Sharp LC-30HV2U LCD TV
Thin is definitely the wave of the future. Just look at most Hollywood actresses. Their faces get more gaunt with each passing season. Television displays are the same way. People are tired of the little black box. Consumers have clamored for skinny plasmas and liquid crystal displays (LCDs) since their introduction a few years back. The only problem's been that plasmas have come in large screen sizes (42 to 60 inches diagonally) while LCDs have been relegated mostly to computer-monitor service. Sharp, longtime master of the LCD panel, has now brought forth a midsized panel for midsized environments.
The LC-30HV2U TV/HD monitor sports a 16:9-shaped screen surface that measures 30 inches diagonally. The LCD-driven television uses a 1,280:768 pixel array to create its image, which is more than enough resolution to handle high-definition images. The display cabinet itself is worth buying as art. The silver-finished flat panel has a few nice curves and an elegant built-in stand that both swivels and tilts. While the stand's range of motion isn't quite 360 degrees (it's more like 45 degrees total), it's enough to angle the set toward you if it's too low or high.
The TV itself has very few connection options. Most of the connections are housed in an external box called the AVC, a sleek, silver unit with a mostly smooth faceplate. On front, you'll find RGB and audio inputs for a PC, as well as one of the box's four A/V inputs for use with your camcorder or video-game system. All of the A/V inputs and the monitor output include composite, S-video, and audio connections. Inputs 1 and 3 include component (Y/Pb/Pr) connections, while input 3 adds an additional 15-pin connector for HDTV signals. This input only accepts 540p or 1080i signals, so you should route PC signals to the front. A pair of RF inputs feeds the built-in NTSC television tuner. An RF output can direct the same signal to a converter box, VCR, or other display. The AVC connects to the display via a unique but short umbilical cord that uses two connectors on either end. Due to the cord's short length, you may need to keep the AVC close to the display. This might limit some of your placement options, but Sharp might have a longer cable available by the time you read this.
You can control the system with the included remote or via the AVC's RS-232 port. The latter is the preferable option, as the remote is—to put it mildly—confusing. There are just too many small, vaguely labeled buttons. You can change the image shape (aka aspect ratio) with the view/mode button. Why they didn't just label this button "aspect ratio," I'm not sure. Selecting inputs is hard enough to do using the single button that cycles through the various options. It's even harder with three different buttons labeled "input." At least the input-options list appears onscreen. You can use the input button or the arrows to select the input you want, although the set switches between them slowly. The menu graphics are both attractive and simple to use. Sometimes the menu gets in the way of the image when you're trying to make adjustments, but otherwise it nicely complements the set's décor. Once you have the unit installed and wired, you should have no problem getting things set up.
I found it fairly easy to adjust the LC-30HV2U's picture. Setting the contrast level on a fixed-pixel display can be tricky, as an LCD pixel doesn't bloom the same way an overdriven CRT phosphor does. Instead, you have to look for the point at which images that are slightly less than 100 percent white get too bright and completely blend with full-white images. The Sharp TV behaved appropriately, though. In fact, I was able to set the contrast extremely high before the panel started to crush whites. The display did cut the blacker-than-black bar from our test disc's PLUGE pattern, but this only makes it mildly more difficult to set the black level and has no real effect on picture quality. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised by how dark shadows looked, which created excellent contrast between really bright whites and reasonably dark blacks. This, however, proved to be dependent on my viewing angle. As I looked at the image from the center seat, I kept mentioning that the picture looked surprisingly good for an LCD display. Associate editor Geoffrey Morrison, sitting off to my left, kept complaining about video noise and an overly washed-out image (in addition to low pay and long working hours). You would have thought we were talking about two completely different displays. At one point, I got up to change DVDs, and the punk stole my seat. Before I could beat him senseless as punishment for his act of thievery, he mentioned how much better the picture looked on-axis. Sure enough, off-axis, the picture is actually brighter than it is on-axis. This makes dark images more of a light gray, thus robbing the image of its contrast and three-dimensionality. It also makes the image appear far noisier, or perhaps the brighter picture just makes the video noise more noticeable.