Sharp LC-60UQ17U 3D LCD HDTV Page 2

Uniform distribution of light is always a concern with edge-lit sets, and none of them is perfect in this regard. With a full black screen image, the sides of the Sharp’s screen were a little brighter than the center. There was also some blotchy nonuniformity on the same black image. Although neither of these was readily visible on normal program material, the set’s overall black level and contrast limitations were obvious and disappointing, particularly in the dark room environment that many videophiles prefer for movie watching. The cave scenes on Prometheus lacked the inky gloom they need to set an appropriately ominous mood. Star fields on this and other films looked more gray than black. And black bars, when present, were frequently visible as gray in scenes of average brightness or darker. (Bright letterboxed scenes often help make black bars appear darker since they close down the eye’s pupils. Room lighting can do the same.)

Viewed off center, the TV suffered from the same viewing-window limitations common to most other LCD sets: a progressive washing-out of the image. This remained tolerable up to roughly 20 degrees to the side—approximately the width of a normal sofa positioned about 10 feet from the screen.

714sharp.rem.jpgDon’t think all this nitpicking suggests that the Sharp has fatal flaws—that’s far from the case. The night scene in chapter 17 of Life of Pi—where Pi stirs the water filled with fluorescent jellyfish, climaxed by a breaching whale—was as striking as I’ve ever seen it, apart from a slight grayness to the sky in one or two shots. In chapter 21, while the backgrounds in Pi’s night hallucinations were also less black than I’d like, the scene was still convincing.

The opening chapters of Oz the Great and Powerful had the (likely) intended subtle, old-timey black-and-white/sepia tone. The images were superbly sharp and at the same time sublimely natural. When the film morphed into widescreen color, the picture looked even better. The color was brilliant—not as natural as in Life of Pi, but Oz is, well, Oz. Fleshtones were good (though a bit more reddish before calibration). In most ways, the film looked as good as I’ve seen it. Even when viewed in 2D, both Oz and Pi looked almost three-dimensional.

While not every source I watched was as stunning as those two movies, the Sharp continued to impress me in every way, apart from the limited depth of its blacks. If Baraka has more than its share of great photography (though with plenty of human blight to counterbalance it), Samsara is its evil twin, with far too many pristinely rendered but content-ugly images. I don’t recommend it as family entertainment, but the Sharp clearly displayed everything the filmmaker intended to show, from the dreadful to the beautiful.

Four K
Sharp provided us with some 4K stills on a USB thumb drive. These were less than riveting, but I did stream several 4K shorts from YouTube, and some of them looked exceptional. It’s important to note, however, that the LC-60UQ17U doesn’t fully process a 4K source from its Ethernet (or wireless) input in the same way as it does from its HDMI and USB inputs. It can indeed accept a 4K signal via its streaming platform, but then immediately downconverts it to 1080p before processing that 1080p signal to function with its Q+ panel in the same way as it would a native 1080p input. Without a native 4K server attached to one of the set’s HDMI or USB ports, this was the closest we could get to feeding it a significant range of native 4K moving images. Still, many of the streamed 4K shorts looked very good.

Three D
The Sharp offers only two 3D A/V modes—3D and Game (3D)—so my choice was obvious. We no longer bother with a full separate 3D calibration in our tests, but that wouldn’t have mattered here. The Sharp provides no user-menu calibration controls in 3D, only the standard video controls, a 3D Brightness Boost, and a limited selection in the 2D/3D menu. Motion Enhancement is engaged by default in 3D and can’t be defeated.

With all of that, however, the Sharp produced a highly watchable 3D picture—among the brightest and most vivid 3D I’ve seen—though not without ghosting, which was more prevalent than on any other 3D display we’ve tested. This will trouble the video perfectionist, but most viewers won’t be bothered by it; they’ll be too busy oohing and ahhing over the crisp, colorful, and vivid 3D images to notice.

I couldn’t compare the Sharp with my reference Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 plasma, as the latter was at a different location. But I did compare it (in 2D only) with a 55-inch, 2012 Sony XBR-55HX950. The Sony, with its LED backlighting and full local dimming, trounced anything the Sharp could manage in dark scenes. In all other respects, however, the matchup was very close. I saw no significant differences in color, apart from the Sony’s slightly warmer fleshtones. The Sharp looked ever so subtly…um…sharper and at the same time smoother, though this wasn’t evident on most program material. The Sharp’s biggest advantages were its 19-percent larger screen area, lower price (the Sony’s MSRP back when was $3,500), and of course, current availability.

As noted, the 1080p LC-60UQ17U will accept a 4K input, though it doesn’t display it in full 4K resolution. But the set does provide at least a degree of future-proofing—or at least as much insurance against immediate obsolescence as is possible from any set in today’s fast-moving high tech world.

Reservations? Yes. At Sound & Vision, we admit to being passionate about video displays with deep blacks. The Sharp’s blacks were disappointing, if only because we know what the company can do in that regard. Recall if you will the late, lamented Sharp Elites and their sophisticated—and expensive—local dimming scheme. But in playing the game of thrones required to claim the crown as the market leader in sets 60 inches and larger, something had to give to keep costs down. And not all viewers will be bothered by the Sharp’s blacks, a shortcoming that’s less obvious in a well-lit room, and which may be a willing sacrifice for those who are most interested in stepping up to this line’s available 70-inch or even 80-inch diagonal screen sizes. Contrast aside, there’s still a lot to like in the LC-60UQ17U. The price is right (if not cheap, discounting is available if you shop around), the picture is bright and sharp, and (if set up correctly) the colors are both alluring and natural. With good source material that’s not too challenging in its darkest scenes, I found the LC-60UQ17U easy to enjoy and often hard to stop watching.

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