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Sharp LC-37D90U review: Sharp LC-37D90U

Sharp LC-37D90U

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
8 min read
With an HDTV, size is everything. The size of the picture affects how far you can sit from the screen and still feel immersed, how much detail you can discern, and how many flaws you'll notice in the source or in the TV itself. At 37 inches, Sharp's LC-37D90U is as big as many other flat-panel LCDs, but it costs a heck of a lot more. That's because it has a native resolution of 1080p, meaning that its screen is composed of 1,920x1,080 pixels; nearly double that of comparable 1,366x768 displays. All those extra picture elements do indeed deliver more detail to the screen, but whether that detail makes it to your eyes is another matter. In the real world, with a screen this size, you have to sit pretty close to tell the difference between 1080p and 1366x768. The Sharp LC-37D40U has the lower resolution, for example, and at the time of this writing it costs about $800 less than its 1080p brother. Most buyers won't feel the LC-37D90U is worth the difference, but it's still one of the best-performing LCD TVs available today. The Sharp LC-37D90U looks like any other Aquos LCD: darned attractive. Its finish is called Titanium by the company, and in person it looks like silver with a little gold mixed in. The top edge has a burnished metal accent running the width of the panel, and at the bottom, you'll find a long, detachable speaker. Edging the screen on all four sides is an inch-wide black frame, which helps set off the onscreen image.

Orienting the speakers below the screen as opposed to placing them to the sides saves some width. The LC-37D90U measures 36.6 by 28.7 by 12.1 inches (WHD) atop the removable swivel stand, and weighs 62.9 pounds. Stripped of both speakers and the stand, the panel clocks in at 36.6 by 23 by 4.8 inches.


Sharp LC-37D90U

The Good

Full 1080p resolution; reproduces deep black; ample connectivity with dual HDMI and one DVI input, all of which are 1080p-compatible; detachable speaker.

The Bad

Expensive; screen size too small for most viewers to really appreciate 1080p.

The Bottom Line

Sharp's LC-37D90U is too small to take full advantage of its high 1080p resolution, but it's still one of the best-performing LCDs we've tested yet.

The remote and the menu system are the same as other Aquos sets'. The clicker has 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 used 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. The chief feature of the Sharp LC-37D90U is its high native resolution. Although models such as the Westinghouse LVM-37W1 have been out for more than a year, this is Sharp's first 37-inch LCD with 1080p resolution, which means its screen consists of an array of 1,920x1,080 pixels. All those pixels allow it to display more detail with 1080i and 1080p high-def sources--as well as high-resolution computer sources--than standard LCDs, which typically have resolutions of 1,366x768, and 37-inch plasmas, which usually have 1,024x768 resolution.

The benefits of 1080p on a relatively small screen are limited, however; it's simply easier to see the increase in detail on bigger screens unless you sit very close. In any case, you won't see more detail if you're watching 720p HDTV, DVD, or standard-definition television. As with all fixed-pixel displays, all incoming resolutions are scaled to fit the available pixels.

Aside from pixel count, the Sharp LC-37D90U has an average feature set, but we were surprised by the lack of picture-in-picture at this price. Sharp also skips the CableCard, which doesn't really bother us, but it does, of course, include an ATSC tuner. We were happy to see four aspect-ratio selections available for high-def sources, including a dot-by-dot mode. It's available only for 1080-resolution sources, it doesn't scale the image at all, and it's the mode we recommend you use to watch HD with the LC-37D90U (see Performance for more).

Sharp includes the typically extensive range of picture adjustments found on its other wide-screen Aquos models. The company 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 (optical picture control), which adjusts the TV's light output depending on how much ambient light it detects, should be left off if you're taking time to adjust the picture to your taste. 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.

Around back, we found ample inputs of the digital variety, but you may be disappointed if you have a lot of analog sources that you want to connect directly to the LC-37D90U. There are two HDMI inputs, both of which can accept 1080p sources, and one DVI input, which can also handle resolutions as high as 1,920x1,080. You can also use this jack connect a PC that has a standard VGA-style analog output by using an RGB-to-DVI cable, but the maximum resolution will be limited to 1,280x1,024. Sharp does include a pair of IEEE-1394 (a.k.a. i.Link) ports. They can connect to so-equipped D-VHS decks, hard-disk recorders, high-def (HDV) camcorders, and some set-top boxes; the manual also mentions connections to Blu-ray disc recorders, but they aren't available in the United States yet. We did not test the i.Link connections.

The Sharp LC-37D90U lacks side-panel inputs, so there are only two input slots available for external analog devices. One slot makes you choose between component-video or composite video; the second between S-Video or composite video. Rounding out the jack pack is a pair of screw-type RF antenna connections for digital and analog cable and over-the-air TV, an optical digital output for over-the-air digital soundtracks, an analog audio output, and an RS-232 connection for use with custom installations. The Sharp LC-37D90U is undoubtedly one of the best-performing flat-panel LCDs we've ever tested. It's capable of delivering a highly detailed, extremely clean image with deep blacks and relatively accurate color, although to see the benefits of its 1080p resolution, you'll need an excellent source and a seat close to the screen.

