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Sharp Quattron LC-LE847U series review: Extra yellow pixel isn't worth extra dough

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Times are tough enough for Sharp without having to convince people to pay extra for esoteric add-ons like 240Hz, 3D, and Quattron's extra yellow pixel. But that's exactly what the company is trying to do with the LC-LE847U. It costs hundreds more than Sharp's step-down sets, including the highly recommended LC-LE640U series, and occupies the same size range as Vizio's lower-priced, entirely decent E601i-A3 series. Meanwhile, if you consider 3D a must-have feature, the company's own LC-LE745U is a much better value. Compared with those LED TVs, not to mention the numerous plasmas that outperform it by a country mile, the Sharp LC-LE847U just can't compete.

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Sharp Quattron LC-LE847U series

The Good

The <b>Sharp LC-LE847U series</b> delivers relatively accurate color and a matte screen that works well in bright rooms. The no-nonsense black metal design has a higher-end feel. Its feature set includes excellent help and support options, built-in Wi-Fi, and a remote with three programmable keys for easy access to favorite apps.

The Bad

This high-end Sharp has middling picture quality. It showed lighter black levels than its less expensive sibling, especially obvious in dark scenes under home theater lighting. The extra yellow pixel of Quattron has no positive impact, and the image showed a bluish cast in dark areas. The Sharp also failed to properly handle film-based (1080p/24) sources, causing slight stutter in certain scenes. 3D glasses cost $50 each and are not included.

The Bottom Line

Since they don't come with improved picture quality, the extra features of the Sharp LC-LE847U series aren't worth the extra money it demands.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 60-inch Sharp LC-60LE847U, but this review also applies to the 70-inch LC-70LE847U. The two TVs have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Design
Externally there's almost nothing that separates the LE847U from its less-expensive brother the LE745U, and both look very businesslike. I appreciate the narrow frame around the image -- which does thicken up a bit along the bottom -- and its matte-black coloring. That frame is, unusually, made of actual metal, for a higher-end yet still understated feel. The corners have little plastic bumpers that unfortunately spoil its shape a bit, but are probably there to prevent freak accidents caused by the sharp corners.

Unlike the stand of the even-less-expensive LE640U, the LE847U's has a swivel on the 60-inch version (not the 70-inch, however) and a textured matte finish on the base. The LE847U is definitely a nicer-looking TV on the outside, but the improvements are subtle.

All three Sharps come with essentially the same remote. Thinner and longer than most clickers, the wand is plagued by lack of backlight and insufficient differentiation between the mostly too-small keys. One great feature, however, is the trio of programmable buttons that provide instant access to your favorite apps. Another, new for 2012, is the big red Netflix button. The remote can control three other devices directly via infrared.

Sharp didn't change much about the menu system from last year, and it's serviceable if unremarkable. Navigating among the choices along the main top strip could be snappier, and I prefer overlays to Sharp's method of reducing the picture size to make room for its menus.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features "="">Other: Quattron 4-color sub-pixel system; optional active 3D glasses (model AN3DG20B, $50); optional Skype camera/speakerphone (Freetalk for Sharp, $130); Aquos Advantage Live Internet-connected live help and troubleshooting, IP control
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
Screen finish Matte Remote Universal (three devices)
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Active 3D glasses included No
Refresh rate(s) 240Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video

Features
As Sharp's top-of-the-line TV the LC-LE847U gets plenty of extras, if not as many as some other brands' flagships. It's the only one with an extra subpixel, however. Quattron technology, which first debuted in 2010, adds a fourth, yellow subpixel to the usual trio of red, green, and blue. I won't spend a lot of time talking about it here because all you need to know is that it has little real effect (positive or negative) on picture quality, at least as we test for it. If you're curious check out the company's 2010 presentation; the technology hasn't changed much since then. The only other step-up over the LE745U is a 240Hz refresh rate.

Sharp doesn't include the active 3D glasses necessary to view 3D sources on this TV, and since it lacks compatibility with the full HD 3D standard, your most economical recourse is Sharp's AN3DG20B glasses, which cost $50 a pair.

