Sharp is the TV maker that really differs from the rest in that Sharp is the one TV maker that continues to push massive LED backlit LCD TVs — offering mid-tier featured HDTVs in sizes up to even 90-inch!
So far, such massive TV sizes were only available either through one of Mitsubishi’s latest DLP rear projection TVs as further detailed in our ‘Rear Projection TV Reviews’ section of the site, or through a front projection setup. It is not the scope of this write-up to discuss the pros and cons of each, but if what you want is a massive LED TV, Sharp has a few available options for you; and thanks to Sharp’s most aggressive pricing policy, these massive LED TVs are more affordable than you can think!
In this LED TV review, we discuss Sharp most interesting large TV options for 2012; you may join this discussion by filling the submission form at the end of this article.
2012 Sharp LED TVs: A compact lineup of large HDTVs
For 2012, Sharp is offering thirteen new models spread over seven series. What is rather unique is that ten of these sets are 60-inch or larger HDTVs. Equally remarkable is that four of these large LED TVs come in a 70-inch screen size, and this apart from two massive size HDTVs, an 80-inch and a 90-inch.
The latter two are as far as we know, the only massive LED TVs within this size category presently available for the home market. Both LED TVs make use of a full LED array backlight — with the 90-inch using some 500 LEDs — but without local dimming technology. The scope here is to ensure more uniform screen brightness across the entire screen area, something that would be impossible to achieve using standard edge-lit LED backlight technology at these massive screen sizes.
But nothing is perfect; the drawback of such a backlight is a thicker panel profile, even though at just over 4.5-inch, we still think that these LED TVs are relatively thin for such a massive display size.
Sincerely, we are a bit skeptical about opting for such massive size TVs, irrespective of whether this is one of the more affordable Mitsubishi DLP rear projection TVs, or an 80-inch or 90-inch Sharp LED TV.
Apart from the fact that at 40% the price of the Sharp 90-inch LED TV, you can enjoy a 100-inch front projection setup using one of the latest 3D-enabled 1080p video projectors, with a good projector like the Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 5010, you would also enjoy a more cinema-like picture with better uniformity than that possible with the 90-inch Sharp LED TV. However, it is an undeniable fact that these massive Sharp LED TVs have their advantages. Most important, they support a brighter picture than the projector based solution; rather, even with a really powerful projector, it would be hard to attain the same image brightness as instead is possible with a LED TV at such a massive screen size.
This makes the LED TV option suitable for big screen entertainment under bright-room viewing, an application where no front projection setup would be able to deliver the best picture.
Demanding home theater enthusiast would tell you that as with movie theaters, massive displays are best enjoyed in a darkened room. This is true, but if you have $11,000 to spare and want to enjoy your big screen entertainment over a 90-inch TV with your family and friends in a bright room, nothing beats the 90-inch LC-90LE745U Sharp LED TV proposal!
The new 2012 Sharp LED TV Lineup in detail…
Unlike most LED TVs from the big in the TV market, Sharp LED TVs take a rather minimalistic approach not only in the set design but also in the features on offer. Unless you opt for the exorbitantly expensive Sharp Elite series, Sharp mainstream LED TVs offer just basic features, even though you would still get the most important features — like extensive user adjustable picture controls, Sharp Smart TV suite, and 3D on selected models.
This minimalistic feature set is the result of Sharp aggressive pricing policy, which keeps pushing large LED TVs at relatively affordable prices — targeting mainly the general consumer who wants to go BIG. This also explains why Sharp mainstream LED TVs do not make use of the more sophisticated intelligent LED backlight systems with zone or local dimming found on the competition, but instead settles either for standard edge-lit LED backlights with no zone dimming, or for the cheaper and easier to implement full LED array backlights with no local dimming. It is as if Sharp is simply replacing the CCFL backlight on standard LCD TVs with an equally dumb LED backlight.
