My second thoughts on the LC-45GX.
First let me digress a bit with my first thoughts. For me, the three most important requirements for a perfect image display are pixels, pixels, and pixels. By that I mean tiny, bright and lots of. For example, in a video monitor, regardless of the sophistication of the circuitry driving the display, the monitoring performance will be mediocre unless the display device is capable of matching or outperforming that circuitry. To do this, the display must be as transparent as possible, neither adding to nor detracting from the displayed image. This is the open window concept. To be truly open, there can be no visible pixels. The brightness and color should match the subject brightness and color, and of course, there should be enough pixels to cover the entire window. The size of the window is rather arbitrary but I personally feel it should be a window and not full emersion. On a scale of 1 to 10, I rate a 16mm movie projection as a 1, a 27in ED television as a 3, 3D IMAX gets a 9, and the open window is a 10. But more to the point, I felt the 1920 x 1080, 45in LCD could rate as high as 8 based on what I had seen in stores and exhibitions.
These thoughts convinced me to purchase the Sharp LC4GXU6. Although not exactly new technology, it certainly has raised the bar on video monitors. I took delivery from Good Guys about three months ago (serial # 502xxx); however, I was not happy with its performance. Good Guys exchanged it for the floor model (serial # 408xxx) and in the process saved a customer as well as the sale.
In the beginning it was difficult to separate buyer's remorse from critical review, but in time I began to forget what I had spent and began to evaluate what I had spent it on. For the first two weeks I had the LC-45 sitting side by side with the 34in. Sony HD-1 it was to replace. I connected the same signal to both displays with a buffered component feed from the RCA DTC100 HD receiver and a PC operating at 1920x1080i, both converted from VGA to component with the RCA VHDC300 converter. The LC-45 eclipsed the Sony in resolution and brightness although the overall picture quality was better (more natural to the eye) on the Sony to begin with. For a week I fiddled with the presets on the Sharp trying to match the two displays, always using the Sony as my goal. The Sharp had too much color and contrast at first but it could be adjusted. After matching the two displays as close as I could, I began surfing the channels to the point my wife gave up TV altogether. I surfed channel after channel looking for any image less than perfect, mostly it was off-color flesh tones that stopped me. Each and every time, after closely comparing the images, I concluded the Sony exhibited the same defect, only I never minded it on the 34in. screen. When displaying images from the computer I found that regardless of the picture content, the two displays matched much closer. They had the same feel to them although I could not read the computer text on the Sony. I retired the Sony and concentrated on the LC-45 (sorry Sony, not tiny pixels and not lots of either).
The method I used to evaluate the LCD was to select a program and then fiddle with the presets until I was happy with the picture. I would note the settings and then select another source. I used the HD channels on DirecTV, a Toshiba DVD player, and the PC. I cycled through the sources many, many times. I would also check out the SD channels from time to time if I was actually watching for some reason. You might say I use the steamed rat method. I just tweaked the set until I liked the picture, noted the settings, then moved on to another source and did it again. When I viewed pictures from the PC, I used digital pictures that I had taken as well as other pictures I have collected from friends. I also used some of the terrific images recommended by some of the other LC-45 owners. I used a large variety of sources and images so as not to bias the evaluation.
After nearly a month of this (evaluation halted due to threatened divorce), I observed that the DVD player and computer almost always favored the same settings, zero or midpoint. This indicated to me that the engineers who designed this display knew exactly what they were doing, and it was marketing that insisted the factory presets be set to run way too much color and contrast. The DCT100 was a different story. The settings were very scattered and had no discernable pattern. They would often drift during the same program. This turned out to be a problem with the DCT100 and not the LC-45.
I see this is getting really long so I will quickly say that the RGB outputs of the DCT100 are derived from the component signals as decoded from the MPG2 stream. They suffer some distortion on their way to the VGA connector. To my delight, a component output circuit had been laid out in one corner of the main PCB, although it was unpopulated. I was able to restore the component signal outputs by installing the missing parts. Now the LC-45 has a proper component signal. The LC-45 is now happy, I am now happy, the DCT100 is red faced. This confirms that this is a very accurate and unforgiving display. I have been watching this tainted signal on the Sony HD-1 for over five years and never suspected the problem.
So finally here are my second thoughts: the LC-45 is, without a doubt, the best video imaging machine currently available, bar none. It is the most transparent display of this size I have ever seen. It faithfully displays perfect images perfectly and it displays poor images with unrelenting accuracy. In my mind, this is the definition of a good video display. My previous flat panel favorite was the Fujitsu plasma. It has a stunning picture but I rated it a 7 because it did not pass my pixel size test and the noisy plasma black drove me crazy (no flames please). As a reality check, I recently revisited the retailers to take another look at the current offering of panels. I was in no way sorry I am now an owner and no longer a looker. Some of the lower-end plasmas reminded me of the Las Vegas Strip big screens: bright, colorful, and lots of motion, but not something I would want to watch a good movie on.
In finishing, I would like to mention the poor black exhibited by LCD displays. In a very dark environment, the blackest black is dark gray. It bugs me but I don't watch TV in the dark. The auto backlight control available on the LC-45 helps a great deal and I barely notice it any more. I saw the Sony Qualia LCD at CES but the color and contrast were set so high I got sunburn. I could not tell a thing about the black performance. I keep watching for information on active backlighting but have not seen much. I personally think this is the answer. I may try to do one myself.