Sharp LC-37D90U review: Sharp LC-37D90U

After setting up the Sharp for viewing in our darkened lab, we checked out its performance with dark material using the Underworld: Evolution Blu-ray disc playing on the Samsung BD-P1000. In Chapter 13, when the helicopter approaches the castle, black areas appeared rich and well detailed; we could make out bricks in the castle and bolts in the fuselage of the chopper, and shadows looked clean with few traces of noise. The LC-37D90U delivered as deep a level of black as we've seen on any LCD--equal to as that of the HP LC3760N and significantly deeper than the Dell W3706MC, both of which we had on hand to compare directly.

The dark scenes also revealed solid uniformity; the right and left sides of the LC-37D90U's picture were only very slightly brighter than the middle, and the difference was invisible in all but the darkest scenes. We watched the same scenes from off-angle, and again, the LC-37D90U performed better than most LCDs in this regard, washing out the image relatively slightly compared to the Dell, although the off-axis picture quality still wasn't up to plasma or direct-view CRT standards.

The Sharp's most accurate color-temperature mode is Low, which came fairly close to the 6,500K standard (see the Geek box) but was still fairly blue in darker areas. Color decoding was significantly improved over the 37-inch LC-37D40U and the HP. There was still a little red push on the LC-37D90U, which led us to back the color control down a tad, but after doing so, Kate Beckinsale's skin was suitably corpselike. In the few scenes with some color, such as when she visits the lair of Tanis, colors appeared well saturated, and reds in particular looked vibrant.

As a 1080p display, the Sharp LC-37D90U's main claim to fame is detail, however, and it came through as well as any such display in this regard. According to a multiburst resolution pattern from our Sencore VP403 signal generator, the LC-37D90U had no trouble resolving every line of a 1080i source via HDMI, DVI, and ATSC. To pass this test, the panel had to be in its dot-by-dot aspect-ratio setting; the default Stretch setting could not resolve every line. (Dot-by-dot has zero percent overscan, meaning that the extreme edges of the source are displayed onscreen. In some cases, you'll see interference at the edges of the screen in this mode. On our in-house DirecTV HD-TiVo, for example, the very top edge of the screen crawled with black-and-white noise on a few standard-def channels, but none of the HD channels evinced similar interference.) When we switched to component-video, the image softened visibly, and horizontal interference as well as edge enhancement appeared in the pattern; as usual, we recommend using a digital input for HDTV sources.

It's worth noting that, to distinguish between the individual vertical black-and-white lines, which are vanishingly thin onscreen, we had to sit no further than about 45 inches away from the 37-inch screen. From our nominal seating distance of 78 inches, the lines were indistinguishable. This leads to the main problem with the LC-37D90U: its 37-inch screen just isn't big enough to justify a 1080p resolution unless you sit very close to the screen.

We could see this when comparing the Sharp to the two other 37-inch LCDs, which have the standard 1,366x768 resolution. We started by feeding all three sets a 1080i high-def signal from our DirecTV HD TiVo. If we looked closely, we could tell the difference from our standard seating distance; the fine curlicues carved into in an altar in Krakow on a travel program from HDNet, for example, looked a tad more highly resolved on the LC-37D40U than on the other two. Next, we tried an even higher-quality HD-DVD source, Swordfish as played on the Toshiba HD-A1. The differences were much more prevalent from 45 inches or less; the mesh of the chair and the lines on the paper lamp on the porch where Halle Berry suns herself, for example, were more distinct than on the lower-resolution panels. When we moved back to a 78-inch distance, the difference was still visible but much more subtle.

Finally, we ran the Sharp LC-37D90U through a battery of standard-def video tests from the HQV disc. Via component-video (at 480i) and S-Video, the Sharp had a tough time smoothing jagged lines in test patterns and the waving American flag, although strangely, it fared better via composite video. Details also looked a bit softer than we expected, although the panel had no trouble resolving every line of resolution from test patterns. Turning the noise reduction to high really helped to clean up low-quality sources, and while the Sharp was able to successfully detect

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