This partly explains why Sharp LED TVs generally fail to match the black level of the competition. However, despite this lighter black level, we still think 2012 Sharp LED TVs make for a strong proposition for anyone who wants to go big, with sets such as the 60-inch LC-60LE640U being among the best-value options in this respect.
Entry-Level Sharp LED TVs
At the entry-level, one finds 4-Series, 5-Series and 6-Series 2D LED TVs. These are basic entry-level LED TVs with the E440U covering just a 32-inch set, the LE540U series covering 42-inch to 46-inch HDTVs while LE640U 6-Series HDTVs covering 52-inch, 60-inch and 70-inch sets. This means that there are no repeated screen sizes at the entry-level category, with each series continuing where the former series stops.
Main difference between entry-level and mid-range premium series is that entry-level series do not make use of Sharp patent four-color pixel Quattron display technology with its ‘questionable’ picture improvement. We say questionable because the extra yellow pixel used in Sharp Quattron displays, while increasing the number of supported colors, also introduces errors in the overall color accuracy.
The E440U is a 720p 60Hz LED TV. Apart from 1080p resolution, main upgrades over for E540U and E640U series Sharp LED TVs are 120Hz refresh rate technology and Sharp Smart TV suite. However, the 120Hz refresh rate panels on the E540U and E640U do not get Sharp AquoMotion backlight scanning refresh rate technology. This, together with Sharp Quattron and 3D are reserved for the more expensive series. This means that unless you want 3D, and as long as a 60-inch or 70-inch LED TV suffices for your needs, the E640U series is the best option for overall value among the 2012 Sharp LED TV lineup.
Sharp E640U LED TVs
The E640U is basically the E540U but with an improved display panel called X-Gen LCD panel which is said to deliver improved picture quality. We did not review the E540U Sharp LED TVs, so we cannot say what is the actual improvement in picture quality but the E640U supports a surprisingly solid 2D picture at this price category.
All other features are the same as the E540U and include standard edge-lit LED backlight, a matte screen that is capable of doing a great job under bright lighting, 120Hz panel, built-in Wi-Fi and Sharp Smart Central suite.
The latter includes Netflix and Hulu Plus, and makes use of a relatively simple interface — which is good; but then the Sharp Smart TV suite falls short in terms of services offered with respect to the competition. One other difference between the E540U and the E640U is that the latter comes with enhanced connectivity options.
These Sharp LED TVs offer a surprisingly solid 2D picture quality — better than the LE745U 3D TV series — coupled with accurate colors and an extensive suite of picture controls. Like most 2012 LED HDTVs within this class, these Sharp HDTVs deliver a rather lighter shade of black and suffer from picture uniformity issues.
The Bottom Line: At $1,500 for the 60-inch Sharp LC-60LE640U, these Sharp LED TVs represent a most valid LED TV option that is in line with corresponding 60-inch plasma HDTVs pricing; together with the 52-inch LC-52LE640U, these HDTVs represent among the most valid Sharp LED TVs for 2012.
Sharp Mid-range and Premium LED TV Series
LE745U Sharp LED TVs
Next in line is 7-Series with its 60-inch LC-60LE745U and the 70-inch LC-70LE745U HDTVs. The LE745U is also the series that includes the largest LED TV ever produced for the home market, the 90-inch set already referred to above; the latter is selling at close to $11,000.
Main upgrade over 6-Series HDTVs is 3D and the new ultra-slim bezel with a stylish black aluminum finish. Otherwise, the LE745 series carries the same features as the less expensive LE640U HDTVs. Both also come with the same X-Gen LCD display and so one expects similar picture quality. The surprise here is that despite the more aggressive dynamic contrast ratio rating of the E745U series, Sharp’s mid-range series somehow fails to deliver a picture that is at least as good as the cheaper LE640U series!
