Sharp's remote is the same as ever, with full orange backlighting, the ability to command four other pieces of gear, nicely spread-out and well-differentiated keys, 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 behind a flip-up hatch. The menu system outdoes most in its simplicity and includes helpful explanations of menu items, and we appreciated the ability to rename used inputs and to skip unused ones. As with most LCD-based flat-panel HDTVs, the Sharp LC-37D40U's native resolution is 1,366x768 pixels, which should be enough to convey every detail of 720p HDTV sources. All sources, including HDTV, DVD, and standard TV, are scaled to fit those pixels.
The feature package on Sharp's LC-37D40U includes an ATSC tuner to receive over-the-air HDTV but omits the CableCard found on last year's model--not a big loss in our book. It also loses picture-in-picture but includes the aforementioned ability to freeze the onscreen image with the push of a button. Unfortunately it can't change aspect ratio modes with high-def sources; you get four aspect selections with standard-def.
We definitely appreciate the range of picture adjustments on this set. Sharp was among the first with a backlight control, which affects the overall intensity of the picture and lets you coax a darker color of black if you turn it down. There are four picture presets that can be adjusted--Standard, Movie, Game, and Dynamic--along with a fifth that cannot, as well as a sixth User mode that's independent for each input. A room-lighting sensor called OPC can be enabled, which adjusts the TV's light output depending on how much ambient light it detects. Advanced adjustments include five color-temperature presets, black-level expansion--which actually appears to improve the picture in dark scenes, so we left it on--and a mode that lets you adjust the sensitivity of the OPC.
The LC-37D40U offers five total input slots in addition to its TV tuner. Two are devoted to HDMI sources (one includes stereo audio for use with DVI-to-HDMI connections), another to composite or S-Video, and two more to component or composite video. We would have appreciated an additional S-Video input, and a side-panel input would have been nice too, but the biggest omission is a dedicated PC input. The manual makes no mention of using one of the HDMI inputs with PC sources, although dedicated users can probably find a way. Overall, the Sharp LC-37D40U offers superior picture quality to that of most LCDs we've reviewed, with deeper blacks and excellent detail, although its color accuracy leaves something to be desired.
After setting the picture controls for critical viewing in our completely dark lab, it was immediately apparent that the Sharp was able to coax a relatively deep color of black compared to other LCDs we've reviewed recently. During the nighttime shot of the ship aground against Skull Island on the King Kong DVD, for example, we saw that the shadows on the water and the ship, the night sky, and the black letterbox bars all appeared noticeably darker than those displayed by either the Dell W3706MC or the Samsung LN-S4051D that we had onhand to compare. The depth of black lent impact to every scene and made colors look more vibrant and less washed-out. The Sharp also evinced very good detail in shadows; as the great ape stands over Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), for example, we could see more of his fur, which appeared less distinct on other LCDs.
We compared the Sharp's contrast-ratio numbers to those of other LCDs we've measured recently, and it surpassed them all in its depth of black, with the Sony KDL-32S2000 coming closest. Its black levels even approached--but didn't quite reach--those of some of the better plasmas we've reviewed.
On the other hand, the Sharp did a worse job with color accuracy than many LCDs we've tested. Compared to the Dell and the Samsung, for example, it made Ann's face seem too ruddy in the candlelight in her cabin, a sign of red push, in which reds are too garish in comparison with other colors. The lush green of the jungle plants, on the other hand, appeared slightly undersaturated once we'd reduced the color control to get good-looking skin tones. In its favor, the LC-37D40U's color temperature was relatively accurate out of the box, as were its primary colors (see the Geek box).
The Sharp did a commendable job maintaining brightness, depth of black, and color accuracy when seen from the sides or above and below, although the Samsung fared slightly better in this regard, and of course, the LCDs still don't look nearly as consistent as plasmas from off-angle. We also noticed that the Sharp had above-average uniformity; when displaying a black screen, it was equally dark in all areas as opposed to many LCDs that suffer from bright spots.
With standard-def sources, the Sharp performed decently, quickly engaging 2:3 pull-down to smooth edges and stabilize moving lines, and evincing good detail. We noticed not-so-smooth lines in some material, such as the waving American flag from the HQV benchmark DVD, and the Sharp's ability to reduce video noise, such as the tiny motes in shots of the sunset sky, wasn't as good as the Dell's, for example.
We normally don't discuss response time with LCDs, but it's worth noting that the Sharp, when displaying a test pattern consisting of a rotating white bar against a black background, didn't leave a faint trail behind the bar; engaging or disabling the "quick shoot" option, which is said to improve response time, had no effect on this test. We saw the trail in varying degrees on all four of the other LCDs we had onhand to compare, but when we looked for similar effects on fast-moving program material, such as the brontosaurus stampede in King Kong, we didn't see it.
Turning to high-def, the Sharp held its own. Again, its less-saturated color was visible in the faces of the announcers on SportsCenter, and its superior depth of black was clearly visible in a space combat scene when we watched Battlestar Galactica. The Sharp's picture appeared very slightly more detailed than that of the Samsung and the Dell, displaying a bit more of the patterns in the fabric of the announcer's jacket and more texture in the face of Battlestar's Dualla, but the difference was apparent only in side-by-side comparisons. The Sharp appeared significantly less detailed with 1080i material via HDMI; we recommend you set your sources to 720p on this set. The Sharp LC-37D40U's resolution via component video, on the other hand, was universally excellent.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6,791/6,616K||Good|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 114K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.640/0.335||Good|
|Color of green||0.271/0.604||Average|
|Color of blue||0.146/0.063||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|