Sharp has always been a leader in LCD technology, and the company's newest generation of panels has some of the most impressive specs we've seen yet, including a 10,000:1 contrast ratio. That's a laughably high number on paper, but does it translate into better picture quality in the real world? After testing the Sharp LC-46D62U, we can affirm that yes, indeed it does. This 46-inch, 1080p, flat-panel LCD reproduced a deeper color of black--and thus a better contrast ratio--than any non-CRT HDTV we've ever tested, whether plasma, LCD, or rear-projection. That's all well and good, but in the Sharp's case, those deep blacks come at a price: Its color temperature and screen uniformity are worse than most LCDs we've reviewed, and that's enough to keep it out of the ranks of the elite models on the market.
Editor's Note: This review has been changed since its original publication. Further testing has revealed that the television exhibited uniformity issues, which manifested as horizontal and vertical bands across the screen that we did not notice during initial testing. As a result, the performance score has been lowered from a "7" to a "6" and the overall score was recalculated.
The Sharp LC-46D62U turns in a whole new design direction for the company's Aquos line of LCDs. Gone are the cookie-cutter silver-and titanium-frames; this 46-inch screen is wreathed entirely in glossy black, the fingerprint-friendly flat-panel flavor of the year. The bezel around the top and sides is of average thickness, while below the screen it widens and assumes a chrome-lined curve along the bottom edge, like a Mona Lisa's smile. Below Sharp's subtle grin, the cabinet turns gray and perforated, concealing the speakers, then ends above a pair of glossy black legs that flow into the matching base. Overall, the look is slick yet classy and definitely differentiates the LC-46D62U from the run of HDTVs available today.
Measuring 44.4 by 31.1 by 12.2 inches WHD atop the stand and weighing 78.3 pounds, the Sharp LC-46D62U is about average size for a 46-inch LCD. You can, of course, separate it from the 10-pound stand for wall-mounting, causing its dimensions to shrink to 44.4 by 28.7 by 4.9 inches.
Sharp's long remote will be familiar to anyone who's played with an Aquos set in the last couple of years. It has full orange backlighting, the ability to command four other pieces of gear, keys that are nicely spread out and well differentiated, and a generally logical button layout. We say "generally" because the key controlling aspect ratio is stashed clear at the top of the long wand, the one for freezing the image is given an unduly important spot near the main directional keypad, and the one for changing picture modes is hidden beneath a flip-up hatch. The menu system is simple enough to navigate and includes helpful explanations that appear along the bottom. We didn't appreciate the delay of a second or so that occurred between us pressing the Menu key and the menu actually appearing, however.The 46-inch Sharp LC-46D62U has 1080p native resolution, the highest available today, meaning that its 1,920x1,080 pixels are capable of resolving every detail of a 1080i or 1080p source. All sources, whether they're high-def, DVD, standard-def, or arrive from a computer, are scaled to fit the pixels.
Speaking of fitting the pixels, the LC-46D62U is one of an increasing number of LCDs that offer an aspect ratio control that perfectly maps the incoming image to the screen without any overscan. We recommend going with this mode, dubbed Dot-by-Dot by Sharp, unless you see interference along the edge, in which case the TV lets you select from among three other modes. Standard-def sources allow four modes.
The LC-46D62U's array of conveniences neglects to include picture-in-picture, which is a bummer for folks who enjoy trying to pay attention to two programs at once. A freeze-frame mode is available however, along with an ATSC tuner to catch over-the-air digital and HDTV signals. On the other hand there's no CableCard slot, and though that means you're out of luck if you want to ditch the cable box, we don't consider it a serious omission.
The Sharp has fewer picture controls than many high-end HDTVs, but there are still a decent number of options. You can choose from a generous six picture presets: Dynamic, Dynamic (fixed), Standard, Movie, Game, and PC, five of which can be adjusted. There's also a User setting that allows you to set different parameters for each input independently. A lot of LCDs offer the ability to fine-tune the color-temperature control, and it would have been especially welcome with the LC-46D62U since none of the five presets came very close to the standard (see Performance). On the plus side, we loved the wide range of the 32-step backlight control.
Among other picture-affecting features, the OPC is a room-lighting sensor that automatically adjusts the picture based on ambient light--we left it off for critical viewing. There's a black-level expansion setting that we set to On because it produced more natural shadow detail (a slower rise from dark to lighter). Another setting called Fine Motion is said to optimize the image for fast-moving objects, although we could detect no difference between the settings with normal program material. Finally, there's a Film mode setting to engage 2:3 pull-down.
Around back you'll find an average crop of jacks, starting with a pair of 1080p-compatible HDMI inputs. Two of the analog inputs offer a choice of component or composite video, and the third that gives the option of composite or S-Video. There's an RF input for antenna sources, an analog audio output, and an optical digital audio out to handle the surround soundtracks of over-the-air HD programs.
One missing link is a dedicated computer input. If you want to connect a PC to the Sharp, you'll have to use a DVI output and monopolize one of the TV's HDMI inputs. Update: Although the manual indicates that the set can only handle 1,280 by 1,024 via HDMI, we connected a PC and were able to feed the TV a full 1,920 by 1,080 signal. We also missed having a front- or side-panel set of A/V inputs.
Note that Sharp also makes a 52-inch version that's identical in all other respects, the LC-52D62U. The picture quality of the Sharp LC-46D62U is impressive in terms of the deep black levels it can deliver, but we found that its screen uniformity (update) and color accuracy left a lot to be desired. That's why it scored lower in this area than some of the best LCDs out there, such as Sony's KDL-XBR2 series and the Samsung LN-S4096D.
We began as usual by adjusting the Sharp LC-46D62U for optimal picture quality in our dark lab. We did not perform a service-level calibration on the LC-46D62U, but for our full user-menu settings, you can check out Tips & Tricks above.