Times are tough enough for Sharp without having to convince people to pay extra for esoteric add-ons like 240Hz, 3D, and Quattron's extra yellow pixel. But that's exactly what the company is trying to do with the LC-LE847U. It costs hundreds more than Sharp's step-down sets, including the highly recommended LC-LE640U series, and occupies the same size range as Vizio's lower-priced, entirely decent E601i-A3 series. Meanwhile, if you consider 3D a must-have feature, the company's own LC-LE745U is a much better value. Compared with those LED TVs, not to mention the numerous plasmas that outperform it by a country mile, the Sharp LC-LE847U just can't compete.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 60-inch Sharp LC-60LE847U, but this review also applies to the 70-inch LC-70LE847U. The two TVs have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
Externally there's almost nothing that separates the LE847U from its less-expensive brother the LE745U, and both look very businesslike. I appreciate the narrow frame around the image -- which does thicken up a bit along the bottom -- and its matte-black coloring. That frame is, unusually, made of actual metal, for a higher-end yet still understated feel. The corners have little plastic bumpers that unfortunately spoil its shape a bit, but are probably there to prevent freak accidents caused by the sharp corners.
Unlike the stand of the even-less-expensive LE640U, the LE847U's has a swivel on the 60-inch version (not the 70-inch, however) and a textured matte finish on the base. The LE847U is definitely a nicer-looking TV on the outside, but the improvements are subtle.
All three Sharps come with essentially the same remote. Thinner and longer than most clickers, the 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. Another, new for 2012, is the big red Netflix button. The remote can control three other devices directly via infrared.
Sharp didn't change much about the menu system from last year, and it's serviceable if unremarkable. Navigating among the choices along the main top strip could be snappier, and I prefer overlays to Sharp's method of reducing the picture size to make room for its menus.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit|
|Screen finish||Matte||Remote||Universal (three devices)|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||Active||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate(s)||240Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other: Quattron 4-color sub-pixel system; optional active 3D glasses (model AN3DG20B, $50); optional Skype camera/speakerphone (Freetalk for Sharp, $130); Aquos Advantage Live Internet-connected live help and troubleshooting, IP control|
As Sharp's top-of-the-line TV the LC-LE847U gets plenty of extras, if not as many as some other brands' flagships. It's the only one with an extra subpixel, however. Quattron technology, which first debuted in 2010, adds a fourth, yellow subpixel to the usual trio of red, green, and blue. I won't spend a lot of time talking about it here because all you need to know is that it has little real effect (positive or negative) on picture quality, at least as we test for it. If you're curious check out the company's 2010 presentation; the technology hasn't changed much since then. The only other step-up over the LE745U is a 240Hz refresh rate.
Sharp doesn't include the active 3D glasses necessary to view 3D sources on this TV, and since it lacks compatibility with the full HD 3D standard, your most economical recourse is Sharp's AN3DG20B glasses, which cost $50 a pair.
A couple of other features 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 I described in 2009. I appreciated the full onscreen manual -- exactly the same as the PDF version, complete with table of contents. Many makers today skimp by not including a full paper manual as well, but not Sharp.
Smart TV: The 847U series offers a few more apps than the step-down 640U models -- namely a Web browser, Hulu Plus, Skype, and Film Fresh. Sharp told me the 640U would not get these apps, nor would it receive the browser or gallery mode.
If you're comparing by content, Sharp falls short of most major-name competitors, as it's missing Amazon Instant and sports services like MLB.com. The company has improved the selection since I tested the LE745U in June, however, adding Pandora and Rhapsody, and providing easier access to Twitter, Facebook, Picasa, and Flickr by moving them from the Vudu apps interface (which is still available) to the main Smart Central hub.
The interface is clean and navigation was quick enough, if a bit sluggish compared with some other smart TVs. Hitting the Smart Central remote key summons a launcher bar along the bottom listing all of the "favorite" apps -- I liked that I could order them at will and delete unused ones. There's also a Gallery mode that lists all of the apps by category and allows you to add or delete them from the launcher.
The browser is, as usual, worse than any tablet, phone, or PC browser. The most annoying part -- and a deal-breaker for all but the most emergency, last-resort situations -- was having to use the normal TV remote control to navigate.
Picture settings: Five tweakable picture modes, a gamma slider, a full color management system, and both 2-point and 10-point grayscale controls make the LE847U as adjustable as TVs from LG and Samsung, and more so than Sony's lineup and most of Panasonic's. Unfortunately, the 10-point system didn't work well. New for 2012 is the option to tweak the strength of dejudder, but it just goes from really smooth to even smoother.