As Editor of a leading consumer electronics publication you can be sure that my Oregon home has many high tech amenities--though they are all somewhat hidden. You are not likely to find a piece of furniture aside from my couch that isn't an antique. My walls are rich with flyfishing culture from creels to bamboo fly rods to black and white photos of yesterday's catch. My house probably isn't what most folks would expect.
That all changed the day I unboxed the latest AQUOS 30-inch '111 LCD display from Sharp. From the moment I set the 28-pound unit on my wife's 150-year old curio cabinet--instant high-tech-home.
Sharp has certainly created quite a stir with its new AQUOS line of LCD displays. However, it wasn't until the price dropped nearly $3,000 from their initial offering that I decided to call one in for review.
To bring you up to speed on the AQUOS offering, I think it's important that we revisit the history of LCD IF1' technology. Liquid crystal was discovered by Austria botanist Fredreich Rheinizer in 1888. But it wasn't until the mid 1960s that scientists discovered a viable use for liquid crystal. They found that liquid crystals, when stimulated by an external electronic charge, could change the properties of light passing through the crystals. Although early prototypes were too unstable for mass production, that soon changed when a British researcher proposed a stable liquid crystal material--biphenyl.
Inevitably, the discovery of biphenyl--its controlled manipulation and the marriage of TFT (Thin Film Transistor)--made LCD displays a part of our everyday lives.
There is plenty about the Sharp AQUOS that is unique. Overall, the entire line seems to stem from one root idea--simple high-tech home.
Every display in the AQUOS line features a small pedestal that pivots up and down and left and right (optional wall mounting brackets are also available). On either side of the LC-30HV2U are cloth-covered speakers and the rest of the unit looks relatively simple from the front. On the top edge of the unit are switches On/Off, Input, and Volume/Channel Up/Down. Around back is a removable panel that reveals RGB, Terminal and Power connections.
Three simple wires connect the AQUOS to an external AVC (Audio Video Computer) component that features all the necessary inputs for well-rounded systems. The AVC has a built-in tuner and also a Serial HD input for use with an external HDTV decoder. There are also two component video inputs, two coaxial (antenna), four S-Video, one analog RGB, three composite video, one RS-232, and three RCA audio inputs. (One S-Video, composite and analog RGB are located on the front panel of the AVC.)
The LC-30HV2U '1'r 1' LCD display is capable of producing a WXGA resolution of 1280x768 that enables viewing of HDTV programming (720p) in a 16:9 format.
Read more on Page 2.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The external AVC is a major bonus when it comes to setting up the
LC-30HV2U AQUOS 30-inch. With only three wires to run to the display
itself, connections to my DVD player and HDTV tuner were a snap. My
only complaint here is that I didn't feel that the RGB and Terminal
Control wire was of sufficient length--I believe that many people will
want to install the AVC away from the display to keep the install as
clean and simple as possible.
With the AVC connected and my source units installed, I was on my
way into the setup menu in a matter of minutes. Actually, the factory
settings for picture calibration were quite impressive. This was really
my first experience with the "Black TFT" feature, and my preliminary
response to improved black levels was positive.
Like the Sharp AQUOS itself, the on-screen display and setup menu
are clean and easy to understand. I was very impressed by the
easy-to-navigate user interface. The remote supplied with the LC-30HV2U
is not nearly as cool as those supplied with the smaller AQUOS sizes. I
understand that the smaller monitors do not have as many features, but
I feel that the cumbersome, rectangular remote looks out of place with
regards to the rest of the AQUOS' stylish design. Of course, I have
never been one to shame a component on looks alone. While the remote is
useful, it is poorly laid out and rather dated as far as technology
goes. I'm sure that folks who purchase the 30" Sharp AQUOS will have a
component with a much better remote capable of learning the functions
of the display, but for $7,000.00 retail, I expect a functional key to
match the car, if you know what I mean.
I was excited to get this review underway. While I have never been a
fan of LCD technology for "theater" use, I have seen some pretty
impressive advancements over the past two years. One of which is the
aforementioned "Black TFT" from Sharp that is said to improve greatly
on black levels--an inherent weak point of all LCDs.
I played through several short "reference" cuts to gauge black
levels. While black levels were noticeably good, they still remained
several shades short of black. However, the levels were tolerable and
did not seem to wash out the rest of the picture as with other TFT LCD
displays I have seen. Additionally, with a 500:1 contrast level, and
outstanding color saturation, I would be lying if I said the
less-than-perfect black levels weren't something I could live with.
I watched several different movie clips from titles such as Jimmy
Neutron, Armageddon, Men in Black Monsters Inc ., and DVD
International's Natural Splendors, Vol. 3. Color was well saturated,
accurate and detailed. Most appealing
about the colors was the vibrant green and red. On my rear projection
display these colors seem a bit muted in comparison and, when I tried
to bring the levels up to match, the light output from the large CRTs
was too strenuous on my eyes. Not the case with the AQUOS.
While the picture on the AQUOS LC-30HV2U appears to be much brighter
with exquisite detail, it is also much easier on the eyes--a
consideration that I had never before contemplated.
The Sharp AQUOS is not the display for those that wish to appreciate
sight and sound in exact cinematic detail. But it is certainly a top
contender for those who do not want to sacrifice living space for
comparatively large and expensive means to achieve a better picture.
The Sharp AQUOS is a design for the ages with vast improvements on
technologies discovered long ago.
The first time I read a press release on the Sharp AQUOS line I
thought, "Nine thousand bucks for a 30-inch display? Why not just buy a
40-inch Plasma?" And that thought remained in my head until I actually
saw the AQUOS in living color. I have long been a critic of TFT LCD
technologies for home entertainment use. But, after spending some
one-on-one time with the Sharp AQUOS LC-30HV2U 30-inch display, I can
tell you first hand that the features, form and function far outweigh
its shortcomings with those subtle intricacies of black levels.
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