Sharp essentially dominated the market in the early days of LCD TVs. Lately, though, it's found some serious competition both from up-and-coming brands such as Syntax and Westinghouse, which have created a vicious price war, and from other established brands such as Sony, which have pushed hard with ever-more-elaborate marketing campaigns. Sharp still has more LCD models than anybody else, however, and the models we've reviewed have consistently outperformed most other flat-panel LCDs. While Sharp's 32-inch LC-32D4U does have some image-quality issues, it's still among the better-performing LCDs on the market. For people want a better picture, as well as a good selection of cutting-edge features, the Sharp LC-32D4U is among the best choices on the market -- as long as you don't need to connect a PC. Sleek, black, and glossy, with simple curves defining the speakers on the sides of the screen, this Sharp is one of the best-looking LCD TVs we've seen in a long time. It would definitely be at home in the most stylish living rooms. Buttons controlling power, input, channel up/down, and volume up/down reside on the right-hand side of the panel's top, while tiny, unobtrusive LED indicators are on the bottom-right corner of the front bezel. With the integrated stand attached, the Sharp LC-32D4U measures approximately 38.6 by 22.8 by 11.4 inches and weighs 44.1 pounds.
The included remote is backlit and can be programmed to operate other home-theater components from a variety of manufacturers. It is lightweight, and though it lacks individual input-selection buttons, most of the keys are well placed. With a native resolution of 1,366x768, the same as most LCD TVs in this size range, the Sharp LC-32D4U has more than enough pixels to display full 720p HDTV. All incoming signals, including HDTV, standard TV, and DVD, are scaled to fit the available pixels.
A built-in ATSC tuner serves up over-the-air digital and HDTV, while the QAM tuner and the CableCard slot can serve up digital and HD cable without the need for an external box--especially useful if you want to install the TV on its own, away from an entertainment center. Since the Sharp lacks a TV Guide or other EPG, you'll lose the programming info that comes along with a cable or satellite box. Of course if that's important to you, you can always add an external box from your favorite provider.
Convenience features are few. When was the last time you've seen an HDTV without picture-in-picture? One cool extra is Freeze, which captures the onscreen image and holds it until you press the Freeze button a second time--great for writing down the phone number to buy that oh-so-unique pearl necklace on QVC. Unfortunately, this feature is not available when using the HDMI input. The four aspect-ratio options available for standard-def sources include Side Bar, which properly displays 4:3 material, and Smart Stretch, which stretches sides more than the center so that 4:3 sources fill the screen. Impressively, four modes are also available for HD sources, including Zoom and Dot by Dot, which matches the incoming source pixel by pixel. Other features include horizontal and vertical positioning, picture flip, and input labeling.
One picture-affecting feature to avoid is Black Level Expansion. At first glance, it appears to give deeper blacks, but it does so at the expense of shadow detail, removing almost all picture information in the dark parts of the image. Color-temperature selections include High, Mid-High, Middle, Mid-Low, and Low, with Mid-Low falling closest to the 6,500 Kelvin standard. A range of other picture adjustments are available, but aside from the standard contrast, backlight, brightness, and other usual controls, we didn't find them very useful. We did appreciate the presence of independent input memories in addition to the four adjustable and one fixed global picture presets.
The Sharp LC-32D4U's connectivity left us wanting more. There's one HDMI input, and although most other LCDs are also equipped with just one, some, such as , have a second. Most 32-inch LCDs do have a PC input, however, while the LC-32D4U does not. That's a major omission in our book.
We were pleased to see two component-video inputs; the slots can also accept composite video. A third composite/S-Video input is on tap, as well as one CableCard slot and three RF inputs for cable and antenna tuners. There's also an RS-232C terminal for integration with a home-theater control system. Outputs include one S-Video, one composite, one stereo RCA pair, and one optical digital audio out. Sharp's LC-32D4U is a mixed bag when it comes to performance. Its backlight control lets you achieve a more convincing black than with most budget LCD TVs, but it's nowhere near the deep blacks of many plasmas, and detail in dark scenes could be better. Similarly, while the video processing includes 2:3 pull-down (a plus), the panel's edge enhancement cannot be turned off completely, which creates a noisier picture with high-quality material.
The opening sequence from the Vertical Limit Superbit DVD revealed this panel's difficulty at displaying shadow detail. Most of the texture and cracks in the shaded portions of the sheer cliff face were lost in a muddle of murky darkness. On the plus side, Robin Tunney's lovely skin was only slightly too red, a combination of the TV's accurate color temperature and red push.
Set to Mid-Low and in Movie mode, the LC-32D4U's color temperature was impressively close to the 6,500K standard. Darker material had a slight bluish cast, while midtones and highlights were very close to the standard. Color decoding showed a noticeable red push. However, all three of the primary colors were very close to the HDTV standard. Unfortunately, we were unable to perform a full calibration by the time this was written.
A report on para-snowboarding on HDNet's Deadline news magazine looked as solid as we would expect from high-def. The Sharp LC-32D4U did a great job of preserving detail in the bright snow, though colors overall probably could've been more vibrant. The panel did a respectable job of serving up fine details in well-lit portions of the picture, such as the individual hairs of the correspondent's fur-trimmed collar.
|Before color temp (30/80)||6,738/6,622K||Good|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 283K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.644/0.334||Good|
|Color of green||0.284/0.613||Good|
|Color of blue||0.146/0.063||Good|
|Black-level retention||No stable pattern||Poor|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||No||Poor|