Sharp has always been a leader in LCD technology, and the company's newest generation of panels has some of the most impressive specs we've seen yet, including a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. That's a laughably high number on paper, but does it translate into better picture quality in the real world? After testing the Sharp LC-46D62U, we can affirm that yes, indeed it does. This 46-inch, 1080p, flat-panel LCD reproduced a deeper color of black--and thus a better contrast ratio--than any non-CRT HDTV we've ever tested, whether plasma, LCD, or rear-projection. That's all well and good, but in the Sharp's case, those deep blacks come at a price: Its color temperature and screen uniformity are worse than most LCDs we've reviewed, and that's enough to keep it out of the ranks of the elite models on the market.
Measuring 44.4 by 31.1 by 12.2 inches WHD atop the stand and weighing 78.3 pounds, the Sharp LC-46D62U is about average size for a 46-inch LCD. You can, of course, separate it from the 10-pound stand for wall-mounting, causing its dimensions to shrink to 44.4 by 28.7 by 4.9 inches.
Sharp's long remote will be familiar to anyone who's played with an Aquos set in the last couple of years. It has full orange backlighting, the ability to command four other pieces of gear, keys that are nicely spread out and well differentiated, and a generally logical button layout. We say "generally" because the key controlling aspect ratio is stashed clear at the top of the long wand, the one for freezing the image is given an unduly important spot near the main directional keypad, and the one for changing picture modes is hidden beneath a flip-up hatch. The menu system is simple enough to navigate and includes helpful explanations that appear along the bottom. We didn't appreciate the delay of a second or so that occurred between us pressing the Menu key and the menu actually appearing, however.The 46-inch Sharp LC-46D62U has 1080p native resolution, the highest available today, meaning that its 1,920x1,080 pixels are capable of resolving every detail of a 1080i or 1080p source. All sources, whether they're high-def, DVD, standard-def, or arrive from a computer, are scaled to fit the pixels.
Speaking of fitting the pixels, the LC-46D62U is one of an increasing number of LCDs that offer an aspect ratio control that perfectly maps the incoming image to the screen without any overscan. We recommend going with this mode, dubbed Dot-by-Dot by Sharp, unless you see interference along the edge, in which case the TV lets you select from among three other modes. Standard-def sources allow four modes.
The LC-46D62U's array of conveniences neglects to include picture-in-picture, which is a bummer for folks who enjoy trying to pay attention to two programs at once. A freeze-frame mode is available however, along with an ATSC tuner to catch over-the-air digital and HDTV signals. On the other hand there's no CableCard slot, and though that means you're out of luck if you want to ditch the cable box, we don't consider it a serious omission.
The Sharp has fewer picture controls than many high-end HDTVs, but there are still a decent number of options. You can choose from a generous six picture presets: Dynamic, Dynamic (fixed), Standard, Movie, Game, and PC, five of which can be adjusted. There's also a User setting that allows you to set different parameters for each input independently. A lot of LCDs offer the ability to fine-tune the color-temperature control, and it would have been especially welcome with the LC-46D62U since none of the five presets came very close to the standard (see Performance). On the plus side, we loved the wide range of the 32-step backlight control.
Among other picture-affecting features, the OPC is a room-lighting sensor that automatically adjusts the picture based on ambient light--we left it off for critical viewing. There's a black-level expansion setting that we set to On because it produced more natural shadow detail (a slower rise from dark to lighter). Another setting called Fine Motion is said to optimize the image for fast-moving objects, although we could detect no difference between the settings with normal program material. Finally, there's a Film mode setting to engage 2:3 pull-down.
Around back you'll find an average crop of jacks, starting with a pair of 1080p-compatible HDMI inputs. Two of the analog inputs offer a choice of component or composite video, and the third that gives the option of composite or S-Video. There's an RF input for antenna sources, an analog audio output, and an optical digital audio out to handle the surround soundtracks of over-the-air HD programs.
One missing link is a dedicated computer input. If you want to connect a PC to the Sharp, you'll have to use a DVI output and monopolize one of the TV's HDMI inputs. Update: Although the manual indicates that the set can only handle 1,280 by 1,024 via HDMI, we connected a PC and were able to feed the TV a full 1,920 by 1,080 signal. We also missed having a front- or side-panel set of A/V inputs.
Note that Sharp also makes a 52-inch version that's identical in all other respects, the LC-52D62U. The picture quality of the Sharp LC-46D62U is impressive in terms of the deep black levels it can deliver, but we found that its screen uniformity (update) and color accuracy left a lot to be desired. That's why it scored lower in this area than some of the best LCDs out there, such as Sony's KDL-XBR2 series and the Samsung LN-S4096D.
We began as usual by adjusting the Sharp LC-46D62U for optimal picture quality in our dark lab. We did not perform a service-level calibration on the LC-46D62U, but for our full user-menu settings, you can check out Tips & Tricks above.
