Sharp LC-60LE650U LED/LCD HDTV Reviewed

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Sharp LC-60LE650U LED/LCD HDTV Reviewed


Sharp-LC-60LE650U-LED-HDTV-review-front-small.jpgSharp made a conscious decision a couple years back to focus its TV efforts on the large-screen category - namely, screen sizes 60 inches and above. The move paid off, at least in terms of market share. According to the company's own numbers, it has led the market for the past three years at screen sizes of 60 inches plus, by a fairly wide margin. This is likely due not only to the attractive price points that Sharp offers at these sizes, but also to the fact that the company generally has more selection at each screen size than its competitors. The 2013 lineup includes three series, with some sub-series within, totaling almost 20 TVs with screen sizes between 60 and 90 inches.

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The 6 Series is the entry-level series and includes screen sizes of 50, 60, 70, and 80 inches; the 60-inch LC-60LE650U that I reviewed carries an MSRP of $1,499.99 and a current street price around $1,100. Even though this is Sharp's entry-level offering, the 1080p LE650 still boasts a nice assortment of features, including edge LED lighting (no local dimming, though), a 120Hz refresh rate, and Sharp's SmartCentral Web platform with a dual-core processor, built-in WiFi, a Web browser, DLNA media streaming, and more. Missing from this series is 3D capability (you can get it on the step-up LE655), Quattron technology (which adds a yellow subpixel to the standard red/green/blue array), the SuperBright panel designed to improve brightness and contrast, a higher refresh rate of 240Hz, and the more stylish design you'll find on some of the pricier models.

Sharp-LC-60LE650U-LED-HDTV-review-rear.jpgSetup and Features
The first thing you might notice about the LC-60LE650U's design is that it has a matte screen, which is becoming increasingly rare in the LCD realm. That's because a reflective screen like the SuperBright panel used in Sharp's 7 and 8 Series can do a better job of rejecting ambient light to improve black level and image contrast in a bright room. Some people find all those reflections to be very distracting, though, and prefer a matte option, especially in a very bright room with lots of potential room reflections. Beyond that, the LC-60LE650U has a black finish with about 0.75 inches of black bezel around the top and sides of the screen. The top and bottom of the bezel have a brushed finish, while the sides are glossy; the supplied stand has a similar combination brushed-and-glossy finish. The stand does not swivel and holds the TV very low to the base, which could be a concern if you plan to set a soundbar on the cabinet right in front of the TV. The LC-60LE650U is about one inch deep in many spots; however, at the bottom where the down-firing speakers reside, the depth is closer to three inches. Without the stand, the LC-60LE650U weighs 55.1 pounds.

Sharp includes more legacy inputs than other TV manufacturers. The connection panel has four side-facing HDMI inputs (one supports ARC, and another supports MHL), but you also get one dedicated component video input, two composite ins, an RGB PC in, a 3.5mm stereo in, and one RF input to access the internal ATSC and Clear-QAM tuners. Two USB ports are available for media playback and the addition of peripherals like a USB camera and/or keyboard. An Ethernet port is available for a wired network connection, or you can use the built-in WiFi. RS-232 is also available for integration with an advanced control system, a feature that's very rare at this price point.

The package includes a standard IR remote that lacks backlighting and puts a lot of black buttons on a black background. The remote is long and skinny, with an intuitive layout that contains dedicated buttons for Netflix, SmartCentral, and Favorite Apps. You can program it to control three additional devices, but you don't get the more advanced onscreen control and search recommendations that you'll find in higher-end smart TVs like the recently reviewed Samsung UN55F8000 and LG 55LA7400. For control, Sharp also offers a free remote control app for iOS/Android devices, which has a pretty basic layout. The control app adds a virtual keyboard for easier text input within some but not all applications, but it lacks the touchpad functionality that makes it easier to navigate pages within the Web browser.