A couple of other features are unique to Sharp. IP control is designed to interface with custom-installation remote-control systems, such as Control 4, AMX, and Crestron, that can operate over Ethernet as opposed to RS-232. Aquos Advantage Live is Sharp's excellent live help feature, which I described in 2009. I appreciated the full onscreen manual -- exactly the same as the PDF version, complete with table of contents. Many makers today skimp by not including a full paper manual as well, but not Sharp.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Smart TV: The 847U series offers a few more apps than the step-down 640U models -- namely a Web browser, Hulu Plus, Skype, and Film Fresh. Sharp told me the 640U would not get these apps, nor would it receive the browser or gallery mode.

If you're comparing by content, Sharp falls short of most major-name competitors, as it's missing Amazon Instant and sports services like MLB.com. The company has improved the selection since I tested the LE745U in June, however, adding Pandora and Rhapsody, and providing easier access to Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, and Flickr by moving them from the Vudu apps interface (which is still available) to the main Smart Central hub.

The interface is clean and navigation was quick enough, if a bit sluggish compared with some other smart TVs. Hitting the Smart Central remote key summons a launcher bar along the bottom listing all of the "favorite" apps -- I liked that I could order them at will and delete unused ones. There's also a Gallery mode that lists all of the apps by category and allows you to add or delete them from the launcher.

The browser is, as usual, worse than any tablet, phone, or PC browser. The most annoying part -- and a deal-breaker for all but the most emergency, last-resort situations -- was having to use the normal TV remote control to navigate.

Picture settings: Five tweakable picture modes, a gamma slider, a full color management system, and both 2-point and 10-point grayscale controls make the LE847U as adjustable as TVs from LG and Samsung, and more so than Sony's lineup and most of Panasonic's. Unfortunately, the 10-point system didn't work well. New for 2012 is the option to tweak the strength of dejudder, but it just goes from really smooth to even smoother.

Connectivity: I have no complaints on this front. Four HDMI ports is plenty, and the analog connections (one component, two composite, one VGA for computers) are as complete as I'd expect. A pair of USB ports, one facing the side and one the bottom, round out the package.

Picture quality
Like many high-end LED TVs we've tested this year, the Sharp LC-LE847U didn't produce picture quality commensurate with its price. In its favor, it was able to maintain fidelity in bright lighting situations, color in bright areas was OK, and the extra yellow pixel of Quattron didn't make color accuracy worse after proper adjustment.

On the other side of the ledger, that fidelity isn't great, falling short of what you get from many less expensive sets like the Vizio E601i-A3 and especially Sharp's own entry-level LC-LE640U, which performs very well. Lighter black levels, lack of punch, and bluish discoloration, especially in dark areas, were the main culprits.

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.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Comparison models (details)
Sharp LC-60LE745U 60-inch edge-lit LED
Vizio M3D651SV 65-inch edge-lit LED
Sharp LC-60LE640U 60-inch edge-lit LED
Vizio E601i-A3 60-inch edge-lit LED
Vizio M3D550KD 55-inch LED TV
Panasonic TC-P55ST50 55-inch plasma

Black level: The LE847U struggled in this important picture-quality category. During the nighttime sailing sequence from chapter 5 of "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End," (29:20 and later), its shadows and letterbox bars looked about the same as the 60-inch Vizio's and more washed-out than on any of the others, including the Sharp LE640U. Those lighter blacks combined with relatively dim highlights, for example in the moonlit faces of Elizabeth Swann (29:42) and Will Turner (29:52), for a picture with less oomph and dynamic range than any of the others.

The LE847U didn't evince the same kind of "crushing," where deep shadowy areas (like Swann and Turner's tunics) disappear into the murk, that was evident on the 65-inch Vizio, but its shadow detail was still more difficult to make out than on the other sets. The folds in the characters' tops and the edges of their faces showed less definition and impact.

Color accuracy: In brighter scenes, such as when the crew gets washed ashore in chapter 7, the LE847U's color was decent, if still not up to the level of the other sets in the lineup. Swann's face, for example, held a slightly cooler, bluer cast than it should have, and there was slightly less richness and saturation to deeper colors like the blue sea.

