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Last year Sharp made a splash with ads featuring Star Trek's Mr. Sulu--George Takei--comically extolling the virtues of a technology called Quattron. With the memorable "Oh, myyy" tagline, the spots attempted to convince TV buyers that the technology, which adds a fourth yellow subpixel to the standard array of red, green, and blue, improved color fidelity. Despite covering the launch in-depth we never reviewed one of those 2010 TVs, but after spending some time with the 2011 version, represented by the LC-LE830U series, we're a bit less impressed than Sulu was.
If you calibrate the LC-LE830U series properly--something we do with every TV we review--the yellow pixel has no major impact, positive or negative, on picture quality. What will have a negative impact for critical viewers are the set's lighter black levels and subpar screen uniformity. We appreciate some aspects of its performance, as well as a feature set with Wi-Fi and best-in-class product support, but in the end the LC-LE830U does little to stand above the tough competition in the edge-lit LED-based LCD TV category.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 60-inch Sharp LC-60LE830U, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality. Most of the picture quality comments can also be applied to the LC-60LE832U, which is identical except for having a 240Hz refresh rate instead of the 830U's 120Hz.
|Sharp LC-40LE830U||40 inches|
|Sharp LC-46LE830U||46 inches|
|Sharp LC-52LE830U||52 inches|
|Sharp LC-60LE830U (reviewed)||60 inches|
|Panel depth||1.62 inches||Bezel width||1 inch|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
While admirably compact with its thin bezel and panel, the LC-LE830U looks a bit generic. Its design consists of rounded corners, a glossy black frame, and a silvery bar below the frame on the bottom edge. One accent is provided by an illuminated ^ directly below the Sharp logo--it reminded us of the Star Trek insignia--that can be set to turn on or off depending on the TV's own power-on state.
|Remote size (LxW)||9.4 x 1.9 inches||QWERTY keyboard||No|
|Illuminated keys||No||IR device control||No|
|Menu item explanations||Yes||Onscreen manual||Yes|
Thinner and longer than most clickers, Sharp's wand is plagued by lack of backlight and insufficient differentiation between the mostly too-small keys. One great feature, however, is the trio of programmable buttons that provide instant access to your favorite apps.
Sharp's 2011 menu system had been redesigned to appear above and the right of the live image. Unfortunately for calibrators, the menu design can interfere more than normal with center-screen measurements, making setup more tedious than it needs to be. On the plus side, the menus are clear and respond quickly, and we appreciated the full manual--a carbon copy of the PDF version, complete with table of contents--available in the Aquos Advantage help section along with a glossary and FAQ.
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
Sharp's main differentiating feature is Quattron, a proprietary modification of the panel design used by nearly all LCDs (both LED-based and otherwise), plasmas, monitors, projectors, smartphones, and so on. All 1080p TVs have 1,920x1,080 pixels, which are typically composed of three subpixels, one each for red, green and blue, that combine to form color. Quattron adds a fourth subpixel, yellow. You can check out our "Oh, myyy!" slideshow from 2010 for more information on the technology, which is largely unchanged this year, and the Performance section of this review for detailed tests.
Beyond that the LC-LE830U is outfitted like a typical LED-based LCD, with an edge-lit LED backlight and 120Hz refresh rate. 3D is available on the company's step-up LC-LE835U series. One feature the LC-830U has over step-down models like the LC-LE831U series is Quad Pixel Plus, another Quattron-derived mode said to improve apparent resolution and smooth diagonal lines.
A couple of other extras are unique to Sharp. IP control is designed to interface with custom installation remote control systems, such as Control 4, AMX and Crestron, that can operate over Ethernet as opposed to RS-232. Aquos Advantage Live is Sharp's excellent live help feature, which we described in 2009.
|Amazon Instant||No||Hulu Plus||No|
Like most other TV makers Sharp improved its Internet suite significantly for 2011. The main Apps menu appears as a strip overlaid along the bottom of the screen, and in addition to the streaming options it provides a shortcut to Aquos Net (with widgets like news, weather, photos and traffic) Aquos Advantage Live and USB and DLNA access.
