Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD 3D LED LCD HDTV Page 2

The Elite’s screen uniformity is also excellent and shows even distribution of the backlight on dark full-frame test patterns with no obvious streaking or hot-spotting. And while Sharp hasn’t eliminated the problem of narrow viewing angle endemic to many LCD displays, it’s tolerable here as long as you sit within 20 degrees or so of the centered viewing position. The average viewer might even make it to 30 or 35 degrees off axis before he or she starts to notice the colors fade and the black level rise. But as with most LCD sets, the critical viewer will want dibs on the center seat!

The Elite’s audio is above average for a flat-panel set. There’s some boxy cavity coloration, most evident on voices. Although after a brief period of acclimation I was able to overlook it, at least with non-critical sources at modest listening levels. The sound from a Blu-ray player passed through an Onkyo TX-SR608 A/V receiver required me to dial in a bit more lip-sync delay than usual, but that won’t be an issue as long as your AVR has a variable audio delay, as most do. There was no delay when I listened to the set’s internal audio.

3D Performance
When correctly configured and calibrated, and apart from the immersion and impact unique to a big-screen projection system, the Elite provided the best 3D performance I’ve yet seen, bar none—either at home or in the theater. It’s the first 3D I’ve experienced in which there were no significant picture compromises that couldn’t be blamed on the source material.

A major factor in this is the Elite’s available brightness. There’s enough linear gain on tap to provide a 3D image brightness of 30 foot-lamberts, or even more, viewed through the active glasses. That’s unheard of up to now in any home 3D display short of a very bright (and expensive) projector on a small, high-gain screen. It’s also as bright as the level I find comfortable for 2D in a dimly lit room.

To get this result, I used the movie (3D THX) mode—which you can adjust separately from the 2D movie (THX) mode—with the backlight on +8, the 3D brightness boost on middle, the intelligent variable contrast on advanced middle, and the brightness, contrast, and gamma controls on or close to their 2D settings. While I didn’t use the advanced settings for intelligent variable contrast for watching 2D Blu-ray or DVD movies in a darkened room, they were definitely beneficial for 3D.

Beyond the Elite’s exceptionally bright image, I also saw no ghosting on discs that have revealed it on other sets, in particular several early scenes in A Christmas Carol, both in Scrooge’s office and as he approaches his house on Christmas Eve. The Elite’s 3D black levels are also every bit as good as they are in 2D. The night forest scenes early on in Avatar, for example, as Jake meets the viper wolves and then Neytiri, have never before looked as dark and truly night-like, while at the same time retaining their astonishing depth and shadow detail, as they did on the Elite.

An Elite Face-Off
I was fortunate to have a 60-inch Pioneer Elite PRO-141FD Kuro plasma still available to me during my evaluation of the new Sharp Elite LCD. I reviewed this set in May 2009, subsequently bought it, and it has been my reference ever since. No other flat-panel display I’ve reviewed at our studio or in my home theater has ever bettered it subjectively in pure image quality, although I can’t deny the superior impact of a video projector on a big screen.

I positioned the Elite and the Kuro side by side in a totally darkened room, aimed slightly inward toward the seating position to eliminate any off-axis issues from the Elite, with a narrow black curtain between them to cut down on any cross reflections that might affect the result. Both sets have reflective screens, but the Elite is clearly the more mirror-like. When the sets are off, the Elite’s screen is very black, while the Pioneer’s screen is a dark gray.

I double-checked and re-tweaked the Kuro’s calibration, set it to its pure mode, and the Elite to movie (THX) mode, and fed both displays from an Oppo Blu-ray player through an Accell splitter. The comparisons were 2D, of course; the Kuro is strictly a 2D display. References to Elite in the text below refer to the Sharp.