The reason is that the E745U has a lighter shade of black, worse picture uniformity and less accurate color at a price that is some $200 (at the 60-inch) more than the 2D series! To complicate matters, tweaking the picture on the E745U for the best setting is a rather difficult task as the set advanced picture controls are not as responsive as on Sony or Samsung HDTVs. In addition, the Sharp video processing — while clean — at times fails to correctly handling 1080p/24 content, with slight jerkiness present in certain scenes.
On a positive note, Sharp E745U HDTVs are capable of accurate colors, and like the E640U, their matte screen works well under bright room conditions. In addition, the E745U design delivers a sense of class that E640U Sharp LED TVs lack.
The Bottom Line: The E745U series represents affordable large 3D LED TV options for general home entertainment. However, with a worst 2D picture than the cheaper E640U series, Sharp E745U series LED TVs fail to get our recommendation as a large TV option — at least unless you definitely want 3D.
LE844U and LE847U Sharp LED TVs
Next in line is Sharp 8-Series 3D LED TVs with the 60-inch and 70-inch LE847U, and the 80-inch LE844 HDTVs.
Main difference between these two series is the presence of a full LED array backlight (but without local dimming) on the LE844 instead of the edge LED backlight found on LE847 HDTVs. This should lead to a more uniform light level across the full 80-inch screen than that possible with Edge-LED technology. However, at almost 4-inch deep, this LED backlight arrangement also leads to a thicker TV profile that may not be exactly to your liking. After all, LED TVs are meant to be thin — at least in the minds of many — but not with these Sharp LED TVs! At the same time, one has to admit that for an 80-inch TV, the Sharp 80-inch LE844 HDTV is still relatively thin.
This is the series that offers a few important picture quality related upgrades over less expensive 7-Series, with the most important being the use of a 240Hz native rate panel; the Sharp LE844U also gets Sharp AquoMotion 480 LED backlight scanning technology.
Other enhancements found on both 8-Series Sharp LED TVs include the presence of Sharp Aquos Quattron-Quad Pixel Plus II display panel technology with its extra yellow sub-pixel in addition to the standard red, blue and green; this leads to a wider color gamut and supposedly more accurate color. This new display panel is said to take advantage of the Quattron four-pixel technology to smooth resolution – an enhancement which did prove almost impossible to perceive on equivalent 2011 Sharp LED TVs. Other features are the same as 7-Series LED TVs.
These LED TVs are capable of a brighter picture while consuming less power.
We did not carry a hands-on review of this series nor come across professional LCD TV reviews, but we expect these Sharp LED TVs to deliver improved picture over the less expensive series with better color accuracy once calibrated; this should not be difficult to achieve taken the extensive suit of user adjustable picture controls. Be aware however that past Sharp Quattron LED TVs did not prove to be great performers especially when it comes to deep blacks, delivering average black levels with respect to premium LED TVs from the competition. Yet, these Sharp LED TVs are still earning among the best consumer ratings, with consumers hailing both the TV picture quality and these sets features.
The Bottom Line: Again, as with the rest of the Sharp lineup, these TVs come at a price that at under $2,000 for the 60-inch LC-60LE847 HDTV, are more in line with plasma pricing than LED TVs, making these HDTVs among the best 3D LED TV options for overall value. Best selling model within the series is the 70-inch LC-70LE847U, which at under $2,900 represents an interesting massive screen TV for 3D home entertainment.
Which is the Best Sharp LED TV for 2012?
There is no doubt that despite the enhanced features found on Sharp premium LED TVs, it is the 60-inch Sharp LC-60LE640U the one that delivers the best overall value thanks to a price that is more within that of plasma HDTV pricing than LED TVs. At this cheaper price, the E640U delivers a solid 2D picture within the limitations of standard edge-lit LED backlights, and a Smart TV suite with a relatively simple to use interface.
Instead, if you want to go bigger and enjoy 3D, then it is the Sharp 70-inch LC-70LE847U 3D TV the one that takes our preference — delving superior picture quality, enhanced features and improved styling at an online price that is just $150 to $200 more than the 70-inch LE640U mid-range equivalent!