Popular electronic product names are worth their weight in gold. Names like Walkman, iPod and PlayStation are easily recognizable as trendy electronic devices popular with a large cross section of society. Quality products with names that transcend time become the darlings of big electronics manufactures and great buzzwords for techies "in the know".
One of the latest product names that has spawned a revolution in the LCD market is AQUOS. The name AQUOS was conceived by Sharp, and is derived from the words aqua and quality. I recently met a contractor at my new house that told me he had just bought a flat panel television, but wasn't sure what brand or even kind of TV it was. All he could remember was the name AQUOS. Of course, the AQUOS name says it all.
Sharp Electronics introduced the AQUOS line of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) televisions a few years ago, and from the outset, they captured our imagination. With elegant good looks and images with rich color and picture detail, AQUOS LCDs have nearly defined what consumers have come to expect from a quality flat panel display. Sharp has continued to make advancements in LCD technology and they are pushing the envelope with liquid crystal HDTV sizes now reaching as large as 65 inches, thus breaking into plasma territory.
When I heard a new G Series Widescreen AQUOS was being sent to me for review, it didn't matter the set wasn't the flashy new 65-inch LCD (not in production as of this writing). The 32-inch LC-32GD6U has the Sharp AQUOS pedigree that raises expectations of a quality entertainment experience.
There are so many features included with the top-of-the-line LC-32GD6U, I don't know where to begin. The display is a 32-inch high definition TV with Sharp's low reflective screen and Advanced Super View/Black TFT (Thin Film Transistor) panel that maintains its contrast and brightness in bright ambient light. It has a built-in HDTV tuner that can receive and decode digital HDTV and SDTV signals from over-the-air broadcasts with an optional antenna, and from cable TV service with full CableCARD plug and play capability. The set has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a native HDTV resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels for true 720p HDTV scaling. All DVD, HDTV, computer and standard definition sources with 1080i, 720p, 480p, and 480i signals will be displayed as 1366 x 768.
The two main complaints of most LCD televisions are their slow image speed and poor contrast levels. LCD pixels generally react slowly to changes in the image when it is moving, especially during fast moving video images like sporting events or while playing video games. Sharp's G series displays feature proprietary "Quick Shoot" video circuitry that has a fast pixel response time of 16 milliseconds to help eliminate this weakness. Contrast levels are a measure of the blackest black to the whitest white. Plasma screens normally have high contrast ratios of 1000:1 or more for very dark black levels. LCDs, on the other hand, have been limited to contrast ratios of around 500:1, which translates into poor black levels. However, the LC-32GD6U has one of the highest contrast ratios for an LCD at 800:1 for improved black levels.
The top panel of the LC-32GD6U has a slot for a PC card adapter (commercially available), allowing you to use most types of memory cards for recording and playing back still and moving pictures. This unit can record JPEG still images at 640 x 480 and moving pictures at 320 x 240 in SP or LP at 30 frames per second, or EP at 15 frames per second. Supported PC cards include SD Memory Cards, mini SD Cards, CompactFlash Cards, Smart Media, Memory Sticks, Microdrives and xD Picture Cards, to name a few.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
Sharp continues to improve upon the design of the AQUOS televisions. The stylized cabinets would look just as good framing a high definition television image as it would around a work of art. The silver and black cabinet is clean, compact and classy all the way. The LC-32GD6U has a swiveling tabletop stand and a pair of speakers enclosed in a cabinet below the screen. The tabletop stand and speaker enclosure can be removed for wall mounting using optional Sharp wall mount brackets (AN-37AG2 for tilting or AN-LCGWF for flat).
One of the best characteristics of the Sharp LC-32GD6U is the connectivity options. When you view the back of the set, everything appears flat, clean and simplistic. Digging deeper reveals removable plastic panels that expose an excess of connections. Earlier versions of AQUOS TVs had external media boxes to house the inputs for an uncluttered installation. The display was connected to the media box by a single cable and electronic devices would be connected to the box stashed away. Placing the connections on the back of the set hasn't added to the depth of the LC-32GD6U, which is less than four inches, but the box eliminated the tangle of wires attached to the back of the set. A cable clamp addresses this issue on the LC-32GD6U so wires are directed down the center of the stand.Read more on Page 2.
