|Sharp LC-37D64U LCD HDTV|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs|
|Written by Adrienne Maxwell|
|Friday, 01 August 2008|
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Television and Movies
LCD manufacturers have been somewhat slow to offer 1080p in their 37-inch and smaller TVs. That’s because the benefits of this are questionable, at least from a detail standpoint. The common argument is that, at a normal viewing distance, your eye probably can’t discern the difference in detail between 720p and 1080p. Since part of the LC-37D64U’s higher price tag is owed to its 1080p designation, I decided to begin my evaluation by looking specifically at resolution. With both Blu-ray discs and HDTV shows, the Sharp image was consistently crisp and razor-sharp, and the up-conversion of standard-def DVD and TV signals was also better than average. In a direct comparison with my reference Panasonic 42-inch 1080p plasma, the LC-37D64U did a slightly better job rendering fine detail; admittedly, it does have a smaller screen. The comparison I was most curious about was between the LC-37D64U and the aforementioned HP MediaSmart LCD, also 37 inches but with a 1366 x 768 resolution (and let’s just say that the TV is “heavily influenced” by Sharp technology). Since the older HP doesn’t accept 1080p, I used Blu-ray test scenes from Black Hawk Down (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment), The Corpse Bride (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista Home Entertainment), output at 720p and 1080i. I was able to discern some improvement in detail with the LC-37D64U at a distance of about six feet. Hard edges looked just a little sharper, and facial pores and hairs were more defined. Six feet is closer than you think, though. If you put this TV in a bedroom or very small living room, you might sit that close. Once I moved back to about 10 feet, those subtle differences became hard to discern.
Detail is just one aspect of performance, though. In many other respects, the new Sharp showed clear improvement over the older LCD model, no matter the viewing distance. Its black level, black detail and overall contrast ratio were much better, creating a richer, more engaging image. The LC-37D64U’s blacks weren’t quite as deep as those of the Panasonic plasma or the best LCDs I’ve reviewed. The night skies of The Bourne Supremacy DVD (Universal Studios Home Video) and Black Pearl Blu-ray discs were closer to dark gray than black. In all, the image retains solid saturation in a completely dark room, but it doesn’t have that extra level of richness and three-dimensionality that characterizes the best high-end panels. This LCD is capable of great light output, giving it a clear advantage over the plasma TV in a bright room; fine details that were lost on the Panasonic, because of screen glare, were still perfectly visible on the LCD and brighter HDTV shows looked very engaging during the day.
The LC-37D64U offers natural color points for a flat panel, and skin tones were consistently neutral. The island greens of Lost on ABC HD looked more realistic and less electric than they did on my reference plasma and projector. Initially, the reds in ESPN’s scroll bar were a bit too magenta, but I easily remedied this by adjusting the red hue via the color management system, which also lets you add more saturation to colors if you prefer. The LC-37D64U’s picture is not hindered by digital noise, which allows you to sit closer without being distracted by excessively noisy backgrounds or uneven light-to-dark transitions. Nevertheless, I experimented with the noise-reduction settings: The high setting will reduce what little noise there is, but it creates that distracting trailing/lag effect with darker signals. The low setting is a better choice.
I encountered an inexplicable discrepancy when trying to evaluate the TV’s de-interlacing through both the HDMI and component video inputs. When I output 480i and 1080i signals from a Sony BDP-S300 Blu-ray player, the LC-37D64U passed all of my de-interlacing tests, creating a generally clean image with few digital artifacts. However, with a Pioneer BDP-95FD Blu-ray player and Sony DVP-NS75H DVD player, the LC-37D64U failed the same tests, creating a lot of jaggies in my Gladiator DVD (DreamWorks Home Entertainment) test and blatant moiré in my Mission: Impossible III Blu-ray test (Paramount Home Entertainment). I’m at a loss to explain why this would occur, since the same TV is handling the de-interlacing in each case. In any event, the fact that the LC-37D64U failed with two players and passed with one gives cause for concern. The 1080i performance was generally better across the players, but I still recommend you mate this TV with a Blu-ray or DVD player that has good internal processing of its own. The fact that the TV accepts 1080p/60 and 1080p/24 through HDMI, and has a Dot by Dot aspect ratio with zero overscan, means that you can enjoy native 1080p signals from a Blu-ray player with minimal or no processing required on the TV’s part – that is one clear benefit of a 1080p display of any screen size. As for TV signals, I didn’t observe artifacts with 1080i TV shows, but I did see some tearing and jaggies in a 480i broadcast of Big on AMC, as well as an episode of Scrubs on Comedy Central, when I sat fairly close to the screen; however, at a 10-foot viewing distance, these digital artifacts were difficult to discern on such a small screen.