Sharp's first 3D televisions include the 60-incher reviewed here at $5,000, and a similar 52-inch model, the LC-52LE925UN at $4,000. Both feature the company's Quattron technology, which the company launched earlier this year. As the sub-brand's name implies, Quattron TVs use four rather than three colours to create pictures: yellow in addition to the standard mix of red, blue and green. Sharp says this enables them to produce colours (not just golds and yellows, but some blues and greens as well) that are outside the range of standard RGB displays, and also increases brightness.
The Quad Pixel Plus video processors in Quattron TVs analyze picture content on a moment-by-moment basis, lighting up yellow sub-pixels where appropriate, and adjusting output of red, blue and green sub-pixels to compensate. This isn't a trivial accomplishment; if not done very well, this colour remapping could easily result in artificial-looking colour. But my experience with Quattron so far has been very positive. I reviewed a 40-inch Quattron TV last spring, and really liked what I saw; and I really like this TV too.
The LC-60LE925UN has other advanced technology as well, including AutoMotion 240Hz processing, which increases the frame rate from 60 to 240Hz to minimize picture blurring on 2D and crosstalk between left- and right-eye images on 3D images. The side-mounted scanning LED backlight and fast LCD response also reduce 3D crosstalk, Sharp says. The new TV also has an Ethernet jack for connection to a home network and the Internet. Along with a few network-TV applications, an Internet connection lets users access Aquos Advantage, a free service that lets remote technicians check and adjust TV functions over the Internet.
The 60-inch screen is covered with a single sheet of glass that extends slightly beyond the gloss-black bezel. The TV, which is only 4cm deep, sits on a lovely rectangular glass-and-chrome pedestal base for shelf-mounting. The effect is very elegant. Buttons on the remote are clearly labeled, and the TV's menus are easy to understand. The manual is thorough, and explains the TV's functions and settings clearly.
When you power up the LC-60LE925, it goes into EZSetup mode. You're asked to confirm language, location (home/store) and whether you're using a set-top box to receive TV signals (a very useful question to include in initial setup, as it can prevent an unneeded channel scan). With the source set to a Sharp Blu-ray player, the TV comes up in x.v.Colour mode, with OPC (which automatically adjusts picture brightness) turned on; backlight set to Standard (i.e. the halfway point); contrast at +32 (the max is +40); and brightness, colour, tint and sharpness at the zero halfway points. In Advanced Picture settings, colour temperature is set to Middle, Motion Enhancement at 120Hz High, Quad Pixel Plus processing turned on, gamma at centre, and Film Mode Advanced processing set to High. There are other picture modes as well (Dynamic, User, Game, Movie, Standard, Auto, Movie).
I stayed in the default x.v.Colour mode, then used a calibration disc (DVE HD Basics on Blu-ray) to check and adjust picture settings. The test patterns for checking brightness, contrast and backlight displayed correctly, so these settings required no adjustment. The colour and tint test patterns would not display quite accurately, perhaps because the quad-pixel design produces a range of colours that does not match up well with the colour filters you place over your eye to evaluate these patterns. The only change I made was to set colour temperature to Mid-Low in the Advanced Settings menu to achieve a warmer, more film-like colour balance.
The x.v.Colour picture mode wasn't available when I switched inputs to the Rogers Cable HD PVR, so I selected a User mode, and entered the settings I had determined with DVE HD Basics to be correct.
Watching in 2D
Overall, this top-of-the-line Aquos TV delivered stunning picture quality. On scenes with very dark picture content, such as the opening credits of BBC's Life on Blu-ray, I noticed mild hotspotting around the edge of the screen. On these dark scenes, blacks were very good, though not anthracite-deep. But I loved the way shadow details emerged out of dark areas, for example trees on the slopes in a dramatic shot of Kenyan mountains. In a wonderful sequence showing dolphins herding fish in the shallows off the Florida coast, I saw details in the shallow bottom that I hadn't noticed before. The savannah and sea scenes seemed to have an extra glow, which could have been the result of the Quattron four-colour design.
Watching Fargo on Blu-ray, I was struck by the excellent blacks in the dramatic night murder scene, again with details emerging convincingly out of the darkness. There was great detail in the facial close-ups of the two kidnappers, and also in their hair (one dark, one bleached blond). In the early morning scene where the murders are discovered and the investigation begins, there was great texture in the snowy field and in the police chief's brown parka, all showing this TV's ability to deal with extremes of contrast.
I noticed this too with broadcast HD content. The blacks in the opening scene of a Law & Order episode were good, though not ideally deep; but shadow detail was great. Gradation of tones and colours, at both the dark and light ends of the brightness scale, was superb. The detectives' dark brown and dark blue jackets were well differentiated. And detail in the face, hair and clothing in close-ups was excellent, as was facial modeling.
In a Discovery HD documentary, How the Universe Works, the black sky was wonderfully dark, with objects like planets and nebulae standing out convincingly. In a Toronto Blue Jays game in HD, there was great texture in the players' uniforms, and wonderful colour and skin tones in close-ups.
Watching in 3D
Sharp includes two pairs of 3D glasses with its 52- and 60-inch 3D Quattrons. The glasses have a unique feature: a 2D/3D switch. With the 2D setting, the glasses simply show the same image to both eyes. When playing a 3D program, one viewer can watch in 3D and another in 2D.
When you play a 3D Blu-ray disc, the TV detects the 3D content, and instructs you to put on your 3D glasses. With 3D programming recorded onto my Rogers Cable HD PVR, I had to invoke 3D viewing by pressing the 3D button on the remote and selecting side-by-side format (the 3D format used for FIFA World Cup final). In 3D, the TV automatically goes into Standard 3D mode, presumably to achieve greater light output to compensate for the darkening effect of the glasses. But you can also select Movie 3D or Game 3D modes.
Along with this 60-inch TV, I checked out Sharp's new 3D-compatible Blu-ray player, the BD-HP80U ($400). It would not play the 3D version of Coraline on Blu-ray but had no problem with Ice Age 3, which was a joyous romp in 3D. The big cliff scenes were deliciously three-dimensional.
The 3D HD broadcast of the FIFA World Cup was certainly compelling, with long shots from the centre having extra depth, and the dramatic corner and behind-the-goal shots having lots of pop. But there was visible blurring in both the ball and moving players, caused presumably by crosstalk between the left- and right-eye images.
Of course, 3D is still a work in progress. Sharp's LC-60LE925 produces very enjoyable 3D images. For 2D HDTV, which is what viewers will be watching almost all of the time, it's absolutely stellar.
Sharp Aquos Quattron LC-60LE925UN
Quattron technology delivers glowing colour
Neat 2D/3D option on 3D glasses
Deep (though not perfect) blacks
Very mild hotspotting around edge of screen
Some ghosting on 3D video
NUTS & BOLTS
Screen size: 60 inches
Screen technology: LCD with LED edge illumination
Resolution: 1,920x1,080 pixels
Specified contrast ratio: 8,000,000:1 (dynamic)
Specified response time: 4msec.
Technical amenities: 3D-capable (comes with two pairs of 3D glasses), Quattron four-colour technology, AquoMotion 240, Aquos Net network-TV features
Video inputs: HDMI 1.4 (4), wideband component video, composite video, VGA (computer)
Size: 143.8 x 91.3 x 4 cm (w/h/d, without stand); 143.8 x 97.5 x 36.8 cm (w/h/d, with stand)
Weight: 47kg (without stand); 58kg (with stand)