Sharp's latest LED LCDs have been on a roller coaster ride of performance as Sharp's Quattron yellow pixel technology matured. While the yellow pixel does make them stand out, it didn't always seem to be in a good way. Now, as Sharp introduces the world's largest LED LCD, they have something to focus on other than the dubious distinctions of Quattron technology: sheer, monstrous size! In fact, the 80" 632U does not even claim Quattron quad pixel technology, although in every other way the 632U shares similar or identical technical specifications to the 732U model I had previously reviewed. So when Chris from Cleveland Plasma invited me to come out and put the 632U through it's paces, I wasn't sure if it would be just a re-write of what I had found with the 732U or something totally different. What I found baffled, pleased, and even shocked me in many ways.
It's worth noting that, despite the 632's huge screen and bright image, it's going to be quite easy on the wallet when the utility bill comes due. I noticed the Energy Star Energy Guide sticker on the bezel, which showed an estimated yearly energy cost of only $22. Cost range of similar models 69.5” and greater was listed as $39 to $90.
The 632U's semi-matte screen tended to diffuse but still pick up annoying reflections. Though not as distracting as some other set's mirror like reflections, care should still be taken to minimize harsh light shining on the screen.
Although Sharp specifies a 176x176 degree viewing angle, all that means is that you'll be able to see an image at that angle. I found that the 632U, like most LED LCDs, was very sensitive to viewing angle. With the picture paused, moving just slightly off center caused flesh tones to pale and contrast to weaken. At a 9’ viewing distance, moving about 1.5’ to the side caused a noticeable degradation. In fact, because of the sheer size of the screen, even if you sit dead center you may still see some side effects of off axis angles near the screen edges. I saw that the edges became just barely pale at a 9-10’ distance, so color was just slightly richer in the middle of the screen than along the outer quarters of the screen. Sitting farther away will diminish or eliminate the effect, though that is not a very good compromise.
Black uniformity was excellent from a distance of 11’ or more, with almost no perceptible clouding. However, as distance was diminished, the center became darker than the edges due to the effect described above. It was very slight at first, but it became easily noticeable once I got to within 6'. I found a viewing distance of 9-10 feet to give the most pleasing balance between edge performance and field of view.
White field uniformity was excellent for an LCD, with just a very slight darkening of the far right edge.Before calibration:
Viewing of each picture mode was done before making any changes at all to the TV. After making note of my impressions, I then turned off the power save function since it could skew the measurements, and proceeded to measure each mode. The attached thumbnails are before calibration measurements.
Standard: pans were overly smoothed, showing the infamous Soap Opera Effect. Bright highlights looked overexposed, yet the picture was too dark. There was almost no shadow detail. The contrast looked very good in a dark room, however. Flesh tones leaned toward pink and purple, giving people an unnatural look. The carrots in DVE's Restaurant scene were not orange enough; instead, they had a strange reddish-lavender tone. Motion was smeared, due to overly aggressive noise reduction. There was an odd combination of a smeared, glazed over look and occasional graininess. Pinkish overtones dominated the picture. Overall, Standard mode was not very realistic or pleasant.
Auto: same Soap Opera Effect and smeared look as Standard, but much better shadow detail and color. Still a little too dim in a bright room, but good pop in a dark room. Very good depth. Whites were surprisingly pure. The overexposed look of Standard mode was gone. Something still seemed to be missing when the room lights were on, probably due to the low light output of Auto. However, this mode came into it’s own in a dark room, giving a highly engaging and exciting image. The downside to Auto is that NR and Film mode are not selectable, so the SOE and NR blur can not be avoided.
Movie: same SOE and smeared look. Odd color highlights; colors looked more natural than Standard, but bright colors seemed to stick out in an unnatural way. Shadow detail was a little weak, especially with the room lights on. Picture was still just a bit too dim with the lights on, though it was dynamic enough in a dark room. Depth perspective was there but looked a little unnatural. Presentable, but peculiar.
Dynamic: unnaturally highlighted colors. Overly enhanced look. Same SOE and smearing. Picture looked etched. Overblown contrast; bright highlights looked too bright, while very poor shadow detail caused dark images to sink into a black blob. Flesh tones were too pink, and white clouds had a distinct bluish cast. Blacks and contrast looked excellent, however.Calibration:
Resolution was excellent with a 1080P test pattern in dot by dot mode. Turning Dynamic Noise Reduction off eliminated the smearing, and turning Film Mode off eliminated the SOE.
There were no peculiarities or hiccups in the 632U's calibration, other than some slightly finicky CMS adjustments. I found that raising the CMS Saturation adjustment of any color caused color nonlinearities, even with the contrast lowered, so I avoided positive Saturation adjustments. The CMS Hue and CMS Value adjustments worked in a fairly straightforward manner with the exception of the red hue, which I found had to be adjusted against what the measurements suggested in order to get realistic flesh tones.
I was surprised to find that even my new C6 colorimeter could not get a reading of the 632's black level. While the C6 is reported to have superb black level sensitivity, I have not used it enough to get a good handle on it's black level limitations. Regardless, the black level was exceptionally good for a display of this type. Though I did not have a 732U close by to compare, I was fairly certain that the 632's blacks were darker and much more uniform that what I am used to seeing in the 732U, 734U, and 830U. In addition, blacks were quite neutral, without the strong blue or purplish tinge of many LCDs.
Most of the calibration was done with the Jeti 1211 5nm spectroradiometer and the latest version of CalMAN.After calibration:
Movie: excellent pop, contrast, and black levels. Blacks seem comparable to that of a good plasma. Great depth. Somewhat grainy from 9-10’, however. Vibrant colors. Flesh tones looked too pink/lavender until the red hue tweak mentioned above made them look excellent. Shadow detail was balanced slightly dark, though not to a distracting degree.
As I suspected during the calibration, contrast and black levels seemed to be better than on other recent Sharp models.
Overall color was very vibrant and exciting; possibly a bit rich, though not by much. The 632U didn’t seem to have the Dirty Screen Effect that I see in the 732U. Detail was sharp and plentiful.
In a totally dark room, the black bars did not blend into the bezel, though they were excellent for a non local dimming set. Although it couldn’t match the inky blacks of a good local dimming model, dark movie scenes showed an impressive amount of contrast, and brighter scenes showed that trait off even further. I believe the blacks were so impressive because they were devoid of the problems that plague many other LED LCDs, including some of Sharp's own: cloudiness and color tinge. However, cloudiness does seem to be variable from sample to sample, so I can not say that every 632U is going to be just as uniform.
After calibration, Movie mode seemed like a slightly more vibrant and refined Auto mode, but without the distracting issues (SOE, NR blur) of Auto.
Even with my picky Critic's hat firmly in place, my only complaints were graininess, which could be alleviated somewhat by the noise reduction at the expense of some smearing, and shadow detail which was balanced a bit dark.
This is a winner. No doubt about it, it will produce a much better image on axis than a DLP rear projector, and can look punchier and brighter in bright rooms to boot.Update 10-22-2011
I calibrated another one today and made a contrast ratio measurement after a software tweak allowed lower, more accurate black level readings from the C6. The modified ANSI contrast ratio measured 44.59 fL white and .0147-.0148 black, for a contrast ratio of about 3022:1. That is simply superb for a non local dimming LED LCD!
Also, this set's black uniformity was not quite as good, with a noticeable but not obnoxious cloud in the lower left corner. However, it was still better than what I've seen on nearly all of the 732, 734, and 830U sets I've calibrated. White uniformity was excellent.
Sharp LC-80LE632U.pdf 264.431640625k . file