Lined up against the other LCDs in our testing facility, namely the JVC LT-40FN97, the Samsung LN-S4096D, the Vizio GV46L HDTV, and the Westinghouse LVW-47w1, the Sharp's superior black levels came through easily. We watched the HD-DVD of Apollo 13, and the letterbox bars above and below the picture--along with other dark scenes, such as the void of space when the ship heads toward the dark side of the moon and the shadowy recesses of the cabin during the blackout--all appeared a deeper shade of black on the Sharp than on the others. The result was a punchier picture in every scene, dark or otherwise, and the attendant excellent color saturation that goes hand-in-hand with deep blacks.
According to our measurements, the LC-46D62U's black levels also bested other LCDs we've tested, such as the Sony KDL-40XBR2 and the former champ, Samsung's LN-S4051D. Even more impressive, it appeared just a hair darker than the Panasonic TH-50PH9UK, a plasma we've cited as an excellent black-level performer. It's safe to say that with this Sharp, the "black-level gap" between LCD and plasma is gone. Note, however, that when seen from off-angle, the darkest areas of the LC-46D62U's picture did wash out somewhat and become lighter than the Panasonic's, which remained constant regardless of viewing angle. The Sharp's off-angle viewing was as good as any LCD we've seen, however. By the same token, like all plasmas we've tested, the Panasonic reflected more ambient light than any LCD.
Aside from its slightly deeper black levels, the Sharp didn't render dark scenes quite as satisfactorily as the Panasonic did. Detail in shadows between the two was about equal, with a slight edge if any going to the plasma, but here's where our main complaint with the Sharp appears: its bluish color temperature. Compared to the more-natural-looking plasma, and indeed to other LCD displays we've tested, such as the aforementioned Sony, the Sharp's black areas were noticeably bluer. The blueness wasn't restricted to dark scenes; the white suit of Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) had the bluer tinge too, and the discoloration was mostly visible in skin tones. When Jim gazes up at the stars in his backyard, for example, we noticed that his face and that of his wife on the chaise lounge appeared a bit bluer than they did on the Panasonic, which exhibited a much more accurate color temperature.
It's worth reiterating that we did not calibrate the Sharp's color temperature (the service menu of the LC-46D62U was not conducive to effective calibration), so the Panasonic and others will definitely appear better; on the flip side, the Panasonic, the JVC LCD, and others have much more accurate warm or low color-temperature presets than the Sharp, which is still woefully blue by high-end HDTV standards. That's too bad, because other aspects of the Sharp's color, namely color decoding and primary color accuracy, are perfectly acceptable.
As we mentioned, we discovered some uniformity problems after this review first published. We didn't notice at first, but once we saw the problems, they became difficult not to notice. The LC-46D62U's screen has distinct horizontal "bands" of slightly reddish color across the middle, with similarly sized, slightly greenish bands above and below the reddish bands. They were faint but became visible mainly in shots where the camera followed an object or panned across a scene. During the liftoff of the rocket, for example, the sky and clouds turned reddish, then greenish, as the Saturn V ascended into the stratosphere. We also noticed fainter vertical lines that were darker or lighter (as opposed to discolored). When the wives gather at the hotel before the launch, for example, the camera sweeps over the scene to reveal vertical lines or bands in the rooftops. The scene then cuts to Mrs. Lowell in the shower, and as the camera panned toward her, we saw horizontal bands, one faintly reddish band across the middle of the screen and faintly greenish ones above and below.
Both of these kinds of issues were more visible in flat fields of moderate brightness, as opposed to black or white fields. While we have seen similar uniformity problems on other LCDs, they were fairly serious on the Sharp and visible regardless of which input or resolution we checked. We've also heard reliable reports of this problem with other Sharp LC-46D62U and LC-52D62U LCDs, so the problem is not restricted to the sample that CNET reviewed.
When we set the Sharp LC-46D62U to Dot-by-Dot mode, the 1080i multiburst pattern from our Sencore HD signal generator revealed that it resolved every line. The sharpness came across on program material too, from the fine stubble on Lowell's haggard face to the bits of ice and condensation on the instrument panel. We did discern a slight increase in detail between the Sharp and the lower-resolution Vizio and Panasonic by looking very closely at certain scenes; a wicker planter in the background behind the worrying wives, for example, looked sharper on the 1080p set, as did Lowell's stubble on a close-up, but as usual, the difference wasn't drastic by any means. It's worth mentioning that the Sharp also accepted 1080p sources via component-video, a feat no every 1080p HDTV can match.
With standard-def sources delivered via the component-video input at 480i, the Sharp LC-46D62U delivered image quality that was about average. It engaged 2:3 pull-down quickly and resolved every detail in these lower-res images (as long as sharpness was set to a middle level), but had a more difficult time smoothing jagged edges than many sets we've tested recently. We did appreciate its ability to quiet the faint snow often seen in lower-quality sources when its noise-reduction control was turned up.
Update: As we mentioned above, after this review posted we connected a PC to the Sharp's HDMI input and, lo and behold, it actually could handle a 1,920 by 1,080 source despite the manual indicating a limit of 1,280 x 1,024. When we set the aspect ratio mode to Dot by Dot there was no overscan -- a good thing -- and according to DisplayMate the television resolved every detail of the PC source.
|Before color temp (20/80)||8238/7780K||Poor|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 1365K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.633/0.324||Good|
|Color of green||0.261/0.608||Average|
|Color of blue||0.143/0.068||Average|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|