After setting up the Sharp for viewing in our darkened lab, we checked out its performance with dark material using the Underworld: Evolution Blu-ray disc playing on the Samsung BD-P1000. In Chapter 13, when the helicopter approaches the castle, black areas appeared rich and well detailed; we could make out bricks in the castle and bolts in the fuselage of the chopper, and shadows looked clean with few traces of noise. The LC-37D90U delivered as deep a level of black as we've seen on any LCD--equal to as that of the HP LC3760N and significantly deeper than the Dell W3706MC, both of which we had on hand to compare directly.

The dark scenes also revealed solid uniformity; the right and left sides of the LC-37D90U's picture were only very slightly brighter than the middle, and the difference was invisible in all but the darkest scenes. We watched the same scenes from off-angle, and again, the LC-37D90U performed better than most LCDs in this regard, washing out the image relatively slightly compared to the Dell, although the off-axis picture quality still wasn't up to plasma or direct-view CRT standards.

The Sharp's most accurate color-temperature mode is Low, which came fairly close to the 6,500K standard (see the Geek box) but was still fairly blue in darker areas. Color decoding was significantly improved over the 37-inch LC-37D40U and the HP. There was still a little red push on the LC-37D90U, which led us to back the color control down a tad, but after doing so, Kate Beckinsale's skin was suitably corpselike. In the few scenes with some color, such as when she visits the lair of Tanis, colors appeared well saturated, and reds in particular looked vibrant.

As a 1080p display, the Sharp LC-37D90U's main claim to fame is detail, however, and it came through as well as any such display in this regard. According to a multiburst resolution pattern from our Sencore VP403 signal generator, the LC-37D90U had no trouble resolving every line of a 1080i source via HDMI, DVI, and ATSC. To pass this test, the panel had to be in its dot-by-dot aspect-ratio setting; the default Stretch setting could not resolve every line. (Dot-by-dot has zero percent overscan, meaning that the extreme edges of the source are displayed onscreen. In some cases, you'll see interference at the edges of the screen in this mode. On our in-house DirecTV HD-TiVo, for example, the very top edge of the screen crawled with black-and-white noise on a few standard-def channels, but none of the HD channels evinced similar interference.) When we switched to component-video, the image softened visibly, and horizontal interference as well as edge enhancement appeared in the pattern; as usual, we recommend using a digital input for HDTV sources.

It's worth noting that, to distinguish between the individual vertical black-and-white lines, which are vanishingly thin onscreen, we had to sit no further than about 45 inches away from the 37-inch screen. From our nominal seating distance of 78 inches, the lines were indistinguishable. This leads to the main problem with the LC-37D90U: its 37-inch screen just isn't big enough to justify a 1080p resolution unless you sit very close to the screen.

We could see this when comparing the Sharp to the two other 37-inch LCDs, which have the standard 1,366x768 resolution. We started by feeding all three sets a 1080i high-def signal from our DirecTV HD TiVo. If we looked closely, we could tell the difference from our standard seating distance; the fine curlicues carved into in an altar in Krakow on a travel program from HDNet, for example, looked a tad more highly resolved on the LC-37D40U than on the other two. Next, we tried an even higher-quality HD-DVD source, Swordfish as played on the Toshiba HD-A1. The differences were much more prevalent from 45 inches or less; the mesh of the chair and the lines on the paper lamp on the porch where Halle Berry suns herself, for example, were more distinct than on the lower-resolution panels. When we moved back to a 78-inch distance, the difference was still visible but much more subtle.

Finally, we ran the Sharp LC-37D90U through a battery of standard-def video tests from the HQV disc. Via component-video (at 480i) and S-Video, the Sharp had a tough time smoothing jagged lines in test patterns and the waving American flag, although strangely, it fared better via composite video. Details also looked a bit softer than we expected, although the panel had no trouble resolving every line of resolution from test patterns. Turning the noise reduction to high really helped to clean up low-quality sources, and while the Sharp was able to successfully detect 2:3 pull-down, its processing kicked in rather slowly.

Before color temp (20/80) 6,789/6,788K Good
After color temp    
Before grayscale variation +/- 345K Good
After grayscale variation    
Color of red (x/y) 0.651/0.323 Average
Color of green 0.261/0.597 Average
Color of blue 0.147/0.068 Good
Overscan* 2.5 percent Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
2:3 pull-down, 24fps Yes Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good
*Measured in default Stretch aspect ratio. In dot-by-dot, overscan is 0 percent.


Sharp LC-37D90U

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8