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Sharp LC-UQ17U review: Pseudo 4K not convincing enough

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Connectivity: The Sharp caters to most of your connecting-stuff needs with four HDMI inputs. Thye're all 4K-compatible (30fps only), and select ones include MHL support and ARC. There's a single component and two composite connections for legacy devices. If you want to hook up USB drives or mice there are two USB ports as well.

The Sharp includes Bluetooth connectivity for audio, mouse, and keyboard. While audio worked as expected, the mouse wouldn't function despite connecting properly -- even in the browser. A wired mouse plugged into the USB port worked fine.

Picture quality


For all its "4K" wizardry, the LC-UQ17U performed very similarly to the LE650 in terms of color and black levels: that is, a TV costing half the price. Compared to other Sharp TVs, there were some backlight uniformity issues too, which were visible on a dark scene even in a lit room.

The 4K add-ons don't really do much. One reason is because the one benefit of 4K -- the lack of pixel structure even at very close distances -- doesn't apply. This is still a 1080p set with a 1080p pixel grid. The 4K upscaling appears to be mostly sharpening with some 3D-like pop-up, but in my testing I was never persuaded this model could compete with a true 4K set.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Black level: The black levels of the UQ17 were consistent with those of other Sharp TVs I have reviewed, and unable to match the depths of the Sony or Samsung, let alone the Panasonic plasma.

Due to a brighter gamma, it showed plenty of shadow detail, though perhaps was a little too illuminating or washed out at times. The Sharp performed very well with the dark tones of the hilltop scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2," exposing detail that was somewhere between those of the Samsung and the ZT60 without showing any dithering artifacts in the darkness.

Due to the lighter gamma, the TV was able to dig out more detail from within the shadows, but sometimes it was just noise, which was seemingly exacerbated by the edge-enhancing effects of the Resolution Enhanced mode.

Color accuracy: The color performance was mostly fine, albeit a little undersaturated. Blues, such as those that formed the skies that open the Innocence chapter of "Tree of Life," looked a bit paler than they should. During the African scenes in "Samsara," the yellows and greens were also unsaturated, particularly as the villagers gathering around a clay hut with green vegetation in the background (32:06). Even the Toshiba's color saturation was better here as it more closely resembled those of the other high-end sets on display.

While the Sharp's skin tones were a little less rich than those of the leaders, Panasonic and Samsung, they were still very believable.

Large patches of black on the Sharp had a tendency to edge towards blue, something that it shared with the Sony, but its transgressions were more minor. The ZT60 with its plasma technology was best for the shade of black, with Sony second and Samsung third, but the Sharp was much better than the very poor Toshiba.

One quirk I found with the television became apparent when I was watching "Samsara:" some deep colors could on occasion become posterized. While the monks were constructing an intricate painting (11:21), I found that out-of-focus colors --orange crosses on a green background -- looked cartoonish with visible gradations, regardless of upscaling mode. None of the other TVs had the same problem.

Video processing: This is what you wanted to know, right? Is this TV as good as a 4K set? And how good is the Reality Enhanced upscaling mode?

I started with the "Samsara" Blu-ray, one of the best available, to test upscaling . At 23:49, as the camera pans past the windows of a gothic church, the individual panels of the lead-lighting seemed about as detailed as those on the 4K Toshiba, but less so than on the 1080p Samsung. Turning off Resolution Enhanced actually made the detail better due to the reinsertion of color that seemed to occur; the edge enhancement of this mode appeared to insert white along the edges, which might be great for defining edges but terrible for fine colors like lead windows.

One of the main advantages of a true 4K screen is that you never see pixels -- unless you sit close enough to touch it with your elbow. This is something that is true with the 4K Toshiba, but as the Sharp is based on a 1080p grid, you can see pixels from as close as four feet away. Of course, few people will want to sit that close to a 60-inch TV.

Watching a 4K demo of a roast dinner being served (I told you 4K content is scarce), the Sharp looked less detailed than the true 4K screen of the Toshiba. This was mostly because by the time you got close enough to see the extra detail of 4K, the vertical pixel lines on the Sharp obscured any sense of 4K quality. At a distance of about 6 feet, both looked about the same, but this is something we've found in other comparisons between 1080p and 4K sets -- differences are only visible within sneezing distance.

The TV failed our 1080i de-interlacing test; the moving test pattern portion of the Film Resolution Loss Test showed a strobing effect on the fine detail, both with and without Resolution Enhanced turned on.

Uniformity: The uniformity of the Sharp panel was poor for the price, with big blobs in the upper-left and lower-right corners. Off-angle is fine, but you do get some bluish-blacks and muted colors.

Bright lighting: The UQ17 features a semi-matte coating that was not all that reflective. With the lights on, you still get some blue/black issues though, and the TV doesn't pop as well as the Samsung and Sony.

Sound quality: While whispered dialogue was clearer on the Sharp, sound effects such as breaking glass and skidding tires were a lot more shrill sounding versus the Samsung F8000, which sounded more focused.

Music was pretty bad, with an unusual amount of "cardboard tube"-like effects on vocals, but at least the bass wasn't overhyped and farty. Get a separate sound system if you plan to drop money on this unit.

3D: The Sharp still performed pretty well for an active 3D system. There was some crosstalk visible on the most testing scenes, but this about the same as the Samsung F8000. Most troubling, though, was the Soap Opera Effect, which couldn't be defeated.

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.008 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 1.91 Poor
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 3.106 Average
Dark gray error (20%) 2.511 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 3.32 Average
Avg. color error 2.238 Good
Red error 0.38 Good
Green error 2.829 Good
Blue error 3.15 Average
Cyan error 1.235 Good
Magenta error 3.727 Average
Yellow error 2.106 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Fail Poor
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 330 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 59.3 Average

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