Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD 3D LED LCD HDTV Elite Tech: Old Is New
There’s a fair amount of cutting-edge technology in the new Elite HDTVs, but in many ways, these sets represent more of an evolution than a revolution. In sweeping terms, we’ve seen just about everything here before. Full-array LED backlights with local dimming aren’t new, and earlier Sharp-branded models have featured the company’s quad-pixel technology. But there’s no question that this no-holds-barred, nearly price-no-object execution is the best we’ve seen among LCDs. Here are some key highlights.
Gen-Ten UV2A Panel
As Tom notes in his text, Sharp is using what we believe to be hand-selected samples of its latest 10th-generation LCD panels in the Elite HDTVs. These tap the company’s ultraviolet-photosensitive production techniques to improve the positioning of the alignment film in the panel and increase the panel’s aperture ratio. Translation: They’ve improved the image fill factor and reduced the amount of light lost behind the grid lines between the pixels. The results are said to be reduced backlight leakage, which creates deeper blacks and more light pass-through with any given backlight—20 percent more, Sharp says, than conventional LCDs. This was clearly evident in our test sample’s hyper-bright 3D playback. In a press release from September 2009 that announced plans to incorporate UV2A into its next-generation LCD panels, the company said the technology should “be ideal for enhancing the performance of high-definition 4Kx2K displays and 3DTVs, which are expected to form the next generation of TVs.” Two years later, this new Elite line debuted.
Full-Array, Local-Dimming, LED Backlight
Full-array LED backlights that allow the backlight to be dimmed down to black or near black in areas of the picture that demand it provide far superior contrast to HDTVs with edge-lit LED backlights by delivering deep blacks without sacrificing bright highlights. But the large number of LEDs required and the high-level signal processing needed to manage them on the fly drives up the cost of both development and manufacture of these sets. This is where the Elites seem to set themselves apart from local dimmers that have come before, and we suspect a chunk of the high ticket price can be found right here. Sharp hasn’t released or confirmed the figures, but sources have told us there are 240 dimming zones in the backlight grid in the 60-inch model and 336 in the 70-inch. While we can’t speak for other manufacturers, we’re guessing this is more than any other TV maker has put into a consumer HDTV to date. This higher-resolution backlight is very effectively managed by Sharp’s Intelligent Variable Contrast (IVC) processing. Along with the Gen-Ten panel, the combo produces the inkiest blacks and best contrast we’ve seen on a flat panel this side of a Pioneer Kuro.
As explained in our review, the Elites add a yellow subpixel to the red, green, and blue subpixels found in all other HDTVs. Tom found in his evaluation that the most obviously (and unnaturally) enhanced yellow and gold tones were associated with picture modes and IVC settings other than those he settled on as the most accurate. But this technology proved a modest plus overall.—Rob Sabin