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.

Conclusions
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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COMMENTS
michaelalanlittrell@yahoo.com's picture

I have seen the TV in person. I was not impressed with the picture quality given the technology this TV contains. With that being said, the TV may have not been set up properly. The blacks were certainly no better than my Sony KDL46XBR CCFL LCD. I'm sure the Elite is capable of much more than what I saw. The same store had a Sony 929 series LCD. The picture on the Sony was very bright and had deep blacks, but the brightness was incredible! The Sony was probably in torch mode, but it made an impression! Go look at the Elite and judge for yourself. I'm sure with some tweaking the Elite I saw would be impressive because the demos of the Elite I have seen on YouTube show very deep black levels and outstanding brightness. Maybe I should take by Sony ES bluray player to the store and feed it a quality picture and tweak the controls, but I'm not going to buy the TV, so why bother? I enjoy my Sony LCD just fine (just wish it was bigger). The point is to enjoy the content viewed on YOUR TV! Thanks for the review Home Theater!

Scott Wilkinson's picture
The Sharp you saw must have been set up poorly. I spent a couple of hours watching the one at Tom's, and it looked spectacular, definitely on par with the Pioneer Kuro sitting right next to it.
michaelalanlittrell@yahoo.com's picture

I have not doubt. You are the expert and I trust your opinion. Imagine how disappointed I was to actually be able to see this TV and realize it was not set up properly. I was impressed with Sharp's 920 and 925 series of TVs. I found the extra pop from the yellow subpixel added much to the picture quality and had high hopes for the Elite. Maybe TVs have bad days too :-)

michaelalanlittrell@yahoo.com's picture

BTW, I am not knocking the Elite. I would love to own one because I know I could set it up better than what I saw.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
It's a shame that some dealers don't know how to set up a TV, especially one as special as this one.
JazzGuyy's picture

Either Tom's Kuro is only 50" or the model number needs to be corrected. The 60" set is the 151FD not the 141FD, which is 50". I've got a 151 so I am familiar with the model designation.

ThePolice26's picture

You're mistaken. 141fd is a 60 inch Signature Elite. The 50in model is the 101fd. Both of these were monitor sets. The 50 inch model to the 151fd was the 111fd.

LaoChe's picture

It looks like you already made the correction.

anakinskye's picture

This tv is right next to the VT Panasonic series at Abt and I was not impressed. I had the money for either and bought the VT. No contest. They were both fed the same program material and the VT has better resolution with both panels set to the cinema preset with the sharpness control set to zero. Measurements aren't everything. Sorry. No contest in resolution.

theo's picture

Scott, how bad is the blurring on this set? The one thing I really, really like about plasmas is that great sense of motion--from film to sports. The LCD motion blur really bothers me. So how does this set compare with motion blur and soap opera effect. I don't have a 120hz tv so I've seen the soap opera effect before but not super-familiar with it. Tom mentions it in the review, but that's about it.

Thomas J. Norton's picture
Theo: The soap opera effect results when you engage a set's motion interpolation feature. For this to work properly, a set's refresh rate must usually be a minimum of 120Hz (96Hz for 24Hz sources—I suppose it may be theoretically possible to do a refresh rate of 48Hz for 24Hz sources, but that would likely produce unacceptable flicker.) Without interpolation, or with interpolation disengaged, a 120Hz set should not produce the soap opera effect. As to motion smoothness without it, LCD sets are inherently poorer at motion than plasmas, but I have not found this to be an issue on most modern designs, including this one. But others may well be more sensitive to, or annoyed by, motion lag than I am.

Anakinskye: I assume you meant that the Movie (THX) mode was used in your comparison of the Elite and Panasonic. But unlike many sets, the optimum position of the Sharpness control on the Elite is not zero, but -10—the centered position. At the zero setting, the resolution is severely degraded. Either the dealer has gaps in his knowledge on how to set up the Elite optimally, or the Elite's Sharpness control was set to zero to help sell the cheaper Panasonic against it.

You might want to go back and re-do the comparison, assuming the dealer is willing to do an exchange should you change your mind. If not, I wouldn't be too alarmed. The VT is really an excellent set, and will be superior to the Elite on fast motion (see above) and in off axis viewing. In all other respects, I feel it's no contest. Of course, considering the price difference, that should be expected.

You also can't judge comparative color in a showroom, since both sets may be off enough in their factory settings to make such a comparison moot. Nor can you compare black levels unless the controls are optimally set on both sets and the room is very dimly lit--or better yet completely dark. If it sounds like I'm saying that you can't pick a TV based on a typical showroom demonstration, you're reading me correctly. Sad, but true.

