Sharp LC-52D62U LCD Flat Panel HDTV Page 3

One more point on comparison to Pioneer's mighty PRO-FHD1. As TJN has mentioned, in spite of the measurements and the ability LCDs to go brighter and brighter without compression, plasmas typically have that elusive sense off overall pop to a greater degree than LCDs. This is a combination of depth, contrast and resolution, among other things. I did feel that the Pioneer, which costs $8K, was superior to the Sharp in this respect, but not by a wholesale amount and certainly not with respect to resolution of detail. In terms of low-level detail the sets are equals, which is saying something for the lower priced Sharp. The Sharp could be adjusted using its AV Modes to either have more light output, or more dark room movie contrast, but the Pioneer definitely does a better job of being all things to all viewing material and conditions with a single setup.

As far as legacy standard-def goes, the Sharp was also aces. Like a lot of you with kids, the Pixar DVDs have been making it into the disc players around my house several times a day. Finding Nemo just looked scary good, at times actually imparting an almost queasy sense of ocean movement- not just detail and resolution and other videophile stuff, but a palpable sense of immersion in the material. The best film-based material- from the better-looking episodes of the original Star Trek to Seabiscuit- looked just about as good as I've ever seen; the kind of stuff that the average guy could indeed mistake for hi-def.

But lousy broadcast is always a test, and the new Battlestar Galactica on Sci-Fi channel from DirecTV is rife with a number of challenges. Galactica's interiors are consistently murky shades of grey, which is right in the sweet spot for trouble on LCDs. What TJN has dubbed the "gray fog" is rampant in these dark-ish scenes on LCDs I've seen prior to this. The Sharp didn't descend into that hazy look even on this material, and overall was nearly immune to it—much closer, in fact, to what I've seen from the best plasmas. In my experience this set is a sea change in this respect, and a significant sign that LCD is coming into its own as a display technology for discerning enthusiasts.

On top of that, the Sci-Fi Channel on DirecTV just looks lousy in general. Noisy, soft, and just plain bad. On the Sharp I was amazed at the improvement I saw on the BSG broadcasts. It wasn't going to fool anyone into thinking it was DVD-quality, let alone HD, but it was still much cleaner and more revealing than I'm used to seeing, especially with LCDs. The lack of compression artifacts makes me wonder how much the recently deployed DirecTV HR20 is contributing to this improvement. But nevertheless, the Sharp handled this difficult, garden variety standard def material magnificently, as well as other fair to middlin' standard def from DirecTV.

Response time, or motion lag, is another of LCD's longstanding issues that was missing in action here. I've seen a number of demonstrations (by plasma manufacturers) using material that trips up LCDs, such as very fast text crawls and swift camera pans with shop signs and addresses in the background. But with the test crawls I had on hand, including sports or other fast moving action program material, I didn't see anything to complain about on the Sharp. That's not to say that plasma doesn't totally eliminate this as even a potential issue, I'm just saying that you have to go looking for this problem if you're going to find it on this set.

There is still a lot of art in color reproduction on digital displays. We often see reds that are a too orangey and greens that are too yellow. Not here. The greens on this set were kind of flat and olive looking at times, looking under-saturated if anything. But to my eye this looks more natural most of the time. I'd take this over the yellowy, nuclear greens that I see on other TVs. And the reds were noticeably more crimson than with many digital displays I see. This likely means that the Sharp's reds a little oversaturated by the numbers. But they looked realistic to me- the infamous, red, I've-never-seen-you-on-the-show-and-you're-about-to-die uniform shirts from the original Star Trek series DVDs, for instance, looked a deep, natural shade of red. I liked the color on this set overall, and certainly prefer these somewhat understated colors to the cartoonish colors I've seen on many LCDs, as well as from sets of all types that measure close to spec but have yellowy greens and orange reds. Of the flat panels I've seen, plasma or LCD, only Pioneer's PRO-FHD1 had colors I found more pleasing overall.

Another spec that you see bandied about in the marketing propaganda for flat screens is viewing angle. Flat screens, and LCDs especially, tend to lose contrast and color fidelity as you move off to the sides. I had the Sharp set up in a 17.5' wide room and could go as far off-axis horizontally as would make sense for any reasonable viewer and still see a good picture. The same can't be said vertically. I had the Sharp on a stand 21-inches tall. If I stood up in the room instead sitting down in a fairly low chair the set looked hazier and cloudy. I don't think this is a big deal as I don't think people should shop for the TV that looks best when standing up. But to see the best contrast I'd make sure the Sharp is set up so that you are positioned reasonably near, vertically, to the center of the screen.

The Sharp LC-52D62U is a lot of TV for the money in every way. For a 52" 1080p flat screen, it's something of a bargain at $3,999 MSRP, and even lower street prices. I love its natural, highly resolved image and was amazed that LCD's typical bug-a-boos were largely absent. The blacks were better than respectable, and not just in the "for an LCD" sense, and the colors, regardless of standards, look more natural than most compared to real life. In short, this set is a leap in performance for LCDs in my experience with this category.

However, my sample exhibited a banding problem that prevents me from an unqualified recommendation until Sharp can assure you and us that this problem is in the rear view mirror. And when it does, this review can then be correctly construed as a rave, for even with this issue I not only enjoyed spending time with this set, I could live with it over the long haul. This is the first time I've said that about an LCD.

Full resolution at 1080p
Natural, seamless quality to images
Excellent blacks
Realistic colors

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