There are big HDTVs and then there is the Sharp 70-inch LED HDTV. Currently, Sharp's 70-inch LED HDTV is the king among larger than life HDTVs not powered by rear projection DLP technology, though Samsung does have a 75-inch display coming. Still, the Samsung is rumored to cost $13,000, while the Sharp LC-70LE732U reviewed here, retails for a mere $3,299.99. But is the mighty 70-inch worth it?
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The LC-70LE732U (LC-70) isn't a true 70-inch diagonal display, it's really a 69 and a half inch diagonal display, though it wouldn't matter if Sharp called the LC-70 "the really, really big HDTV" for that's what it is. BIG. How big? Well it measures 63 and a half inches wide by nearly 39 inches tall and three and a half inches thick to be exact - that's over five feet wide by three and a quarter feet tall. Despite its LED pedigree the LC-70 isn't lightweight either, tipping the scales at a hefty 92 pounds. Tack on the included table stand and the LC-70 nearly breaks the 100-pound mark. Physically the LC-70 isn't the slickest looking HDTV on the market, in fact it borders on boring compared to the likes of Samsung, Sony - hell, even Vizio. But none of them offer a 70-inch display and if they did, I doubt they would cost the same as the Sharp LC-70.
The LC-70 is a native 1920x1080 display utilizing Sharp's X-Gen LCD Panel that is backlit using a full LED array for better image uniformity. The LC-70 uses Sharp's proprietary Quattron technology, meaning instead of using the standard red, green blue color filter, the LC-70 adds yellow to the mix for supposed better color fidelity - more on that later. The LC-70 has a reported contrast ratio of 6,000,000:1 (dynamic) with a 120Hz frame rate and a four-millisecond response time. The LC-70 is not a 3D capable display, either active or passive, like so many others nowadays, which is no doubt why it's more affordable than most and is aimed at the discriminating 2D enthusiast - albeit one on a budget.
In terms of connection options, the LC-70 features four HDMI inputs, one component input, a composite video input with matching RCA style audio input, a single RS-232 input, a 15-pin D-sub PC input, USB input and an Ethernet port. The LC-70 can connect to the Internet via its Ethernet port or via your home's wireless network, for it features built-in WiFi as well. Once connected to the Internet the LC-70 can take full advantage of Vudu, Netflix, CinemaNow, Blockbuster, Alphaline Entertainment and Napster content thanks to its built-in Apps. There's also an antenna/cable coax input that will take advantage of the LC-70's internal ATSC/QAM/NTSC tuners as well as a digital audio output (optical).
I have a hookup at my local Best Buy store, one that enabled me to take their floor model LC-70 home for a long weekend - of course I had to give them Home Theater Review's credit card as insurance. Getting the LC-70 home is no easy feat, which is no doubt why retailers like Best Buy don't stock the LC-70 and prefer to deliver it to customers' homes after they've paid for it in-store or ordered it online. Moving the LC-70 around is a job for two people and if you plan on wall mounting it, perhaps you might even enlist the help of a third. Thankfully, my wife and I were able to get it from our truck to our living room safely and without incident.
Once in place making the requisite connections to my Sony universal Blu-ray player, Dish Network HD DVR and Apple TV was a snap and required no special or narrow HDMI cables thanks to the LC-70's average depth. I connected all of the above-mentioned components with two-meter lengths of Transparent Cable's Performance HDMI cables.
Before I got into any calibration procedures I went ahead and accessed the LC-70's factory reset to ensure that I would be getting the same out-of-the-box experience even though I didn't have the box. Finding the factory reset was tricky because the LC-70's on-screen menus are, well, atrocious. I understand the need to be different but there is somewhat of a uniform standard among most HDTVs nowadays when it comes to their onscreen menu layouts - something Sharp has chosen to completely ignore. The menu first appears as a bar across the top of the screen that gives way to drop down menus that then produces slide out controls that are difficult to describe, let alone use. Furthermore, Sharp has chosen to name some of the LC-70's features and picture controls differently than what you'd expect; yes all the controls are present, they're just arranged and/or labeled in a non intuitive fashion.
I went ahead and inserted my Digital Video Essentials Disc on Blu-ray and began to calibrate the LC-70 for my room. Once I became familiar with the LC-70's menu layout, calibration was more or less painless, and minus the beginning learning curve, took no longer than what I endure with most HDTVs that I review these days. Out of the box the LC-70 was set to be far too bright and overly saturated with distinct cool tone overall, not to mention the image sharpness is set very aggressively. That coupled with dynamic contrast makes images appear "chunky." These are easy issues to overcome and with the help of a calibration disc such as Digital Video Essentials or better yet a professional calibrator - you'll be just fine. I should also mention that I disabled all of the LC-70's various dynamic contrast and dimming modes, not to mention its smooth motion processing, or whatever Sharp calls it, for they're all gimmicks that do more harm to the resulting image than good in my opinion.
I would like to point out that the LC-70's remote is another no-nonsense affair, which, unlike its on-screen menu counterpart is intuitive and easy to use - though like the LC-70 itself, it feels a little cheap. While the LC-70 may be able to access your wireless network, you won't be doing any Tweeting or Facebooking with the LC-70's remote for it doesn't have a QWERTY keyboard or any of that nonsense. Speaking of connecting the LC-70 to a home network - because of the weird OSD and terminology employed by Sharp the process is doable but, again, not wholly intuitive.
I kicked off my evaluation of the LC-70 with some standard definition material courtesy of The Rock on DVD (Criterion). I wanted to begin with SD material because I've found as screen sizes increase, their politeness to SD material decreases, especially when coupled with the high brightness, high sharpness of most LED HDTVs we have nowadays. I was pleased to discover that the LC-70 was more than capable of making a lesser resolution image still appear pleasing to the eye, provided I did two things: calibrated the display first and second, sat the appropriate distance away from the screen. SD material on the LC-70 out of the box proved to be a noisy affair; however after calibration it looked decidedly analog and more cinematic than most other HDTVs I've encountered in recent memory, save maybe the Vizio. If I sat too close, the image's grain structure and lack of resolution became distracting; however from a distance of say, eight feet, I feel few would be able to tell the difference between the Rock on DVD and the Rock on Blu-ray (it's not a good transfer).
Read more about the 70-inch Sharp LC-70LE732U's performance on Page 2.