The settings I settled on during the review should have been posted with the review, but because we wanted to get the review on-line ASAP, they haven't been. But they will be.

All: Two weeks after turning in the review I'm still as impressed as ever by the Elite, and even more so by its 3D performance, which is the best I've yet seen, bar none. That includes IMAX 3D, though of course the latter offers superior impact from its big screen.

theo's picture

Tom, as always, you are the best. I didn't know that and I always *assumed* that if a set was running at 120 or 240 then it had some sort of frame interpolation engaged. So my older 60hz TV will have more motion blur than a newer set running at 120 or 240. Good to know! Great review as always. You have many of us who appreciate your reviews and thorough approach.

cbono's picture

Tom,

I'd be grateful for additional critical comments on how the Elite handles SD content - SD special features as typically found on BDs, DVD content and SD cable/sat TV. How easy is it for the Elite to switch aspect ratios, zoom and stretch to view SD content without geometric distortion or loss of image? How does the Elite's SD performance stack up against the Kuro and/or other top quality plasmas?

Thanks for the great review!

ThePolice26's picture

Interesting...looks like the Kuro was actually displaying the correct green tint in Thor not the Elite.

Dwellon's picture

That's what I gathered from the review since there is a known issue with the way the Elite's currently handle cyan.

baddgsx's picture

For this kinda of money a smarter buy is a panasonic vx-300. 25 footlambs? thats it? that is way to low for my taste. a kuro can get 35-40 footlambs with a .001 black level.

anakinskye's picture

Went back to Abt and changed the sharpness on the Elite to -10. Worse, as I expected. I don't know what you are seeing but I see a VERY overpriced tv that looks worse than it measures. I had the manager and the tech that setup the tv with the Spears and Munsil disc there and they both agreed they preferred the Panasonic, no contest. 100% happy with my choice. BTW, your settings for the VT are an outstanding starting point.

Thomas J. Norton's picture
Baddgsx: Please re-read the review. The Elite can generate FAR more brightness than 25 ft-L if you want to push it to the max, and far more than any plasma we've ever tested. That's why it can produce the brightest 3D images we've ever seen. I chose to use 25-30 ft-L as a reference level for setup because that's the brightness level I find satisfying and comfortable for 2D movie watching in a dimly lit or darkened room. It also matches the level I was able to comfortably achieve with 3D, making the 2D-to3D transition about equal in brightness. It also matches the setup brightness level on my 60" Kuro. That particular Kuro will not reach 40 ft-L in Pure mode without white clipping. Anakinskye: Without standing next to you in the store, or your seeing my comparison, it's impossible to know what you're seeing. I do know that on our sample the middle setting of the Sharpness control produces an impeccably detailed yet not overly enhanced image on both real sources and on test patterns. Go one step higher to -9, however, and edge enhancement pops up dramatically. It's possible that the optimum point may vary by a step or two with different samples. Our sample was received for review around the third week in October.

The Elite is certainly an expensive set, but whether or not it's overpriced is in the eye of the beholder. Because Sharp makes much less expensive sets as well, many buyers cannot divorce that fact from the high price of the Elites. Some people feel the same way about the Toyota/Lexus connection. I did mark the Elite down for value, and have a suspicion that it or similarly designed sets may come down in price over time.

My high opinion of the Elite is not based on its measurements alone, but on many hours of watching real world material as well. My standard is that good measurements alone are a necessary result for a Top Pick, but this must be supported by a great viewing experience with real sources. I spend far more review time watching typical program material than I do in performing the measurements.

As to the set's performance with SD material, Cbono, I have watched some SD sources, and the set does as well as might be expected in that regard, but I will do more and report the results here, time permitting.

MatthewWeflen's picture

Tom, great review, answers all questions I would have were I in the market for such a set.

In re: pricing, do you have any inkling whether a second generation of these sets would see a corresponding reduction in price (say 20-30%) given the presumed ability to ramp up higher yield production of gen-10 panels, and the inevitable "failure" of this product to achieve significant market penetration based on the current prices? Will we see these features trickle down to the lower priced Sharp sets, while a new "Elite" will maintain the pricing and be a test bed for some newer tech?

As I say, I'm not really in the market. I've got a 2010 set that I hope can last me a decade, nor do I have $6-$8k to blow. But I'm curious what you think the evolution of the market segment will be in the next 5 years.

