Unless you have $22,000 or more to spend, the 70-inch Sharp LC-70LE732U is the biggest flat-panel TV you can buy today--the competition maxes out at 65 inches. Moreover, it's a pretty good deal by giant-TV standards, available for less than $3,000 at press time. Sure, rear-projection models offer more screen size for the buck, but judging from past testing, they can't match the picture quality or design of this Sharp. The fact that it's one of the most popular TVs on CNET this summer proves that huge TVs are gaining mainstream appeal.
Compared with the better big plasmas, the LC-70LE73U series won't perform as well in the dark confines of a home theater, but the brighter the room, the more its light output advantage shines through. At these screen sizes energy efficiency is also an issue, and this 70-inch LED is a miser compared with power-hungry plasmas. No, it's not for everyone, but if you have at least 9 feet of space between your TV wall and your couch, and crave the immersion that only a huge screen can deliver, the Sharp LC-70LE73U series is worth a look.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the Sharp LC-70LE732U, but this review also applies to the other 70-inch Sharp TV listed below. The TVs have nearly identical specs and should provide very similar picture quality. The main difference is that the 733 and 734 have 240Hz refresh rates and the 732 has a rate of 120Hz (the 733 and 734 also have a different trim color and the 733 is missing a couple of minor features). See below for more details.
This review does not apply to the 60-inch LC-60LE632U, which uses edge-lit LED technology and will have different picture quality from the 70-inch models. Nor does it apply to the 3D LC-70LE735U, although we expect its 2D picture quality to be very similar to our findings below.
|Sharp LC-70LE732U (reviewed)||70 inches|
|Sharp LC-70LE733U||70 inches|
|Sharp LC-70LE734U||70 inches|
|Panel depth||3.5 inches||Bezel width||1.7 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||No|
The first thing you're likely to notice about the Sharp LC-70LE73U series is its sheer size. The screen measures 2.85 by 5.1 feet, nearly 2,100 square inches in area--compared with a mere 1,800 square inches for those pipsqueak 65-inch TVs. Even when displaying old 4:3 TV shows with letterbox bars on either side, the active picture area on the Sharp measures 57 inches on the diagonal.
The rest of the TV's design seems intended to escape notice, and that's not a bad thing. We described the LC-LE830U series as "a bit generic," and its big brother follows suit. The LC-70LE732U is mostly glossy black, with a medium-size bezel, slightly rounded-off corners, and a strip of silver trim along the bottom edge (the 733 and 734 have a darker trim color). Once you peel off the stickers you're left with just the Sharp and Aquos logos in addition to an illuminated caret (it can be turned off) in the bottom center that reminded us of the "Star Trek" insignia.
As a full-array LED (see below) the LC-70LE73U can't achieve the thinness of its edge-lit brethren, but its size still makes its 3.5-inch depth seem slim enough when seen in profile. It's also not too heavy for such a large TV, coming in at 92.6 pounds. Sharp's matching stand doesn't swivel but does keep an admirably low profile.
|Remote size (LxW)||9.4x1.9 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 applications.
Sharp's 2011 menu system has been redesigned to appear above and to 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||Full-array|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz or 240Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
The LC-70LE73U series is the only TV on the market to feature a full-array LED backlight without local dimming (more info). It doesn't get the benefits of local dimming's improved contrast and black level, but it also avoids the uniformity problems of an edge-lit LED.
Like most other Sharp LCDs the LC-70LE73U has Quattron, a proprietary modification of the panel design used by nearly all LCDs (both LED-based and otherwise), plasmas, monitors, projectors, and smartphones. 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-70LE73U is outfitted like a typical midrange LCD TV. Again, the 732U model has a 120Hz refresh rate, while the 733 and 734 models get 240Hz (more info). That's the main difference between the three models, so we don't consider the 733 and 734 models worth the extra money. Active 3D is available on the company's step-up LC-70LE735U. All models aside from the 733 feature 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 (again absent from the 733) 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.
Sharp's suite is a step behind the 2011 suites from Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic in terms of streaming-content offerings (Amazon Instant and YouTube are missing) 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 you can't watch TV while using them (the exception is a stock ticker). Standouts include access to numerous full episodes of PBS staples "Nova" and "Nature," albeit in painfully low quality; Wikipedia; and a solid selection of podcasts. We love the fact 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 (such as for "Dexter" and "True Blood") 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 of those available, 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. Next to Vudu Apps, however, the main Aquos Net apps seem 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-70LE73U isn't missing any major picture-adjustment options. 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||VGA-style PC input(s)||1|
|USB ports||2||Ethernet (LAN) port||Yes|
The Sharp's bay has all the necessary connectivity options, and we appreciated not having to use breakout cables for the analog jacks, as is the case with many thin LCDs and plasmas these days.
The Sharp LC-70LE73U is one of the better-performing LED-based LCDs of the year, beating all of the edge-lit 2011 LED models we've tested with the exception of the Samsung UND6400 and LG LW5600. Its full-array LED backlight deserves much of the credit: while it doesn't deliver the black-level benefits of local dimming, it does improve uniformity compared with edge-lit models. That backlight also appeared to improve black levels and color in dark areas compared with Sharp's edge-lit 60-inch model.
The Movie setting of the LC-70LE73U is the most accurate out of the box, with a relatively linear grayscale and gamma. 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, cyan, and yellow color points are quite a bit outside the HD color standard, which is typical of such modes on other TVs.