On to the nitty-gritty. On a color resolution test pattern, the Elite’s colors looked paler; the blue stripes were clearly less vivid than on the Pioneer. But I never saw any sign of this on normal source material. The highest chroma resolution burst on the Pioneer was severely rolled off; it would clearly earn a fail on this test if we subjected it to our Video Test Bench standards today. Both sets passed the luminance resolution test, although the Elite’s top burst pattern was brighter, which indicates a stronger (perhaps even slightly exaggerated) response to the finest details. The Pioneer clipped noticeably just above white (it always has), but the Elite had significant available headroom above the standard video range. The same goes for color clipping; the Pioneer may just sneak past that white clip test, but it clipped high-level red, green, and blue. On the other hand, the Elite is the best performer I’ve yet seen in avoiding green and red clipping and is satisfactory in blue. Color bars on both sets looked nearly the same, although both red and yellow were a little deeper and richer on the Elite.

Keeping in mind that I’m accustomed to the look of the Pioneer, fleshtones on the Elite were, in general, a little too rosy—although when I turned down the color control to as low as –6, it helped considerably without washing out other colors. The Sharp’s yellows and golds were ever so slightly richer, but the differences weren’t worth obsessing over even in a side-by-side comparison. The movie (THX) mode uses the set’s yellow pixels differently than the other modes. This produces less yellow-gold pop but produces an accurate rather than a creative reproduction of the source material—something THX insisted on.

I noticed a subtle green shift in some dark images on the Pioneer—a shift I couldn’t account for in the measurements. The dark Jotunheim scenes in Thor showed this consistently, while they were a more neutral gray on the Elite. I ultimately came to prefer the color from the Elite, but only marginally. I’d still like to see a bit less of a rosy glow in dimly lit faces.

The Pioneer excelled in the nighttime scenes in the New Mexico desert early on in Thor. It produced a naturally vivid transition between the close-ups of faces and the gloom surrounding them, whereas the Elite presented these details with a flatter, more grayish look. The advanced settings in the Elite’s intelligent variable contrast control could compensate for this to a degree, as could cheating the brightness setting by dropping it a step or two below the technically correct level. But I resisted using the advanced settings because they were too over the top on bright scenes from disc sources viewed in the dimly lit or darkened room I favor for serious movie watching.

On Stargate: Continuum, the opening star field was impressive on the Elite, but the more vivid-looking stars on the Pioneer looked noticeably better. That said, I can’t name another consumer display aside from the Kuro that does this scene better than the Elite. As mentioned, the Elite was also notably free of halos on all of our tests, something I can’t say about the other localdimming sets I’ve reviewed.

The Elite and the Pioneer reproduced the other dark scenes in Stargate: Continuum equally well. But while the Pioneer appears to handle the most challenging dark scenes marginally better than the Elite, you’ll never notice the differences short of an A/B comparison. When the source is a full black screen, the Elite is generally a gnat’s eyelash darker than the Pioneer, although both sets measure impressively (though not totally) black.

Close-up shots are fine on both sets, but details looked crisper on the Elite—not artificially so, but enough to noticeably enhance the sense of depth in 2D images. I wouldn’t call the Kuro soft by any stretch, but detail freaks (like me) will immediately recognize the new Elite’s superior resolution.

Is the Elite PRO-60X5FD the new all-time flat-panel champ? I’d have to say yes, by a nose. It comes with caveats, for sure. Its off-axis performance is no better than average for an LCD and inferior in this regard to the IPS LCD panels LG and Vizio use. The price is also fear-inducing for most of us.

But the Kuros weren’t cheap or perfect either. The Elites offer enough of that secret Kuro sauce, combined with LCD’s unique benefits—not least of which should be lower energy consumption compared with the power-hungry Kuros—and the brightest 3D you’ll find this side of real life.

Is the margin so clear cut as to produce a glut of used Kuros on eBay and Videogon? No, but potential new buyers can now remove the hair shirts they donned when they missed the Kuro train as it pulled out of the station and chugged off into the sunset. If the Sharp Elite isn’t the inevitable sunrise, it’s as close to it as we’ll get this side of an 80-inch 4K-resolution set with 500-plus zones of local dimming. We’ll all be waiting breathlessly for that one, but in the meantime, this new Elite is the one to tide you over.

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