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Sharp Aquos LC-D65U review:

Sharp Aquos LC-D65U

All told, the Sharp LC-52D65U is a capable performer, especially considering its relatively affordable price. Black levels and color accuracy aren't as good as many higher-end models we've tested, but they're still solid thanks to the improved picture adjustment options. Off-angle viewing is a weakness, but we were happy to note the infamous "banding" seen on previous Sharps is a thing of the past.

During calibration, the range of controls allowed us to tweak the Sharp's color for a significant improvement over the default settings. We honed color temperature and primary colors, and while the end results were not perfect--color temperature in dark areas, in particular, was an issue--they were still well within the range of acceptable. In particular, we appreciated the color management system, which seemed to work better than in the past. Check out our full picture settings at the end of this blog post for details.

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. 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.

After setup, we lined up the Sharp against a few other like-size, albeit more-expensive, HDTVs for comparison, namely the Samsung LN52A650, the Sony KDL-46W4100 and KDL-52XBR6, our reference plasma the Pioneer PRO-111FD and the Panasonic TH-50PZ800U. We checked out the Blu-ray Disc of Die Another Day on our PlayStation 3.

Black level: Compared with the other sets in our lineup, the LC-52D65U didn't deliver quite as deep a shade of black. Considering the extra cost of those models and the Sharp, however, the difference in black level wasn't drastic. In brighter scenes the difference was less noticeable, as usual, but in dark shots, such as when Bond makes his escape from the hospital ship, the night sky, the letterbox bars, and the shadows along the dock appeared a bit lighter than the other displays. We noticed more of a difference on even darker scenes, such as the Bronson-Berry lovemaking in Havana, which also revealed that the Sharp's shadow detail wasn't quite as natural as the competition's. Details in their shadowed faces, for example, looked a bit brighter than we'd like to see.

Color accuracy: After adjustment, the Sharp competed relatively well in color accuracy; although, again, it was a step behind the other displays. Our biggest complaint had to do with its bluish-reddish tinge in black and very dark areas, which affected Bond's tux and dark hair, for example. In bright scenes, however, such as the streets of Havana, colors looked much better, with good pop. Driving his convertible down the Cuban highway, Bond's skin tone did seem just a bit more washed-out than on most of the other displays. When he arrived at his hotel, the saturation in some lush objects, such as the pineapple at the bar, the green plans in the background, and the orange of Halle Berry's swimsuit, were somewhat less saturated, but again the difference wasn't a deal-breaker.

Video processing: In terms of resolution, the LC-52D65U resolved every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources, properly deinterlaced both video- and film-based sources, and scored between 300 and 400 lines of motion resolution--about what we expect from a non-120Hz LCD. We checked out the Sharp's two I/P settings, which are supposed to be optimized for fast-motion and slower-moving images, and couldn't see any difference between them. As usual, it was hard to detect any difference in resolution--motion or otherwise--between any of the displays when watching actual program material.

Here's where we'll also note a mild blip we've never encountered before. Occasionally when we skipped chapters or paused the action, the TV would flash a black screen briefly before locking back onto the picture. It didn't happen on our DirecTV satellite box in our experience, just on the PS3, and we didn't notice it on analog sources.

Uniformity: Unlike previous Sharp displays we've tested, the LC-52D65U didn't suffer from any overt uniformity issues. Those models exhibited obvious bands of varying brightness across the screen, an issue we attribute to the design of the backlight. On the D65U, however, no banding was visible in full-screen test patterns, and naturally we didn't see any during actual program material.

Like most LCDs, the D65U wasn't perfectly uniform across the screen, however. Its sides appeared a bit brighter than its middle, and the corners a tad darker in test patterns; again, these issues were difficult to spot in program material, and so weren't distracting by any means. When seen 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-52D65U 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.

Standard-definition: The LC-52D65U 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-52D64U 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, and 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 text which, in the 10-point font size, rendered text that was basically illegible. Via HDMI, the Sharp performed as well as we expect of any 1080p LCD, delivering every line of a 1,920x1,080-pixel 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) 6560/6592 Good
After color temp 6616/6435 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 130 Good
After grayscale variation +/- 118 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.633/0.337 Good
Color of green 0.271/0.591 Average
Color of blue 0.149/0.059 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Pass Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Sharp LC52D65U Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 210.35 121.6 199.31
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.18 0.11 0.17
Standby (watts) 0 0 0
Cost per year $65.11 $37.64 $61.69
Score (considering size) Average
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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