Sharp LC-90LE745U 3D LCD HDTV
Editor's Note: It's with great pleasure that Home Theater brings you this exclusive first review of Sharp's new ground-breaking LC-90LE745U HDTV. With this 90-inch set, the first at its size truly intended for mass production, Sharp begins the era of projection-size flat panels suitable for any light environment. While the $10,000 (street) ticket price still exceeds the cost of a high quality 2D/3D projector and screen, as a sign of what's to come, it is a significant introduction. And, as you'll read in Tom Norton's detailed review, not a bad TV. - Rob Sabin
Ninety inches diagonal is not all that big as projection screens go. But Sharp’s new LC-90LE745U, at that same 90 inches, is immense by flat panel standards. With more than twice the screen area of a 65inch set, it has little flat panel competition for its size, and none at all for its combination of size and cost. Panasonic has an 85inch plasma, for example, that will set you back nearly twice as much. LG showed a 4K 80-inch LCD set at last January’s CES, but exact pricing and availability is still undetermined. Mitsubishi offers a 92-inch rear-projection set at some remarkable street prices (around $3,000), but its massive 194 pounds and 25-inch depth (225 pounds and 32 inches in its shipping carton) might be just a little intimidating.
One thing’s for certain. This Sharp can’t be ignored, either at the store or in your family room. Guests will gasp when they see it—even when it’s off. Your interior decorator will have a coronary. The kids will squeal with delight. And your charge card had better have a high limit. But for buyers who always wanted that really big HDTV but can’t accommodate a separate projector and screen, this could be a whole new ball game.
It’s been an ice age since we last reviewed a Sharp-branded HDTV. We reported on the company’s Elite LCD HDTV this year (Home Theater, January 2012—review available at HomeTheater.com), but the LC-90LE745U varies in significant ways from both that design and Sharp’s other highend models. The most obvious difference, apart from size, is that it lacks the company’s much-touted Quattron (Quad Pixel) technology, which adds a yellow pixel to each red, green, and blue picture element. In my judgment, this omission is a plus.
In addition, unlike the Elite, this set is not a local-dimming design. But it does employ full LED backlighting (not edge lighting) with limited global dimming. As the source becomes darker, the backlighting gradually reduces to enhance the blacks. This global dimming is not defeatable.
The set comes with a full, printed manual, the remote is respectable though not backlit, and the screen finish is at least a bit less mirror-like—though hardly matte—than the current flat panel norm. That’s an important consideration with such a large piece of glass. In addition to the usual picture adjustments, the LC-90LE745U offers a full color management system (CMS) with hue, saturation, and value (luminance) controls for each of the primary (red, green, blue) and secondary (yellow, magenta, cyan) colors. There are also both two-level and (in some but not all AV Modes) 10-level white balance adjustments. Unfortunately, these two sets of white balance controls can only be used separately. I used the two-level mode for my calibrations.
There’s also a Motion Enhancement feature (two active modes plus off), Active Contrast (either on or off), Gamma Adjustment (five settings), Black Level (not applicable for HDMI, so not used for this review), and a Film Mode (Advanced, with steps from 0 to 10, Standard, and off—the Standard setting is not available with 1080p sources). The native refresh rate is 120 hertz, but if you select the AquaMotion240 Motion Enhancement mode, the backlight cycles on and off to produce an effect similar to a native 240-Hz refresh rate. The set uses 3:2 pulldown to convert 1080p/24 3D sources to 1080p/60.
According to the manual, the Advanced Film mode simply reduces film judder. In fact, in some settings of this mode what you’ll see looks very much like the infamous soap-opera effect produced by motion interpolation—even when the separate Motion Interpolation control is turned off (or is not available, and it isn’t in 3D). The only way to completely eliminate this effect is to turn off Motion Interpolation and place the Film Mode in either Standard (if available), Advanced (0), or off. Off will produce artifacts with interlaced sources, so your best option may be the Advanced (0) setting. Interestingly, however, on some 3D material I actually preferred the slight smoothing effect with the Advanced Film mode in its lowest active setting, +1 (the settings range from 0 to +10).
The set’s Active Contrast control is not as sophisticated as the Intelligent Variable Contrast on Sharp’s Elite sets. The latter takes the nature of each scene into account. The LC-90LE745U’s Active Contrast improved some scenes but degraded others. I left it off.
There’s the usual variety of 3D controls for altering image depth, a 2D-to-3D conversion mode (modestly effective), and a control for adjusting the conversion mode’s effect. The set comes with two pair of rechargeable 3D active glasses. Extras are $60. The glasses’ power switch has two active positions, 3D and 2D—the latter may be useful to viewers who choose not to watch in 3D while others do. The IR transmitter that activates the glasses is built into the set.
The Sharp’s audio was more than tolerable. With a little bass and treble boost (+1 to +2 decibels), the Bass Enhancer turned on, and the so-called 3D Surround and Clear Voice settings turned off, it was downright pleasant. That’s because the set is deep enough, particularly in its bottom 5 inches or so, to accommodate reasonably sized speakers. We’re not talking room-shaking bass here, but there’s enough warmth to avoid the bright and scratchy sound that makes most flat panel sets barely listenable. The width of the Sharp also makes a reasonable degree of real stereo possible. I don’t want to go overboard about the set’s sound; a modest pair of bookshelf speakers and perhaps a subwoofer, driven by a budget A/V receiver for a basic 2.1 system, will sound better and play considerably louder (the Sharp’s own maximum sound level is modest). But if you want to put your resources into a big HDTV first and save up for adding that audio system later, you won’t be punished for the choice.