Sharp LC-37HV4U LCD HD Monitor
Getting big is easy. Just lift weights and eat as much as you can. Losing weight is a little harder: less food, more exercise. The trick is adding muscle mass without adding excess fat. Serious fitness competitors endure grueling weight-lifting workouts and major cardio routines, and they eat frequent low-fat, low-calorie meals to bulk up and stay lean. Sharp has accomplished this same trick with their AQUOS LCD display line without the expensive gym membership.
The 37-inch LC-37HV4U is their newest and largest LCD panel, yet the TV is still only a few inches deep. The display's 1,366:768 resolution is high enough to be considered HD-capable. The panel itself is attractive and comes attached to a slick stand that slightly swivels and tilts the display, which is a bonus compared with plasma panels that use fixed stands. A tilting wall mount is also available. If you want to get really creative, a menu function lets you flip and rotate the image. You can mount the display upside down and reflect it off of a mirror, and the image will still be correct. I'm not exactly sure why you'd want to do this, but flexibility is always good.
All of the inputs and outputs reside on a separate box called the AVC System. With the help of a supplied stand, this box can sit horizontally like a normal A/V component or vertically like a computer tower. Either way, it houses plenty of connections for most home theaters, although they're crammed together and not intuitively labeled. Once you sort things out, you'll find three A/V inputs, each offering stereo audio and component (Y/Pb/Pr), composite, or S-video connections. You'll also find one HDCP-equipped DVI input but no RGB+HV. If your HDTV tuner doesn't have component or DVI connections, you'll need an adapter. Dual RF connectors feed the set's dual internal tuners, which is handy for the picture-in-picture function, and PIP also works with non-HD video inputs. An RS-232 interface allows automation systems to communicate with the display directly. This is good because the remote lacks discrete access buttons. Two separate connections, conjoined in a single proprietary cable, connect the AVC System to the display. This is great for eliminating clutter, but a single connection like DVI or SIM2's optical cable system might be easier to pull through a wall.
The system comes with a backlit remote that's fairly bulky for such an elegant flat-panel display. It also has too many buttons, which makes it hard to find the ones you need. And yet, with all of those buttons, you still only get toggle controls for the most frequently used functions like input, aspect ratio, and power on/off. Pronto users, beware. At least the remote will control up to three other devices. The onscreen menu, on the other hand, has a much nicer layout and graphic appeal. The picture-adjustment settings are easy to find. Although Sharp offers four preset picture modes, you can also fine-tune the adjustments for each input source.
I used our typical worst-case/best-case connection options: composite and component. The Sharp handles composite signals well, thanks to a decent comb filter that removes most, if not all, dot crawl and cross-color artifacts. The color decoder is equally competent. It lets you fully saturate the overall color level without exaggerating individual colors like fleshtones or football fields. In fact, you can dial-in the color decoder's performance with the display's color-management system (CMS), which provides advanced controls for each major color: red, green, blue, yellow, magenta, and cyan. You can fine-tune each of these colors within a designated range to make the image more accurate or to suit your taste. The result is a vibrant image.
CMS only goes so far, however. The display's overall color temperature (or white balance), which determines how neutral a white image will be, affects all of the signals. A white image is made up of red, green, and blue elements, and our measurements reveal if any one color is dominant in a given display. In Sharp's case, the color temperature is slanted noticeably toward blue with darker images (see the measurements chart) and gradually becomes more red as images get brighter. This was very noticeable in Gladiator's opening battle scene. The TV's preset color-temperature control offers five settings, but none of them is particularly accurate. In the middle setting, you only get a neutral white with the brightest images, while the low setting crosses the neutral point somewhere in the middle of the range. Normally, I'd hire a service technician to calibrate the display, but Sharp was unable to release factory service codes to our technician as of press time. Instead, I chose the lower setting for my viewing, since it gave most of the medium-intensity images the best color balance.
The LC-37HV4U's other performance aspects varied. For starters, the display does a good job of converting all signals to the panel's native resolution (1,366:768). For example, the TV deinterlaces 480i signals with the help of 3:2-pulldown recognition. It matches odd and even fields together and automatically rejects dissimilar fields. This prevents the aliasing or jagged edges that might otherwise occur. The display introduces some minor artifacts as it scales up the image from 480p to 768, but the only thing I noticed in the Gladiator test sequence (chapter 12) was a slight flicker.
The LCD panel also handled gradual transitions from light to dark rather well, something that's a particular weak spot with plasma displays. The Sharp still stepped from one luminance level to the next, but it wasn't as distracting as I've seen it be on other flat panels. There is a fair amount of video noise, though, some of which seems to be a fixed-pattern noise. This is even more noticeable when you turn up the sharpness control too high. Lower-quality signals, like off-air analog signals, didn't look as good as higher-resolution signals. High-definition hockey and basketball transmissions, DiscoveryHD Theater, and DVDs like Star Wars: Episode II—Attack of the Clones, on the other hand, looked outstanding.
The Sharp's most noticeable performance aspects are its contrast and black levels. Compared with the Sampo PME-50X6 plasma HD monitor (August 2003), which sells for nearly the same price, the LCD panel's black level is somewhat high. Shadows are gray, which leaves the image looking a bit flat. The effect is more noticeable in a darkened room. With the lights on, it's not as much of an issue. Here, however, the picture's contrast level shines. The LCD panel is substantially brighter than any flat-panel display we've had in the lab recently. Bright images pop off of the screen, regardless of whether the lights are on or off.
Flat-panel displays have their performance trade-offs, and the LC-37HV4U is no exception. It may not be the discerning videophile's first choice for his or her darkened, dedicated theater. However, for anyone who has a bright room and plans on watching TV both day and night, this 37-inch LCD TV is an excellent option. The image is incredibly bright, vibrant, and naturally colorful, and it has more than enough resolution to handle high-resolution signals.
• Incredibly bright image
• Built-in swivel-and-tilt mounting stand