During our calibration, Sharp's color controls were able to bring those color points back into line, although green and blue ended up undersaturated and the grayscale was still a bit minus-red in the midrange. Overall however the LC-70LE73U set up quite well, and there was little detriment (or advantage) we could spot related to the extra yellow pixel.
For our image quality tests we checked out "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" and compared the Sharp with the lineup of TVs below.
|Vizio XVT3D650SV||65-inch edge-lit LED|
|Panasonic TC-P65VT25||65-inch plasma|
|Sharp LC-60LE830U||60-inch edge-lit LED|
|Vizio XVT553SV||55-inch full-array LED with local dimming|
|Samsung UN55D8000||55-inch edge-lit LED with local dimming|
|Samsung PN59D8000 (color reference)||59-inch plasma|
Black level: The LC-70LE73U turned in a solid performance in this area, delivering better black levels than the 65-inch Vizio and 60-inch Sharp, though falling a bit short of the Samsung UND8000 and Vizio, and shorter still of the plasmas. Voldemort's darkened meeting room in chapter 2 provided a good example; the 70-incher held its own against the LCDs in black areas like the letterbox bars, as well as the deep shadows behind the guests and in Snape's robe.
Shadowy areas like Snape's hair and the drapes were revealed in full detail, though they were a tad bright compared with the Vizio XVT553SV and Panasonic. On the other hand, the LC-70LE73U's slightly bright gamma made some areas, like the faces of Hermione and Harry in chapter 17 (1:19:12), seem a tad washed-out compared with our reference. The difference wouldn't be visible without a direct comparison, however.
Color accuracy: The LC-70LE73U's performance in this category was fairly good overall despite some issues. Skin tones were a strength, as evinced by Ginny's natural appearance in chapter 5. While her skin did appear a tiny bit paler than our reference, the difference would again be difficult to discern outside of a side-by-side comparison. More obvious was the less saturated look of green and blue, for example in the grass and sky of chapter 15 (1:31:10); lack of saturation in some scenes was the Sharp's biggest color weakness.
We appreciated that the black on the LC-70LE73U was less blue and more accurate than on the edge-lit sets, although still bluer than on the Vizio XVT553SV and the plasmas.
Video processing: The LC-70LE73U'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 downside to leaving it on 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.
Note that we expect that the 240Hz refresh rate of the LC-70LE733U and LC-70LE734U will improve motion resolution to 1,000 or more lines--although as usual we don't expect the increase from 120Hz to cause visible improvement in most 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: While the LC-70LE73U's screen didn't stay quite as uniform across its surface as the Vizio XVT553SV or the plasmas, it beat out the other edge-lit displays in this area. Corners and edges were about as bright as the middle, and the brighter spots in the midst of the edge-lit 60-inch Sharp's screen were not present on the full-array 70-incher.
We did notice slight variations in brightness that appeared as darker horizontal and vertical bands, but they were only obvious during camera movement in bright scenes. In general the bands were minor and not nearly as obvious as on the Samsung UND8000 and Vizio XVT3D650SV.
From off-angle the Sharp was the best LCD in our lineup, since its black areas didn't become as blue-tinged as the edge-lit displays and it didn't show the off-angle blooming of the Vizio XVT553SV. In bright scenes it washed out at about the same rate as the others as we moved farther from the sweet spot in front of the screen.
It's worth noting that with such a large screen fewer seats are potentially outside the ideal viewing angle, although of course that advantage varies depending on the number of seats and distance from the screen.
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 with glossier screens like the Samsung LED and Vizio XVT3D650SV, but for bright rooms matte screens are clearly superior in our book.
Another major strength of the Sharp in bright rooms is light output--it can get much brighter than any plasma. On its Dynamic picture setting we measured 90.66/115.3 Fl (window/full raster patterns), compared with 55.81/10.29 for the Samsung PN59D8000 and 49.02/12.04 for the Panasonic TC-P65VT25 in their equivalent settings. If you have a very bright room and the TV has to compete with a lot of ambient light, the Sharp's brighter picture is clearly superior. On the other hand, for moderately bright rooms the plasmas' disadvantage won't be as obvious.
PC: 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 sync function (located at System Options>Input Terminal Setting>PC Input).
Power consumption: Most recent Sharp TVs score well in our power consumption tests, and the biggest one is no exception. It used a mere 0.07 watt per square inch, which isn't the lowest we've seen but is still very good. Despite being 70 inches, the LC-70LE732U manages to use less power than a 46-inch plasma--never mind the 59- and 65-inchers. Note that while we only tested the 732, we expect the 733 and 734 to use almost exactly the same amount of power, so we're including the 732's power consumption results with the latter reviews.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0082||Good|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.3205/0.3443||Average|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3128/0.3301||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3114/0.3285||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6,541||Good|
|After avg. color temp.||6,568||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||0.1465||Good|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||1.2782||Good|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||0.329||Good|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2285/0.3284||Good|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3247/0.1519||Good|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4206/0.4996||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||600||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||600||Average|
|PC input resolution (VGA)||1,920x1,080 pixels||Good|
|Sharp LC-70LE732U||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||137.17||151.79||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.07||0.07||N/A|
|Cost per year||$30.12||$33.33||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Good|