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Sharp LC-52D92U 1080p LCD Flat Panel Television Page 2

Spending more money on this set doesn't put you in any better situation than the 52G62U with regard to color temperature calibration. As in that set, there are no user adjustable color temp settings, and again Sharp could not provide the service mode procedures for calibration. This is even more disappointing than before, particularly since with the 52D92U we're dealing with a more expensive, higher-end set. The preset Mid-Low setting is the closest thing to the real deal, but it is excessively blue and not linear. The Low setting, on the other hand, is too red and dingy looking. The most discerning enthusiasts will demand calibration controls, and I'd really like to see Sharp address this shortcoming.

Another point worth making again is that like a growing number of sets, the '62 and '92 series perform best, and reveal the best resolution with HD, only when the chosen aspect ratios engage no overscan. That means you should use Dot by Dot for 1080i/p signals, and Full Screen with 720p sources. The other aspect ratio modes, including Stretch, have a noticeable and negative impact on the set's resolving power at the highest HD frequencies. HD bandwidth is the cleanest and most extended when either Dot by Dot or Full Screen is used.

Performance
For this review I used the same sources as I did with the '62 series set: the Toshiba HD-XA2 DVD/HD DVD player, and the Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1 for Blu-ray Discs and DirecTV's HR20 high-def set-top box/DVR. I engaged the Anthem AVM 50 pre-pro as an HDMI switcher and double-checked all the critical results with a straight run into the TV.

Let's just get the million dollar question out of the way first. Or at least the $5,300 question. Yes, this set suffers from the banding and uniformity problems that I saw in the '62 series set. And I have to say, regrettably, that the problem is more pronounced in this unit and bothered me a lot more. The issues are easier to see on this unit with regular program material, and can be readily identified on something like a 40IRE gray field. With this '92 series set, the dark "clouds" were darker, larger, and more pronounced, and the bands across the middle far more consistently noticeable, than on the '62 series.

On that '62 series set, I had to look for the bands even after I kinda thought I'd seen them with program material and then verified their presence with certainty using the gray field uniformity test. And truth be told, even after I knew they were there I had no problems sitting down and watching that '62 series set all the livelong day. Here it's a different story. I was distracted by them and my enjoyment of the set was diminished.

I'm especially disturbed by this given that Sharp's representative acknowledged to me during my review of the LC-52D62U that this is known problem and that "aggressive steps" had been taken at the factory to rectify the issues. Yet this newer, more expensive '92 series set has the same problems to an even worse degree. And because of that, I would not assume that one could buy a '62 series set and get a sample that was as good the one I had. This really suggests and endemic problem at Sharp's factory and a serious QC issue for a reviewer to get two flawed samples, the second worse than the first. On the other hand, Sharp deserves some small credit for not trying to handpick a set to send me, commonly known as sending a "ringer."

Still, this was a downer for there is much else to be praised to the skies in this set. While many sets are advertised as 1080p, this one truly is. With Dot by Dot selected it is among the very best displays I've seen at resolving the highest frequency information in 1080p HD signals. We're talking the smallest, single-pixel width stuff. It's clean and pure, and this performance translates to breathtakingly dimensional and detailed images, especially with Blu-ray and HD DVD. And thanks to this set's blacks and contrasts, it closes the gap in the "pop" factor that typically favors plasmas. But most remarkable about this set's resolution is how natural and organic it appears, with none of the cartoony, digital-looking images I've seen from other LCDs.

The '62 set was a watershed for me in LCD performance with movie viewing. I found I could watch even dark films and be not only satisfied but drawn into the action and not distracted constantly by the "gray fog" the permeates the images of all too many flat panels. As advertised, the blacks and contrast of the 52D92U were indeed more impressive. With the '62 series set I was sometimes uncomfortable with the compromises I had to make in order to accommodate either dark room movie watching or daytime TV watching. I always felt like I could optimize the Sharp for one or the other but not both with a single set of image adjustments. When I had the '62 series set dialed in for movie viewing I occasionally wished for better light output, and when I had it optimized it for TV viewing I sometimes wanted better blacks. Because of the improved contrast I found this '92 series model to be a better all around performer in this regard, and I seldom if ever felt that I wasn't getting everything I wanted from the image. The strides Sharp has made here shouldn't be ignored; it bodes well for LCD's future to be known for something other than sexy looks.

On the other hand, I can't say I thought the colors wrought by the "five wavelength" backlight and or the smoothness from the 120Hz resulted in anything noticeable. But I also can't say that I thought any improvement was needed in this area, beyond the performance offered by the '62 series. I liked the understated, non-digital greens, and the deep (maybe oversaturated), natural reds looked terrific. And even with fast moving sports, such as basketball in HD, I never had any issues with the Sharp's response time even if I intellectually know that plasma doesn't have this issue at all.

The set's video processing is very good, and even run-of-the-mill standard-def feeds look terrific, sometimes surprisingly so. But one area in which this set looked a touch inferior to the '62 series set was its video noise. The image occasionally looked grungier, even with pristine feeds from HD DVD and Blu-ray, but especially with HD from DirecTV. Not sure why, but this observation came to me more than once watching this set right after having the '62 series in house.

The 52D92U has very good performance off-axis in the horizontal plane, but not so much in the vertical direction. Don't judge this TV by the washed out image you see when you stand up and walk around the room! Just make sure to install at a height that optimizes contrast when viewed from your favorite chair.

Conclusion
This is a bummer, but I can't recommend this set until it's clear that these banding and uniformity issues are in check. With the LC-52D92U these problems were severe enough to be a clear and consistent distraction. And, in light of receiving a second Sharp LCD with these issues, I'm going to have to make an annotation to my '62 series review that downgrades my enthusiasm for that set due to my concern that this is an endemic issue with these two lines of flat panels.

And I hate doing so because it must be noted that in my experience these Sharp AQUOS flat panels have set new standards for LCD sets in many crucial ways. I like their incredible resolving power, the easy on the eyes, natural quality of their images, and their realistic colors. And of course I'm flabbergasted at their performance with blacks and contrast, which is clearly out of the "for an LCD" woods.

My sincerest hope is that within a few months Sharp sends me a '62 series or '92 series set that's absent these artifacts, leaving me free to recommend these sets for their tremendous strengths. For not only is there is much to recommend in these TVs, there is much to genuinely rave about. But for now, not only is a recommendation not possible, I have to go stronger the other way and urge extreme caution.

Highs
Full Resolution at 1080p Natural, seamless quality to images Excellent Blacks Realistic Colors

Lows
Doesn't Accept 1080p/24 AV Modes only accessible from hidden drawer on remote

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