Compared to the 2011 suites from Samsung, Sony and Panasonic, Sharp's is a step behind in terms of streaming content offerings (Amazon Instant and YouTube are the missing links) and design--although Sharp does get the newer Netflix interface with search and a browsing grid. The addition of Vudu Apps makes up for a lot, but unfortunately it resides in a completely separate interface with many apps (Twitter and Picasa, for example) that duplicate ones found in Aquos Net.
Vudu's interface is clean and easy to navigate, and its apps are generally well-implemented, although they occupy the whole screen and so don't allow you to watch TV while using them (the exception is a stock ticker. Standouts include Nova and Nature, with access to numerous full episodes of the PBS staples (albeit in painfully low quality), Wikipedia and a solid selection of podcasts. We love that apps show star ratings, although we couldn't figure out where they came from, and we wish categories were finer given the numerous choices. Check out the Vudu Apps site for a full listing of available apps, but know that most of the premium show-based apps ("Dexter," "True Blood," etc) have clips and not full episodes.
The main Aquos Net interface, on the other hand, needs work. It occupies half the screen, and widgets live in that "console," an arrangement that works fine but doesn't accommodate custom widget sizes. Worse, the widgets can be hard to find; the main "Add widgets" menu only lists a portion, while the Aquos Network houses some more. The design seems outdated, the menus are crowded and there's no obvious way to rearrange or customize widgets placement in the console.
In Sharp's favor, we liked having a traffic widget--still uncommon among TVs and a boon to commuters--and appreciated the quick response times throughout. Compared to Vudu Apps, however, the main Aquos Net apps seems like a poorly executed afterthought.
|Adjustable picture modes||6||Fine dejudder control||No|
|Color temperature presets||5||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||5||Color management system||Yes|
The LC-LE830U isn't missing any major adjustments. We'd appreciate the ability to tweak dejudder beyond the two presets, but we'll take a color management system, especially one that works as well as Sharp's, over that extra any day. We like that the OPC ambient light sensor is prominently displayed in the main picture menu, and that Netflix and Vudu allow full picture control.
|HDMI inputs||4||Component video inputs||1|
|Composite video input(s)||2 back, 2 side||VGA-style PC input(s)||1|
|USB ports||2||Ethernet (LAN) port||Yes|
There's nothing major missing from the Sharp's bay, and we appreciated not having to use breakout cables, as is the case on many thin LCDs and plasmas these days.
The Sharp LC-LE830U series wasn't among the better edge-lit LED-based LCDs we tested this year, but you can't blame the extra yellow pixel for that. Instead, fault lies with its lighter black levels and uneven screen uniformity, as well as extremely blue tinge near black. We appreciated its solid video processing, however, and color accuracy in bright areas after calibration was very good to excellent.
The Movie setting of the LC-LE830U is the most accurate out of the box, but it was still a bit subpar compared to the competition, with a minus-blue grayscale and quite a bit brighter than we'd like to see. Also, Movie's default color gamut is Expanded, which Sharp tells us is designed to show off the effects of the extra yellow pixel. In Expanded green and yellow color points are quite a bit outside the HD color standard, which is typical of such modes on other TVs.
Thanks to Sharp's excellent color management system, our calibration was able to bring those color points back into line and get generally excellent results, although the grayscale was still a bit off, especially in the middle range, and there was little we could do to help the blue-tinged lower end.
For our image quality tests we checked out the Blu-ray of "The Town" using the following comparison TVs.
|Vizio XVT3D650SV||65-inch edge-lit LED|
|Samsung UN46D6400||46-inch edge-lit LED|
|Sony KDL-46EX720 series||46-inch edge-lit LED|
|LG 47LW5600||47-inch edge-lit LED|
|Vizio XVT553SV||55-inch full-array LED|
|Panasonic TC-P50ST30 series||50-inch plasma|
|Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference)||50-inch plasma|
Black level: The depth of black on the LC-LE830U measured at the bright end of our Average range (see the Geek Box below), and looked brighter (worse) than those of any other display in our lineup. The difference was most visible in dark scenes, such as the nighttime harbor cruise in Chapter 3 (29:30). The letterbox bars, night sky and water, and black jackets, for example, all appeared visibly lighter than the others. We tried engaging Active Contrast but the only impact it had was to crush shadow detail.