Sharp included a HDMI input and a DVI-I input for connecting a HDTV set-top box, DVD player, or PC. The TV has two FireWire (IEEE 1394) inputs, allowing you to connect a compatible D-VHS deck for digital recording. Additionally, the LC-32GD6U has two analog antenna inputs, one analog antenna output, and one digital antenna input. The provided RS-232C connection allows you to control the unit from a PC. The input signal can be selected, the volume can be adjusted, and various other adjustments and settings can be made, enabling programmed playing. The inputs are the most complete I've ever seen on a flat panel display. You may not need so many connection options now, but it's great to know this AQUOS display allows room to grow.
For my installation, I connected my DVD player, DirecTV HD DVR and standard cable television coaxial to the LC-32GD6U. As expected, the picture of the set was very bright with an extreme red push when first turned on. Manufacturers intentionally adjust the picture to a bright setting so they will stand out at electronic retailers, in essence screaming, "Look at me!" After I corrected the color imbalance, the picture appeared more natural with proper skin tones and toned down brightness.
I tested my first AQUOS set a couple years ago and liked what I saw. However, it's nice to know the R&D engineers at Sharp haven't rested, because there are so many improvements to the new line of LCDs to share the AQUOS name. I particularly like the menu system for operations that is reminiscent of a colorful computer operating system. The long, slim, backlit remote control navigates the simple features easily and the set is accompanied by a comprehensive thick manual that looks more like a Chilton's car guide than operating instructions for a TV.
I spent some time adjusting the extensive Color Management System (CMS) settings to correct inaccurate color decoding. The CMS provides basic adjustments for hue, saturation and value for the primary six colors, plus five color temperatures and other video settings. The image of the LC-32GD6U is bright and detailed with good contrast. After calibrating the set, the colors popped vibrantly, even in a brightly lit room. The increased contrast ratio improves black level performance, which is the best I've seen in an LCD, but not quite as dark as many plasma televisions. This was more evident in a dark room than with bright ambient light.
Watching HD Discovery shows, the set had good color purity with green forests, blue oceans, tan deserts, and red sunsets. I couldn't detect fast motion artifacts watching sporting events or action scenes. The image drag flaw associated with LCD panels may soon be a thing of the past with Sharp's proprietary "Quick Shoot" video circuitry.
The LC-32GD6U has bright color, fine detail, superior black levels, a good viewing angle, and a long lamp life. I was impressed with the vivid picture, connectivity and flexiblity of installation. The only major drawback is that the AQUOS is expensive. For the price you pay for the LC-32GD6U, you could afford to get a larger DLP or CRT rear projection set. But, you get what you pay for. If you can afford the finest LCD on the market with a name that epitomizes quality, you might as well get an AQUOS.
Sharp AQUOS LC-32GD6U HDTV
32" low-reflective black TFT LCD
16:9 aspect ratio
1366 x 768 pixel resolution
HDTV tuner built-in
Digital cable ready
800:1 contrast ratio
Dual 181-channel NTSC tuners
Detachable stereo speakers (10 watts x 2)
(3) rear-panel composite video inputs
(1) rear-panel S-Video input
(2) rear-panel HD-compatible
component video inputs
(1) DVI-I digital video/PC input
(1) HDMI digital audio/video input
(2) FireWire (IEEE 1394) ports
Optical digital audio output
PC card slot (PCMCIA)
Detachable tilt/swivel stand
31 1/2"W x 22 5/8"H x 3 7/8"D (without stand)
31 1/2"W x 25 1/2"H x 12 1/8"D (with stand)
Weight: 44.5 lbs. (without stand)
Warranty: 1 year parts and labor