The colours red, green and blue have been key to the production of TVs since polychromatic sets were first introduced. It's the same story whether you're looking at CRT, LCD or plasma TVs, and has been for a very long time. Now Sharp wants to upset the apple cart by adding a fourth colour -- yellow.
Sharp says you can expect this Quattron quad-pixel technology to deliver brighter, more colourful images. In this review of the 46-inch, 1080p, LED-backlit LC-46LE820E LCD TV, we'll tell you whether it's an essential feature, or just another gimmick designed to make you part with your cash. This TV bears a premium price tag, costing around £1,400.
Funky new styling
First of all -- can we get a hallelujah? Sharp has finally redesigned its remote control. After around 100 years of producing the same, oddly shaped mess, the company has introduced a slim and stylish new remote. It's a massive improvement.
Sharp has also revamped the rest of the TV's design too, and it's done a pretty good job. As with so many modern TVs, we could do without the illuminated logos, though. Amusingly, when you turn them off, via the menu system, the set warns you that you 'won't be able to tell if the TV is turned on'. We're pretty sure that we'll know if the TV is on, thanks to that gigantic, 46-inch glowing panel on the front. Thanks all the same, Sharp.
Overall, we like the LC-46LE820E's styling. It's thin, which we always like to see, and, on the bottom right of the TV, you'll find some touch-sensitive controls, which illuminate when you touch them. They're pretty basic, though, and will only be of use for the most simple of tasks.
Sharp's TV advert for this Quattron display technology proclaims: 'You have to see it, to see it.' Well, we have seen it, and, while we like this TV a great deal, we don't think the addition of a yellow sub-pixel is quite the game-changer that Sharp evidently does. The image is very colourful, but no more so than is the case with most of the LED-backlit LCD TVs we've seen.
As we understand it, though, adding this extra yellow component to the TV is quite likely to be beneficial in terms of displaying 3D content, which can have a detrimental effect on both colour and brightness. This TV isn't 3D-ready, but Sharp plans to launch models that are.
Sharp but not too sharp
In the past, we've disliked Sharp's image processing. Although we like a minimalist approach and as natural an image as possible, Sharp's TVs seemed to suffer when handling standard-definition material, with noticeable tearing effects on interlaced video.
Fortunately, the LC-46LE820E suffers from none of these problems. Sharp seems to have done a good job of retaining as much detail as possible, while keeping the picture free from nasty deinterlacing artefacts. With high-definition material, we found it desirable to bump the sharpness up by a couple of points, to bring out the maximum amount of detail. Be careful with the sharpness control though -- it will make your picture resemble a dog's dinner if you overdo it.
Menus with added style
The menu system and electronic programme guide have both changed on this TV too. The new layout makes far more use of the high resolution of modern TVs, fitting much more on the screen. Sharp's always done a good job of putting plenty of EPG data on-screen at once, but now you can see even more.
The menu layout is also much improved. You can configure the settings while still being able to watch the ever-present TV picture. This is especially handy when you're trying to get the image tweaked to perfection. The TV also lets you scale the menus back even further, should you want to see the TV image on the full screen while adjusting the settings.
The LC-46LE820E is one of the most configurable TVs we've seen, offering options for every conceivable adjustment known to mankind. This is good in some ways -- it enables you to fix Sharp's atrocious preset picture modes -- and bad in some ways -- you can make the picture look pretty dreadful if you get it wrong.
Change your image
If you judged this TV on its out-of-the-box performance, you'd probably be disappointed. The preset image modes are pretty bad -- we couldn't find one that accurately portrayed the material we watch on a daily basis. The good news is that, with some tweaking, you can make this TV look very appealing indeed.
Our Casino Royale Blu-ray disc looked very good. The colour and detail were both impressive, and the black levels were mostly decent. There were times, however, when we could see that the backlight wasn't providing perfectly even illumination across the whole screen. In most cases, this wasn't a problem, but it can be annoying. If this issue bothers you, we'd suggest you get a plasma TV, because all LCD sets suffer from this problem to some extent.
Freeview material from the built-in tuner also looked good, although this TV would be much improved if Sharp had included a Freeview HD receiver. The LE821 series, the next one up, has this feature, but it should be included across the range, as it is with TVs from Sharp's competitors. The LC-46LE820E bears a premium price tag, so a Freeview HD tuner really should be included.
Sound as a pound
We have to congratulate Sharp -- the audio from this TV's built-in speakers is about as crisp as we've heard from a flat-panel set. Sound from TV shows jumps out at you with remarkable clarity, and you shouldn't struggle to hear the dialogue on most shows. As usual, though, the bass isn't going to blow you away, so it's still worth investing in some sort of external speaker system if you want to watch plenty of movies.
The LC-46LE820E is able to play back video files from a USB stick. Like a few other new TVs, it can handle MKV files, and HD video too. We had varying amounts of success, noticing that high-bit-rate material wouldn't play. We also had no luck persuading the TV to accept DTS audio, but it was happy enough to decode Dolby Digital.
Photo and music playback are also supported, which is a welcome bonus. You can hook the TV up to your home network and grab media files from your computers too. We wouldn't suggest this functionality makes the TV a good replacement for a full-blown media streamer like a Popcorn Hour device, but it's suitable for occasional use.
We really like the Sharp Aquos LC-46LE820E. The lack of a Freeview HD tuner is a huge disappointment, but the TV manages to produce some very good picture and sound quality, and is generally pleasant to use. We remain sceptical about the value of the extra yellow component though, and certainly wouldn't pay a premium for its inclusion.
For around £1,400, the LC-46LE820E isn't all that much of a bargain. If you like the sound of this TV, then we'd say it's a good buy, but you might want to wait a few months for the price to drop slightly.
Edited by Charles Kloet