Sharp has traditionally charged more for its LCD screens, and for good reason — for a long time its TVs were technologically superior to other screens on the market. Black levels were excellent, they didn't suffer from backlight issues and they sounded GOOD.
But things aren't looking as rosy for LCDs any longer: plasma has caught up. Manufacturers such as Pioneer and Panasonic are able to create 1080p 42- and 50-inch screens for a grand or more less than the LCD counterparts.
The Sharp LC46D83X has been around for six months or more. So, in this age of the mega discounting of full HD screens, how does this premium-priced 46-inch hold up?
Considering so many televisions look the same nowadays — a black, shiny blob that sits on your sideboard — it's hard to describe how the Sharp differs from this in any way. Let's see ... it's black. It's blob ... ish.
No, let's be fair. The Sharp is actually a decent looking telly if you're into that sort of thing, with a piano-black bezel and a thin silver stripe curving across the bottom. The stand is also piano-black (natch!) and fairly sturdy.
The LC46D83X is quite a slim television, too, with a profile measuring at only 95mm across without the stand. The rear-mounted ports are also wall-mounting friendly as they face downwards.
The remote is an odd creature. At the top where you'd expect the picture controls and AV source buttons to live are six teletext buttons. We're all for the hearing impaired having access to these features, but six (confusingly-labelled) buttons? Meanwhile, the functions we were searching for while mashing said buttons — turning off OPC and changing the picture mode — lived under a flap at the bottom.
Compared to all-singing, all-dancing models like the the Sharp's conservative feature-set seems a little meagre in comparison. But we'd pay for enhanced picture quality over flickety doo-dads any day.
The specs list is still fairly up-to-date however, with a 1920x1080 resolution panel, a dynamic contrast ratio of 10,000:1 (2,000:1 actual), and Philips' own Fine Motion Advanced 100Hz system for smoother pictures. Backlighting is the key to a good LCD picture, and Sharp uses a system it calls "RGB Plus" for reproducing natural colours.
Connectivity is catered for with three HDMI terminals which include HDMI-CEC support and 24p playback, two component inputs, three AV inputs, an S-Video, and a VGA. For outputs there's a single AV connection, digital optical and a headphone jack.
The TV features an on-board HD tuner and support for the. "Green" is less of a buzzword now than it was even six months ago — people are more preoccupied with the economy now than the environment. Yet, despite this, the Sharp includes a power-saving mode called Advanced OPC (Optical Picture Control) which adjusts the backlight according to the lighting conditions. However, we feel it's just another way to sell the same technology we've seen on other TVs.
Now, 46-inches is still large for an LCD screen. And until now the advice has been "under 42 inches equals LCD" and "over 42 inches equals plasma". Well, given the Sharp's performance at this larger size, we'd say that that particular advice still holds true. We were impressed by at a time when they cost almost twice the price they do now. However, we've seen a lot of very good LCD televisions over the last 12 months and don't think that the LC46D83X is quite able to compete.
But first we'll cover the positives. Black levels on this model are still a stand out — despite the market-conservative 2,000:1 contrast ratio — and detail and colour saturation are all fine. As a result, HD content in particular had a very 3D-like quality to it — from Attenborough's Life of Mammals on free-to-air to No Country For Old Men on Blu-ray.
We also liked the EPG on the Sharp. It was able to fit a lot of information on-screen without looking cramped and was also easy to navigate around.
PC usage was also successful, and the TV even has a "PC mode" which made text readable even if there was some blue and red "ringing" around the text.
But where the television falls down slightly is on how it handles movement. While it will do 24p without much in the way of judder on compatible Blu-rays it's not able to handle other forms of movement quite as well. Despite being fed a progressive source in the form of a Blu-ray at 1080p, the Sharp had some minor combing or interlacing issues on moving scenes. Large slabs of background or moving figures would dissolve into a fine grille, and this was visible up to two metres away. And it wasn't only Blu-ray but most content showed this interlacing problem — whether the TV's noise reduction was turned on or not. As a result, we've had to dock the otherwise impressive TV a few points.
On a related note, until now we've yet to see a 100Hz mode we'd use on a full-time basis and the Sharp did nothing to change this. While, the "Fine Motion Advanced" mode was a little subtler than on other TVs we've seen recently, it was still subject to some minor artefacts.
Sound, on the other hand, was quite coherent, though the semi-hidden nature of the new speakers means it didn't have the breadth or authority of previous sets like the Sharp LC46GD7X and its detachable speaker. Despite the current fad for "invisible" speakers, the Philips 42PFL9703D had better sound than this.