Sharp's Aquos line of LCD flat-panel TVs has been a market leader for a while now, and the latest models are a good indication of why. The LC30HV6U is one of the most impressive LCD panels we've seen to date, with performance in key areas such as black level and video processing that significantly outclasses that of most other LCDs we've tested. At 30 inches diagonally, this wide-screen set doesn't really qualify as a home-theater display, but for bedrooms, dens, and those unusual living rooms where a TV isn't the centerpiece, it will serve nicely. Some vendors are selling this LCD for only a couple hundred dollars more than bargain-basement (circa $2,000) models such as the and the . The Sharp LC30HV6U is worth the difference. The Aquos family of LCD panels has a simple, sleek, and unimposing style that we find quite appealing. The Sharp LC30HV6U's screen is surrounded by a thin black bezel, which is in turn surrounded by glossy silver-gray plastic. Stereo speakers are housed behind a perforated grille that spans the entire width of the panel below the screen--a marked contrast to side-mounted speakers found on the earlier . The silver chassis's rounded corners match those of the included stand. With stand, the 44-pound LC30HV6U measures 26 by 30 by 12 inches (H, W, D); without the stand, the panel is just 3 inches deep.
Sharp includes an external control box, dubbed the AVC System, which is designed to minimize hookup hassles. The idea is to connect all your gear to the box, then run a single cable to the panel itself (which doesn't have any A/V connections itself). This allows you to wall-mount the panel, for example, and not have a bunch of wires dangling below it--though it's important to note that both the AVC box and the display require separate AC power connections. Since the included cable is proprietary and measures only about 10 feet long, you may have to invest in the optional 23-foot cable (model AN-07SC1; price not available at press time). The box is all silver and about the same width and height of most standard A/V components, although only about 10 inches deep. It can also be mounted vertically, like the PlayStation 2, using another included stand.
The large remote felt comfortable in the hand and well laid out despite its numerous buttons, and we appreciated that every button was backlit. This remote is capable of controlling a wide variety of other A/V components. As with any LCD or plasma display, the LC30HV6U's native resolution defines how much detail you'll see with HDTV and computer sources. The Sharp's 1,280x768 resolution can reproduce every pixel of 720p HDTV but (like all flat-panel displays to date) cannot display every pixel of 1080i HDTV. Naturally you'll need an external tuner to watch high-def. Non-HD sources such as DVD and standard TV are shown in full detail and scaled to fit the available pixels.
The LC30HV6U has quite a few picture-enhancing features worth mentioning. Five selectable color temperature presets--Low, Midlow, Middle, Midhigh, and High--give you flexibility in the overall color palette. The Color Management System, or CMS, lets you tweak out some of the red push in the color decoder--if you know what you're doing (see for more). In addition to four fully adjustable picture modes, including Dynamic, Standard, Movie, and Game, there's a User mode associated with each input, so you can tweak the picture individually for each source. We also discovered that 2:3 pull-down--important for nonprogressive and non-HD sources--functions only when you select Film mode from the Advanced menu.
On the convenience side, the LC30HV6U includes two-tuner picture-in-picture (PIP) so that you can keep track of two sources at once. Virtual Dolby is an audio feature that gives some semblance of the surround-sound experience from the panel's stereo speakers.
Connectivity is routed through the AVC control box, and the selection of jacks is quite comprehensive. We counted two broadband component inputs, one DVI input with HDCP copy protection, four S-Video inputs, four composite-video inputs, two RF inputs, one RF output, four stereo audio inputs, and an RS232 control port. A flip-down door on the front of the box hides S-Video, composite video, stereo audio, a 15-pin VGA computer input, and a headphone jack. We haven't exactly been wowed by the performance of most LCDs, so the LC30HV6U was a pleasant surprise. The first thing that struck us was the black-level performance, that is, its ability to realistically display darker scenes. In this regard, it clearly outclassed other LCDs we've seen recently, including the , the , and the . Scenes from the Alien DVD, which is predominantly dark, looked good. Blacks were quiet with few of the visible artifacts, such as small moving motes of video noise, that we've seen on the competition. Of course the LC30HV6U's black-level performance can't compete with that of CRT or plasma displays, but this LCD's performance was quite capable.
The LC30HV6U exhibited capable 2:3 pull-down video processing with film-based material, smoothing edges and eliminating moving line artifacts. We also noticed that a field of white from one side of the panel to the other was remarkably uniform--another area that trips up lesser LCDs.
Out of the box, in the Movie mode and Low color-temperature setting, the panel's grayscale performance, or consistency of the color of gray from light to dark, was reasonably close to the standard of 6,500K (see the geek box below for more). That's a good thing, because we were unable to calibrate the LC30HV6U properly by press time. Since then, however, we've learned that calibration is possible and will improve the picture as usual.
The panel's color decoding did need some help. We noticed significant red push at factory settings that, for example, had a tendency to tinge white people's skin too pink. However, we were able completely eliminate this effect by manipulating the Red and Magenta controls in the CMS (Color Management System) user menu. The result was lush, saturated color.
Looking at our DirecTV HD feed revealed good color saturation and natural-looking skin tones, thanks to the CMS fix. Bright scenes looked particularly good, and even dark material was eminently watchable.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7,600/6,450K||Average|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation, 20 to 100 IRE||954||Average|
|After grayscale variation, 20 to 100 IRE||N/A|
|Color decoder error: red||+15%||Poor|
|Color decoder error: green||+10%||Average|
|DC restoration||100 window||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|