Davidicus's picture

Thomas,

I know you are hip to AC Chords and power conditioners but since you didn't mention anything about the improvement in the dimensionality of the Pioneer Kuro Elites when using them I thought I would mention that the only criticism I've had of both my Pioneer Kuro Elites, 60 & 50 inch, is when I observed in a large Best Buy the slight bit of better 3 dimensionality in the very top Samsungs compared to my sets. I might add that this was before the Sharps obtained the Elite designation and just a smidgen before the Panasonic Plasmas got real good-around the time the Pioneer 151 Kuro Elite came out and shortly after Pioneer announced their departure. Then only the Samsung "popped" with that little extra 3D look while viewing 2D video.

I was late using power conditioning and great AC cables on my 151 and top Pioneer Blu-ray but when I added the Transparent MM2 Power Chords to both and the P.S. Audio Power Plant Premier in the Multi Mode all of the dimensionality I could want or have seen on other sets suddenly appeared. The picture now is sooo seductive that I for the first time ever could be just as happy viewing a regular DVD as a Blu-ray. The difference is not small and it involves a quantum improvement in 3 dimensionality while viewing 2D discs of any kind.

Fond regards,

Davidicus

notabadname's picture

"Elite provided the best 3D performance I’ve yet seen, bar none—either at home or in the theater."

Thomas J. Norton's picture
Better off-axis performance-for both 2D and 3D.
maj0crk's picture

Tom,
LCDs have always been energy savers compared to plasmas, though that gap seem to be narrowing.
Was there a direct corrolation to the amount of power consumed by a Kuro to it's outstanding performance? As a comparision, did a 50" Kuro use more energy than a Pioneer's non-Elite 50-incher? If so, how was that energy used to drive the Kuro to levels not equaled by plasma manufacturers today?

jnemesh's picture

I dont care HOW great this TV is, its still not going to make "Green Lantern" a watchable movie! :)

Scott Wilkinson's picture
I haven't watched the Green Lantern, but from what I hear, it's terrible. I intend to see if there are any demo-worthy scenes in it, though most of it is CGI, which usually looks great on just about any display.
AVtheaterguy's picture

Tom,

Are you going to post your recommended settings for this display?

If you already have can you point me in the right direction where I can find those?

Thanks!

-Adam

Boulder_Bum's picture

Just to clarify, are you saying you think the Sharp Elite has slightly better picture quality than the Kuro? That's the way I'm reading it, but someone else thinks you gave the Sharp the crown (by a nose) for different reasons, e.g. 3D capabilities.

Thomas J. Norton's picture
Some previous questions above still need to be answered. For starters, the Elite performed well with standard definition material. I had no complaints, at least apart from the usual loss of resolution compared to HD. But on this size screen my DVDs were still highly watchable. Cable was another matter, but the fact that a lot of SD cable material had annoying jaggy artifacts cannot be blamed on the set, since this was not true of DVDs. Nor is it likely to be the same on all cable systems. The results I see on my cable service will not be the same as you see on yours, which is why I do not consider SD cable a reliable test source for judging picture quality. Cable services are using more and more compression to provide more and more largely useless SD cable channels.

As to the settings used in the review, they have been turned in for posting and should appear with the review shortly.

If there was some ambiguity as to which set I preferred, that was largely intentional. They have different strengths and weaknesses. The Kuro excels in off-axis performance and overall had slightly superior blacks, though the latter is a very close call. The Sharp Elite was subtly, um, sharper. It could also go significantly brighter then the Kuro plasma if you feel the need, and it has the best 3D performance I've yet seen (while the Kuro, of course, has none).

As for their relative power consumption, I'll shortly be posting a blog with that information. Stay tuned!

Boulder_Bum's picture

Thanks for the clarification. I see some of the advantages of each set.

However, I'm still unclear on one point. If you'll indulge me and the rest of your readers (pretty please!): of the Kuro and Sharp Elite, which do you feel has the better 2D image quality when viewing on-angle?

steve1971's picture

Tom I respect and love all your reviews heck I even use your settings you did on the Sony KDL 40V5100 on my 46inch version BUT I have to disagree on your statement that the new Sharp Elite's are better then the legendary Pioneer Kuro Elite's. Sharp dont come close and I feel you only said Sharp was better because of the 3D factor which to me is all hype, I could be wrong. My freind has a Kuro Elite and it blows any HDTV that I have yet seen out of the water and that includes the new Sharp models. I wont call them Elite because in my book there is only one Elite and that was the Pioneer Kuro. Like I said Tom I have nothing but respect for you and I love the reviews you do but this one I cant agree on.

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