, rendered text basically illegible. Via HDMI the Sharp performed as well as we expect of any 1080p LCD, delivering every line of a 1,920x1,080 source with great-looking text and no overscan. We did detect a bit of edge enhancement that we couldn't eliminate without softening the image, but it was minor.

Before color temp (20/80) 7375/6695 Average
After color temp 7140/6493 Poor
Before grayscale variation +/- 366 Average
After grayscale variation +/- 168 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.627/0.336 Average
Color of green 0.265/0.588 Average
Color of blue 0.147/0.063 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Sharp LC-46D85U Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 182.32 122.97 170.86
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.2 0.14 0.19
Standby (watts) 0 0 0
Cost per year $56.43 $38.06 $52.88
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Good
*Cost per year based on 2007 average U.S. residential electricity cost of 10.6 cents per kw/hr at 8 hours on/16 hours off per day.

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