If you're looking for a big-screen TV of 60 inches or above, then Sharp should be one of the first brands you consider. Last year's LC-LE640U was a very good combination of picture quality and value, and its replacement offers more of the same. In fact they're almost identical, and that's not a bad thing.
The 650 incorporates a couple of tweaks to the set's design and picture processing, as well as a few extra features. The highlights are an expanded Smart TV offering with Skype and Hulu Plus now standard, while in picture-quality terms both color and shadow detail get modest bumps. On the flipside, a smaller cabinet means sound quality is compromised a bit, and the TV's processing doesn't perform as well with interlaced content.
At its current price, the 650U is still a good deal, even if it does exact a bit of a premium over the likes of the Vizio E1i-A3 series, a worse performer that's still its principal current competition. I expect that competition to stiffen further over the next nine months as more makers enter the 60-inch-plus mainstream, but if last year is any indication, the Sharp 6 series will continue to remain one of the best values.
Update November 25, 2013: Due to a recent price drop, the Value rating on this TV had been increased from 8 to 9, improving the overall rating from 7.4 to 7.8. The review has not otherwise been modified.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 60-inch Sharp LC-60LE650, but this review also applies to the other screen size in the series. Both sizes have identical specs, and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
Part of my setup involved placing the LE650 alongside last year's LE640, and once I did so, the differences between the two units became apparent. The The LE650 has a much thinner bezel -- especially on the bottom -- and thus it appears to sort of squat on its stand. What has the company excised in order to deliver a shorter TV overall? The speakers have been moved from below the screen, and instead fire toward the back.
The remote control that the company popped in the box is the same as last year's, with a bunch of handy shortcut buttons at the bottom you can customize for your favorite Smart TV services.
Apart from a new SmartCentral page, Sharp's menu system is identical to those of previous years. Navigation is top-loaded and scrolls left to right, and it is fairly easy to find the things you need.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|Screen finish||Matte||Remote||Universal (3 devices)|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate(s)||120Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
Features The 650 series is Sharp's entry-level model and does without some of the more involved features like a 240Hz refresh rate, 3D compatibility, and the four-color Quattron system found on step-up 2013 models like the 7 series and 8 series. The TV has an edge-lit display but lacks local dimming, and I wouldn't be surprised if only the electronics (and not the LCD panel itself) received an upgrade over the LE640. Other features include USB and DLNA media playback and built-in Wi-Fi.
The LE650 sports a new "Wallpaper Mode" that can display preinstalled artwork or photos from a USB drive when the unit is powered down. It's a nice touch, and the muted backlight level makes the image look less like a TV left turned on and more like room decor. Sharp assures us the power draw is minimal.
A carry-over from previous years is Sharp's excellent live help service, Aquos Advantage. Included is a full onscreen manual, complete with a table of contents.
Smart TV: If there's one major change to this TV, it's better brains. While only select Sharp models from last year got the full Smart TV suite, in 2013 it has now been rolled out to the entire range -- with the exception of the 50-inch 6 series. Every other 2013 Sharp, including this one, can receive access to Hulu Plus, Pandora, and a Web browser in addition to old favorites like Netflix. Check out our 2012 chart for the full rundown of apps.
The TV now includes two smart modes too. Hit the Smart Central button and you'll see the marquee look of before, hit it again and you'll get a more traditional interface divvied up into categories -- video, music, games etc. Like most Smart TVs the games aren't much chop, and Sharp hasn't yet erected a store to buy new ones.