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Sharp AQUOS LC-45G review: Sharp AQUOS LC-45G

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Aside from Samsung's 46-inch LTP468W, this Sharp is the largest currently available flat-panel LCD TV--although larger ones were announced at CES 2005. With a native resolution of 1,920x1,080, the LC-45GX6U has enough pixels to display every bit of detail from the highest-resolution HDTV format (1080i), but it didn't quite realize that potential in our tests (see Performance for more). Its internal scalar fills the screen with all other sources, including 720p HDTV, standard-definition video, and computer.

Convenience features abound on the LC-45GX6U. Dual-tuner PIP (picture-in-picture) will appeal to sports fans wanting to keep tabs on more than one game at a time. A built-in ATSC tuner lets you get off-air HDTV broadcasts without an external HDTV tuner, while a Digital Cable Ready CableCard slot makes it possible to receive digital and high-def cable without a cable box. The front of the A/V controller also has a slot that accepts PC Card adapters for various types of flash memory, so you can easily display photos on the big screen.

Performance-enhancing features include four selectable color temperature settings, five picture presets as well as a custom mode that includes independent input memories, and a setting that engages 2:3 pull-down detection for film-based video sources. The CMS (color management system) allows you to at least partially correct the errant color decoder. There are also four View Modes (aspect ratios) that work with standard-def, high-def, and computer sources.

Connectivity options are quite comprehensive. The external A/V controller houses all of the inputs and outputs and sends the signals to the panel via a proprietary cable with three connections (DVI for video, plus audio and control connectors). On the back of the controller, you'll find one DVI and one HDMI input--the former compatible with PCs and Macs that have DVI outputs, up to 1,280x1,024 resolution. There are also two component-video inputs, one S-Video input, two composite-video inputs, and two FireWire ports. A set of monitor A/V outputs with composite video only and an RS-232 control port for use with touch-panel control systems such as Crestron and AMX are also included. A center-channel input and an optical digital audio output round out the jack pack.

Overall we found the LC-45GX6U's image quality a bit disappointing for such a high-end set. Out-of-the-box performance leaves something to be desired, making calibration a real must for optimum performance. Even after calibration, however, poor grayscale tracking (the ability to maintain a consistent color temperature at varying brightness levels; see the geek box) in particular makes this LCD difficult to recommend for demanding home-theater applications.

In the plus column, the LC-45GX6U's black-level performance is actually better than that of most other LCD direct-views. When the backlight control is set correctly, you get a reasonably deep black, although it's still not as good as the best plasmas or DLP-based sets. Unfortunately, when we set our Denon DVD-2900's black level correctly (at 0 IRE), material darker than 10 percent above black was crushed, rendering important shadow details invisible. That issue aside, the opening of Alien, a sequence of very dark scenes, revealed quiet blacks with little or no visible low-level noise or artifacts.

The LC-45GX6U has severe red push out of the box, but Sharp's CMS (color management system) allows a professional to get rid of most of it. This control potentially allows inexperienced users to really screw up the color, although happily Sharp does provide a reset option. After adjustment, the opening scenes of the Pirates of the Caribbean DVD revealed excellent color saturation. Because of the relatively poor grayscale tracking, however, skin tones definitely looked a little unnatural.

We used our JVC D-VHS deck to evaluate HDTV image quality. The D-VHS version of Behind Enemy Lines looked really good, with awesome detail and good color saturation. The panel's high pixel count really brought out details that aren't available in lower-resolution displays. Nonetheless, according to our Accupel HDG-3000 signal generator, the panel doesn't quite fully resolve the 1,920x1,080 resolution test pattern via either component or DVI. We expect that this slight loss of detail is caused by the internal scalar.

Before color temp (20/80) 9,800/6,800K Poor
After color temp (20/80) 8,575/6,675K Poor
Before grayscale variation +/-1,042K Poor
After grayscale variation +/-597K Poor
Overscan 3 % Average
Color decoder error: red +15% (+5%) Poor
Color decoder error: green +5% (0%) Good
DC restoration All patterns stable Good
2:3 pull-down, 24fps Y Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good

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