Details in shadows, such as the shoulder of Clair's jacket and the highlights in her hair (31:04) were more obscure than on most of the other displays, a result of darker gamma in near-black areas.
Color accuracy: As we mentioned above we achieved a solid color calibration regardless of the extra yellow pixel, which seemed to have little impact. Skin tones in bright scenes, for example the face of Clair in the cafe in Chapter 5, looked relatively accurate, if a bit bluer and slightly less saturated than our reference--an effect of the lighter black levels we suspect. .
The Sharp's worst aspect in this category was an overwhelming blue tinge in black and near-dark areas. The effect is common among LED-based LCDs, but for whatever reason much more noticeable on the LC-LE830U than on any of the other sets in our lineup. .
Video processing: The LC-LE830U's dejudder (smoothing) processing is controlled by the Film Mode setting. Both Advanced (High) and Advanced (Low) introduce dejudder, while Off yielded the correct 1080p/24 film cadence.
The Motion Enhancement control affects motion resolution and we saw no detriment to leaving it in the High setting, which hit about 600 lines, as opposed to Off, which measured between 300 and 400. Engaging this setting to maximize motion resolution didn't introduce dejudder, so we could leave it on and still get true film cadence without smoothing--a rarity among non-Samsung LCDs. As usual it was nearly impossible to discern blurring in any mode with normal program material.
Sharp says its Quad Pixel Plus can use the extra yellow subpixel to smooth diagonal lines slightly, but to our eye it was impossible to discern any difference between the On and Off positions from a normal seating distance. .
We were curious whether the big-screen Sharp LCD would show the same kind of smearing we saw on the Vizio XVT3D650SV, but checking the same scenes we didn't see it nearly as badly. .
Uniformity: The screen on the LC-LE830U was, along with that of the Vizio XVT3D650SV, among the worst in our lineup at showing even brightness across its surface. Perhaps other Sharp samples, or smaller sizes in the series, will be better, but our manufacturer-supplied 60-incher was poor.
A brighter spot in the middle of the screen was visible in numerous dark scenes, while the edges, in particular along the bottom, also appeared brighter than the rest of the screen--an effect that showed up strongly in letterbox bars. We also saw vertical bands of uneven brightness, which were especially visible in flat fields like skies and during camera movement.
Update June 21, 2011: Since this review published Sharp visited CNET and showed us a different LC-60LE830U sample that had somewhat better screen uniformity, although the edges and corners were still brighter compared to the middle. As usual these issues can vary from sample to sample, so the improved uniformity of a second manufacturer-supplied sample will not otherwise alter this review.
From off-angle the Sharp lost black level and color fidelity (becoming bluer-tinged) at about the same rate as the Samsung and Sony, and kept black level (but not color) marginally better than the LG and Vizios.
Bright lighting: The matte finish on the screen of the Sharp really helped in bright lighting situations, reducing the brightness of reflections in a way that was especially appreciable on the large screen. There was some small sacrifice in black levels compared to glossier screens like the Samsung and Vizio XVT3D650SV, but for bright rooms matte is clearly superior in our book.
PC: (updated June 21, 2011) The Sharp accepted and displayed a 1,920x1,080-pixel analog VGA source with no problem and delivered full resolution, with no softness and only minor edge enhancement, once we used the auto synch function. Our original report mentioned softness and imperfect resolution, but that was because we mistakenly failed to use auto synch.
Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Sharp LC-LE830U series, but we did test the 60-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Sharp LC-60LE830U.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0193||Average|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.2651/0.255||Poor|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3125/0.3274||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3128/0.3293||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6277||Poor|
|After avg. color temp.||6405||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||0.6653||Good|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||0.6653||Good|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||1.1414||Good|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2213/0.3241||Good|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3228/0.1525||Good|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4167/0.4985||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i De-interlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||600||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||600||Average|
|PC input resolution (VGA)||1,920x1,080||Good|