The synthetic tests were a mixed bag, with the TV performing well with 24p content but failing video support with some moire issues. Noise was also a problem, particularly with mostly green images, and this was a precursor of what was to come.
What the synthetic tests don't tell you about are things like colour, detail or black levels, and so we threw in a copy of Mission Impossible III on Blu-ray to check; and this is when the problems actually began. MI3's bridge scene (Chapter 11) is a good test of noise, 24p support (including moire effects) and colour. And unfortunately the Sharp failed them all.
The railings on the bridge were full of jagged moire artefacts and motion was a little jerky. The sequence then moves to the inside of the car and the Sharp demonstrated it could deliver natural skin tone and plenty of detail.
Following the initial attack, you see Tom Cruise clamber out of the car and watch the rocket drone fly off into the distance. This shot is a tester for any TV as the sky is full of noise, but unfortunately the Sharp didn't do so well, and in a way we'd never seen before.
Usually a poorly performing TV will simply render this sky as a mass of buzzing, electronic dots instead of as a "grainy film" image. The Sharp not only changed the colour from blue to green but made it look like someone had attacked the screen with a can of green spray paint. This problem also occurred whenever a particular shade of blue appeared leaving a jarring patch of green on the screen.
You could argue that a professionally calibrated screen should look the same on the Quattron as it does on any other TV, but we would suggest that less than 1 per cent of people would ever get their TVs calibrated.
Switching to the on-board tuner we found it was again capable of a vivid image. A rugby match from the Commonwealth Games was portrayed with little noise, but at the same time it seemed "fuzzy" — yellow-clad players on a green field were a little hard to look at.
By contrast, our King Kong DVD has never looked so colourful and punchy, but we're not entirely sure if that's a good thing. There were no noise or MPEG artefacts on compressed scenes, and the high contrast levels lent the movie a true sense of depth.
During general viewing a few things occurred to us:
- Like the , the panel is very reflective and you'll need to watch in the dark, but unlike that panel black levels are natural and not "crushed"
- The TV suffers from an "iris" effect similar to what you see in projectors, whereby transitions from dark to bright scenes takes a moment longer to get to full brightness — this happened even with active contrast turned off
- There is a slight halo effect around contrasting images eg, around white text during credits.
Last but not least: sound quality! We had a reader complain this week that we don't give enough credence to how a TV sounds, and while it's an important consideration, we'd buy a TV with a great picture and poor sound, but not the other way 'round. Thankfully, the Sharp is an engaging communicator and able to deliver soundtracks and dialogue in a balanced fashion. It may miss some of the attack of other sets, plus it also doesn't go very loud, but at least there's little chance of damaging the speakers irreparably.
The Sharp Quattron LC46LE820X is a good TV, but we must admit it's not an accurate one. However, it could be argued the colour performance of this television is a matter of preference in itself. Based on our anecdotal experiences, two out of three people buying a new TV simply leave it in Dynamic or shop mode all the time. These same buyers may prefer the richer colour response that the Quattron provides — for these users a "natural" picture is meaningless.
Even so, we'd suggest users look instead to less hyperactive technologies from the likes of Panasonic (in the case of plasma) and Sony (for LCD). You will probably end up paying more but the resulting picture will be entirely more pleasing.