In dark areas, the Sharp betrayed a bluish tinge to black areas and deep shadows that was exacerbated by its brighter black levels. Those areas looked more discolored than those of any TV in the room, although in lighter shadows the 65-inch Vizio's bluish tinge was worse.

Video processing: The LE847U performed basically the same as the LE640U in this category, which is to say not very well. Unlike last year's models such as the LC-830U series, 2012 Sharps are not capable of passing the correct 1080p/24 film cadence in my test. Instead, the deck of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend" showed either the choppy stutter of 2:3 pull-down or the too-smooth look of dejudder. The former occurred when I set Film Mode to either Off or Advanced (0), while any of the other Advanced values caused dejudder to kick in.

Despite the presence of 11 smoothness settings, the adjustable dejudder basically toggled between Off (at 0) and Really Smooth (+1 or higher). I'd like to have seen a greater range of visible effect, such as Samsung's system provides, or even a single setting that keeps some judder, like Sony's Standard setting.

The Sharp does offer the option to get full motion resolution without smoothing. To do so you have to engage either of the 240Hz modes. One, labeled AquoMotion 240, revealed all 1,200 lines, while the second, called simply "240Hz," came in around 1,000. There's also a pair of 120Hz modes that yield around 600 lines.

Uniformity: Although not terrible for an edge-lit LED, the backlight of the LE847U showed the second-worst clouding in our lineup, after the 60-inch Vizio. A slightly brighter area in the middle left and another on the bottom-right corner were visible in the darkest scenes and letterbox bars, respectively, although during most scenes they weren't bothersome.

From off-angle the TV performed reasonably, washing out and discoloring blue at about the same rate as the other 60-inch-plus sets, although it did dim more quickly than the 65-inch Vizio, and maintained black-level fidelity better than the 55-inch Vizio.

Bright lighting: Here's where the big Sharp excels. The LE847U has the same very matte screen finish as the LE640U, and performed just as well in a bright room, beating all of the others in this department. It muted reflections nicely, especially compared with the mirrorlike 65-inch Vizio, and did a good job maintaining black levels.

3D: The Sharp LE847U showed similar mediocre 3D quality to the LE745U I tested earlier. I expected it to perform a bit better since its panel has a faster refresh rate, but in fact it actually seemed a bit worse. I didn't have an LE745U on hand to compare it with directly, but pitted against the one comparison TV both had in common, the Panasonic ST50, crosstalk on the 847U appeared even worse.

I consider crosstalk, which appears as a double-image or ghostly outline in 3D objects, the most objectionable artifact of 3D, and it was rampant on the 847U. During "Hugo," my favorite 3D torture test, the face of Isabelle at 16:19 evinced an obvious black line along the right side, an effect of the double image. Numerous other instances occurred throughout the film. The Samsung, as well as the passive Vizios, looked significantly better in terms of crosstalk reduction.

I compared the LE847U to the same lineup that I used for 2D, although I swapped out the 3D-incapable sets and swapped in the Samsung UN55ES8000, my 3D reference. Compared with it the Sharp showed a dim 3D image in its default Movie setting, and shadow detail was a bit less visible, although color was relatively good. The LE847U was actually dimmer than even the plasma, although of course that can be fixed by tweaking the default picture settings in 3D.

Sharp didn't send us a pair of current 3D glasses for this review so I used the company's AN3DG20EL specs, the same ones that came with the Elite review sample (Sharp told us they're the same as the current AN3DG20B models). They're not as light as the Samsung or Panasonic specs -- not to mention the LGs -- but easier to wear than the bulky Sonys and much sturdier than the Samsungs.

Geek box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0171 Average
Avg. gamma 2.2729 Good
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3103/0.3243 Average
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3129/0.3305 Good
Before avg. color temp. 7339 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6599 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 1.2957 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 0.3741 Good
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 4.8348 Poor
Cyan hue x/y 0.2228/0.3376 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3358/0.1622 Poor
Yellow hue x/y 0.4201/0.5043 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200 Good

Sharp LC-60LE847U CNET review calibration results

Read more about how we test TVs.

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Sharp Quattron LC-LE847U series

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 6Value 5