Sharp in the Fourth Dimension

Sharp recently announced the launch of its new Quattron LCD sets with LED edge lighting. All of them employ the company's new Quad Pixel technology, which adds dedicated yellow pixels to the red, green, and blue pixels present in all LCD displays. The added pixels are said to produce colors that ordinary LCD sets cannot.

Our current video system, both SD and HD, transmit data that convey only red, green, and blue color information. All the colors we see in the displayed image, including yellows, are derived from these three primary colors mixed together in various combinations. By using separate yellow pixels, however, Sharp's Quattron sets can reproduce yellows well outside the limits of our current color standards.

But these sets cannot know exactly what these yellows were when the program source originated. That information is simply not available from the video source, which is all the sets have to work with. It appears that the Quattron sets simulate what Sharp has judged to be a pleasing and (hopefully) convincing rendition of the true yellows (and closely related colors) we would see if they were actually present in the source.

We'll have more to say about the pros and cons of this technique when we have the opportunity to check out these sets more closely. While it's clearly a deviation from absolute accuracy to the source, I can't deny that what we saw at a recent press event in San Francisco was an exceptionally vivid image. The colors on the Avatar Blu-ray release used in the demo were eye-popping.

None of these first Quattron sets are 3D. But Sharp has promised 3D models for the 4th quarter, in time for the holiday shopping season.

There are three Quattron series: the LE810 (40-, 46-, 52-, and 60-inches, available now), the 820 (same sizes, rolling out during May), and the LE920 (52- and 60-inches, early June). They all employ LED edge lighting. Prices range from $1799 for the 40-inch LC-40LE810UN to $4500 for the 60-inch LC-60LE920UN.

The LE920s are loaded with all of Sharp's upscale features. These include Wireless network connection (with a plug-in USB dongle), USB video playback, and a full array of Web features, including access to VuDu's downloadable movie library. The 920s also include Sharp's 240 Hz Aquamotion. The 240Hz implementation of this feature is actually 120Hz refresh rate with scanned backlighting, rather than a native 240Hz refresh.

The LE820 series omits a few of these features. It's 120 Hz only (without the scanned backlighting), and does not offer wireless networking, USB video, or on-board VuDu access. The entry-level LE810 lineup is similar to the LE820 in most respects but isn't as thin and sports a slightly less impressive 4M:1 specified Dynamic Contrast ratio (6M:1 for the LE920 and 5M:1 for the LE820). All the Quattron models modulate their LED side-lighting to achieve these impressive peak contrast ratio specs, together with an improved panel design said to both block light more efficiently (for better blacks) and pass more light when needed (for higher brightness). The native contrast ratio for all of the Quattron sets is specified at 5000:1.

Sharp's service network for the Quattron lineup also includes a direct connection to the consumer's (Internet linked) set. Service technicians can use this link to help users properly configure their sets or trace problems. This "Advantage Live" feature is welcome but is not, of course, a substitute for a full calibration only an on-site technician can provide.

Also new for Sharp is a full set of high and low color calibration adjustments, plus and a full color management system with Brightness, Hue, and Color controls for all the primary and secondary colors. The calibration and color management controls are in the user menus and are said to be independently adjustable for each input.