Unless you have $22,000 or more to spend, the 70-inch Sharp LC-70LE732U is the biggest flat-panel TV you can buy today--the competition maxes out at 65 inches. Moreover, it's a pretty good deal by giant-TV standards, available for less than $3,000 at press time. Sure, rear-projection models offer more screen size for the buck, but judging from past testing, they can't match the picture quality or design of this Sharp. The fact that it's one of the most popular TVs on CNET this summer proves that huge TVs are gaining mainstream appeal.
Compared with the better big plasmas, the LC-70LE73U series won't perform as well in the dark confines of a home theater, but the brighter the room, the more its light output advantage shines through. At these screen sizes energy efficiency is also an issue, and this 70-inch LED is a miser compared with power-hungry plasmas. No, it's not for everyone, but if you have at least 9 feet of space between your TV wall and your couch, and crave the immersion that only a huge screen can deliver, the Sharp LC-70LE73U series is worth a look.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the Sharp LC-70LE732U, but this review also applies to the other 70-inch Sharp TV listed below. The TVs have nearly identical specs and should provide very similar picture quality. The main difference is that the 733 and 734 have 240Hz refresh rates and the 732 has a rate of 120Hz (the 733 and 734 also have a different trim color and the 733 is missing a couple of minor features). See below for more details.
This review does not apply to the 60-inch LC-60LE632U, which uses edge-lit LED technology and will have different picture quality from the 70-inch models. Nor does it apply to the 3D LC-70LE735U, although we expect its 2D picture quality to be very similar to our findings below.
|Models in series (details)|
|Sharp LC-70LE732U (reviewed)||70 inches|
|Sharp LC-70LE733U||70 inches|
|Sharp LC-70LE734U||70 inches|
|Panel depth||3.5 inches||Bezel width||1.7 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||No|
The first thing you're likely to notice about the Sharp LC-70LE73U series is its sheer size. The screen measures 2.85 by 5.1 feet, nearly 2,100 square inches in area--compared with a mere 1,800 square inches for those pipsqueak 65-inch TVs. Even when displaying old 4:3 TV shows with letterbox bars on either side, the active picture area on the Sharp measures 57 inches on the diagonal.
The rest of the TV's design seems intended to escape notice, and that's not a bad thing. We described the LC-LE830U series as "a bit generic," and its big brother follows suit. The LC-70LE732U is mostly glossy black, with a medium-size bezel, slightly rounded-off corners, and a strip of silver trim along the bottom edge (the 733 and 734 have a darker trim color). Once you peel off the stickers you're left with just the Sharp and Aquos logos in addition to an illuminated caret (it can be turned off) in the bottom center that reminded us of the "Star Trek" insignia.
As a full-array LED (see below) the LC-70LE73U can't achieve the thinness of its edge-lit brethren, but its size still makes its 3.5-inch depth seem slim enough when seen in profile. It's also not too heavy for such a large TV, coming in at 92.6 pounds. Sharp's matching stand doesn't swivel but does keep an admirably low profile.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||9.4x1.9 inches||QWERTY keyboard||No|
|Illuminated keys||No||IR device control||No|
|Menu item explanations||Yes||Onscreen manual||Yes|
|Other: Three programmable 'Fav App' keys on remote|
Thinner and longer than most clickers, Sharp's 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 applications.
Sharp's 2011 menu system has been redesigned to appear above and to the right of the live image. Unfortunately for calibrators, the menu design can interfere more than normal with center-screen measurements, making setup more tedious than it needs to be. On the plus side, the menus are clear and respond quickly, and we appreciated the full manual--a carbon copy of the PDF version, complete with table of contents--available in the Aquos Advantage help section along with a glossary and FAQ.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Full-array|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz or 240Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: IP Control; Aquos Advantage Live help and remote troubleshooting.|
The LC-70LE73U series is the only TV on the market to feature a full-array LED backlight without local dimming (more info). It doesn't get the benefits of local dimming's improved contrast and black level, but it also avoids the uniformity problems of an edge-lit LED.
Like most other Sharp LCDs the LC-70LE73U has Quattron, a proprietary modification of the panel design used by nearly all LCDs (both LED-based and otherwise), plasmas, monitors, projectors, and smartphones. All 1080p TVs have 1,920x1,080 pixels, which are typically composed of three subpixels, one each for red, green, and blue, that combine to form color. Quattron adds a fourth subpixel, yellow. You can check out our "Oh, myyy!" slideshow from 2010 for more information on the technology, which is largely unchanged this year, and the Performance section of this review for detailed tests.
Beyond that the LC-70LE73U is outfitted like a typical midrange LCD TV. Again, the 732U model has a 120Hz refresh rate, while the 733 and 734 models get 240Hz (more info). That's the main difference between the three models, so we don't consider the 733 and 734 models worth the extra money. Active 3D is available on the company's step-up LC-70LE735U. All models aside from the 733 feature Quad Pixel Plus, another Quattron-derived mode said to improve apparent resolution and smooth diagonal lines.
A couple of other extras are unique to Sharp. IP control (again absent from the 733) 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 we described in 2009.
|Streaming and apps|
|Amazon Instant||No||Hulu Plus||No|
|Other: Blockbuster, CinemaNow, Alphaline, Napster streaming; Widgets include NBC Sports, WeatherBug, MSNBC News, Picasa, FrameChannel, and Navteq traffic; Vudu apps include Facebook, Pandora, Wikipedia, The New York Times news clips|
Like most other TV makers, Sharp improved its Internet suite significantly for 2011. The main Apps menu appears as a strip overlaid along the bottom of the screen, and in addition to the streaming options it provides a shortcut to Aquos Net (with widgets like news, weather, photos, and traffic), Aquos Advantage Live, and USB and DLNA access.
Sharp's suite is a step behind the 2011 suites from Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic in terms of streaming-content offerings (Amazon Instant and YouTube are missing) and design--although Sharp does get the newer Netflix interface with search and a browsing grid. The addition of Vudu Apps makes up for a lot, but unfortunately it resides in a completely separate interface with many apps (Twitter and Picasa, for example) that duplicate ones found in Aquos Net.
Vudu's interface is clean and easy to navigate, and its apps are generally well-implemented, although they occupy the whole screen and so you can't watch TV while using them (the exception is a stock ticker). Standouts include access to numerous full episodes of PBS staples "Nova" and "Nature," albeit in painfully low quality; Wikipedia; and a solid selection of podcasts. We love the fact that apps show star ratings, although we couldn't figure out where they came from, and we wish categories were finer given the numerous choices. Check out the Vudu Apps site for a full listing of available apps, but know that most of the premium show-based apps (such as for "Dexter" and "True Blood") have clips and not full episodes.
The main Aquos Net interface, on the other hand, needs work. It occupies half the screen and widgets live in that "console," an arrangement that works fine but doesn't accommodate custom widget sizes. Worse, the widgets can be hard to find; the main "Add widgets" menu only lists a portion of those available, while the Aquos Network houses some more. The design seems outdated, the menus are crowded, and there's no obvious way to rearrange or customize widgets' placement in the console.
In Sharp's favor we liked having a traffic widget--still uncommon among TVs and a boon to commuters--and appreciated the quick response times throughout. Next to Vudu Apps, however, the main Aquos Net apps seem like a poorly executed afterthought.
|Adjustable picture modes||6||Fine dejudder control||No|
|Color temperature presets||5||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||5||Color management system||Yes|