Sharp may have invented LCD technology back in the early seventies, but the company has had a choppy run in the global market. Often, it seemed to be content making me-too screens. That changed earlier this year with the introduction of its Quad pixel (aka Quattron) TV range.
Quattron adds a yellow subpixel to the usual RGB array that goes to make up our telly pictures. The promise was better colour reproduction, particularly with yellow (unsurprisingly). Suddenly Sharp was back on the TV technology map.
Now it's added Active Shutter 3D to the mix, and we got to spend some quality time with its upcoming 60-inch model at this year's IFA tech show, the monstrous 60-inch LE925E.
Sharp tells us that the UK will only see the 60-inch version featured here, although a 42-inch model will be available in the rest of Europe. The reason the smaller model is not heading to the UK is that neither size has a Freeview HD tuner. Sharp reasons (probably correctly) that the lack of Freeview HD on the larger set is less of a hindrance.
It's not just about 3D
The LC-60LE925E isn't just about 3D. It's also got an eye on the 'net, thanks to Aquos Net+. This means armchair access to YouTube, eBay and Facebook. An embedded Opera browser also means you can meander about the web. It's actually licensed from Philips, so it's the same offering you'll find on its TVs.
Helpfully, the screen is also DLNA compliant, so it can see and play audio and video files from a networked attached device. We are told that file support extends to DivX HD and hi-def MKVs, but were unable to test this for ourselves during our hands on session.
Build quality of the LC-60LE925E is good, and there's plenty of little touches that fashionistas are certain to like. A distinctive arrow head accent glows blue beneath the screen and looks rather swish, while a suite of touch panel controls sit to the right of the bezel. The screen is super-slim given its size, but sports a healthy array of connections, including USB, Ethernet, PC input, four HDMIs and a CI slot. There's also a digital audio output and an adaptor for RGB Scart.
Picture quality is terrific. As a Full HD, 2D model, this screen can be considered outstanding. Black levels are phenomenal and colour fidelity is bleeding edge. There are no banding issues, meaning its pictures have an almost photorealistic integrity. One telling sequence during Sharp's demo footage was of moodily lit brass instruments. The dynamics of the image and the realistic golden hues were amazing (for what it's worth, these sequences were played off Sharp's new vertical-standing Blu-ray player, the BD-HP905).
The set's colour performance continues to impress in 3D. Rival sets have shown a tendency to shed colour when filtered through 3D glasses. This seemed less of a problem here. Sharp's glasses (there's one pair bundled with every set) also proved to be quite benign when it came to light transmission. Donning them didn't appear to herald the usual dark and stormy night. Sharp's proprietary UV2A LCD screen tech, which ensures maximum brightness and visual snap, undoubtedly helps. When playing 3D material, the screen is automatically made 1.8 times brighter, without increasing power consumption.
A new 3D trick
The set also features one trick we've not seen before: dual 2D/3D viewing. If one of your mates doesn't want to watch a show in 3D, but the rest of your group does, he can toggle his glasses to convert a 3D image back to 2D. He'll still need the glasses to watch, but his viewing experience will be flat.
The screen also offers on the fly 2D-to-3D conversion. Given the paucity of material currently available, this is a welcome feature addition.
The 60-inch screen size is near perfect for cinematic 3D viewing. Panasonic's 65-inch VT20 model boasts some extra girth, but at a significantly higher cost. However, Sharp's claims that Quattron tech lessens 3D crosstalk (double imaging) prove optimistic. We spotted several tell-tale examples of crosstalk (masts of a sailing yacht being one salty example) which put this screen in the same boat as rivals from Samsung and Sony. The effect is not immediately distracting but if you look, you'll find it.
What's the deal with the extra yellow pixel?
Does the yellow pixel make a difference to the picture? While fields of sunflowers look extraordinarily vivid, the real benefit lies in the unusual lustre of the overall image, rather than any particular custardy perk. This overall richness works with both 2D and 3D presentations. We’re not sure if the colour palette totally naturalistic, but it sure looks pretty.
We think Sharp could be onto a real winner with the LC-60LE925E. The tidy design, competitive price and excellent image quality make it a tempting buy for those looking for a monster screen. The 3D just comes as an added bonus.