Last year Sharp made a splash with ads featuring Star Trek's Mr. Sulu--George Takei--comically extolling the virtues of a technology called Quattron. With the memorable "Oh, myyy" tagline, the spots attempted to convince TV buyers that the technology, which adds a fourth yellow subpixel to the standard array of red, green, and blue, improved color fidelity. Despite covering the launch in-depth we never reviewed one of those 2010 TVs, but after spending some time with the 2011 version, represented by the LC-LE830U series, we're a bit less impressed than Sulu was.
If you calibrate the LC-LE830U series properly--something we do with every TV we review--the yellow pixel has no major impact, positive or negative, on picture quality. What will have a negative impact for critical viewers are the set's lighter black levels and subpar screen uniformity. We appreciate some aspects of its performance, as well as a feature set with Wi-Fi and best-in-class product support, but in the end the LC-LE830U does little to stand above the tough competition in the edge-lit LED-based LCD TV category.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 60-inch Sharp LC-60LE830U, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality. Most of the picture quality comments can also be applied to the LC-60LE832U, which is identical except for having a 240Hz refresh rate instead of the 830U's 120Hz.
|Models in series (details)|
|Sharp LC-40LE830U||40 inches|
|Sharp LC-46LE830U||46 inches|
|Sharp LC-52LE830U||52 inches|
|Sharp LC-60LE830U (reviewed)||60 inches|
|Panel depth||1.62 inches||Bezel width||1 inch|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
While admirably compact with its thin bezel and panel, the LC-LE830U looks a bit generic. Its design consists of rounded corners, a glossy black frame, and a silvery bar below the frame on the bottom edge. One accent is provided by an illuminated ^ directly below the Sharp logo--it reminded us of the Star Trek insignia--that can be set to turn on or off depending on the TV's own power-on state.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||9.4 x 1.9 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 apps.
Sharp's 2011 menu system had been redesigned to appear above and 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||Edge-lit|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: IP Control; Aquos Advantage Live help and remote troubleshooting.|
Sharp's main differentiating feature is Quattron, a proprietary modification of the panel design used by nearly all LCDs (both LED-based and otherwise), plasmas, monitors, projectors, smartphones, and so on. 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-LE830U is outfitted like a typical LED-based LCD, with an edge-lit LED backlight and 120Hz refresh rate. 3D is available on the company's step-up LC-LE835U series. One feature the LC-830U has over step-down models like the LC-LE831U series is 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 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, etc|
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.
Compared to the 2011 suites from Samsung, Sony and Panasonic, Sharp's is a step behind in terms of streaming content offerings (Amazon Instant and YouTube are the missing links) 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 don't allow you to watch TV while using them (the exception is a stock ticker. Standouts include Nova and Nature, with access to numerous full episodes of the PBS staples (albeit in painfully low quality), Wikipedia and a solid selection of podcasts. We love 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 ("Dexter," "True Blood," etc) 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, 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. Compared to Vudu Apps, however, the main Aquos Net apps seems 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|
The LC-LE830U isn't missing any major adjustments. We'd appreciate the ability to tweak dejudder beyond the two presets, but we'll take a color management system, especially one that works as well as Sharp's, over that extra any day. We like that the OPC ambient light sensor is prominently displayed in the main picture menu, and that Netflix and Vudu allow full picture control.