Sharp-LC-60LE650U-LED-HDTV-review-connection.jpgSharp now includes the full complement of advanced picture controls, even in lower-priced TVs like this one. You get eight picture modes, and advanced adjustments include two-point and 10-point white balance controls, a full color-management system to adjust the hue, saturation, and brightness of all six color points, an OPC function that automatically tailors the backlight level to the room's lighting, five gamma presets, and noise reduction. Sharp's Motion Enhancement 120Hz control lets you choose between three options to address motion blur: 120Hz High, 120Hz Low, and Off. Also, within the Film Mode menu that enables the TV to detect the proper cadence of film sources, you can choose between a Standard mode that performs basic 3:2 detection and an Advanced mode that adds de-judder via frame interpolation, resulting in smooth motion with film sources. You can adjust the amount of smoothing from zero to +10.

Audio settings include treble, bass, and balance controls, as well as Auto Volume, Surround, Bass Enhancer, and Clear Voice options. Despite Sharp's decision to go with the deeper cabinet to give the speakers more real estate, the audio quality is still somewhat lean in dynamic ability and lower-end presence. The step-up 7 and 8 Series include a built-in-subwoofer.

Sharp continues to flesh out its Web platform in both design and features. SmartCentral is clean and easy to navigate. A quick press of the remote's SmartCentral button brings up a banner along the bottom of the screen that contains the marquee options: Netflix, Hulu Plus, VUDU, YouTube, Web Browser, CinemaNow, AQUOS Advantage Live (for instant tech support), and a few others. Hit the SmartCentral button again to bring up a full-screen interface with more options, divided into menus like TV & Movies, News & Media, Music, and Social. The video source continues to play in a smallish window to the right. While Sharp has the big-ticket apps that most people want, the company does not have as many options as competitors like Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, and LG, nor do they have an app store to add services. The included Web browser supports Flash, but video playback was quite choppy, and the absence of a touchpad slider to move fluidly around the screen made for a frustrating experience. A split-screen option is available to view a Web page and video source simultaneously.

Sharp-LC-60LE650U-LED-HDTV-review-extreme-angle.jpgYou can play personal media files via either USB or DLNA; video file support is solid with MPG, MP4, MKV, AVI, MOV, ASF, and WMV support, but music is limited to MP3 and LPCM. I tested DLNA streaming using PLEX on my MacBook Pro and AllShare on a Samsung tablet. I had no connection or playback issues, and the interface is simple but colorful. However, during playback of streamed media, the remote's controls for play, stop, pause, and skip do not work. You have to use different buttons to control playback, which is not very intuitive if you plan to do a lot of personal media streaming.

In addition to the remote-control app, Sharp offers a free app called "Sharp Beam" that allows you to stream media content directly from your iOS or Android device for instant playback on the TV. You simply cue up the file you want to play and "beam" it to the TV, much like Panasonic's Swipe and Share or Samsung's SwipeIt options. Sharp Beam lets you store bookmarks to various services and Websites, which you can launch via the app and then beam to the TV. The app will also find other DLNA sources on your network and let you control their playback. Basically, Sharp Beam provides a more intuitive way to browse your personal media and cue up it easily via a handheld device so that you don't have to move through the TV's menu structure to launch the DLNA app.

One final feature of note is the Wallpaper mode. You can set up the LC-60LE650U to display artwork when it's in standby mode. So, instead of staring at a big, empty 60-inch screen, you can view the TV's preinstalled images of classic art or display your own images via USB. Sharp claims this is a very low-power function, and you can set a timer for between three and 24 hours.

Read about the performance of the Sharp LC-60LE650U on Page 2.

HTR Product Rating for Sharp LC-60LE650U LED/LCD HDTV

Criteria Rating

Performance

2.5

Value

4.5

Overall

3.5

Disagree with our product rating? Email us and tell us why you think this product should receive a higher rating.


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Sharp-LC-60LE650U-LED-HDTV-review-angled-right.jpgPerformance
As is part of my normal review procedure, I began by measuring several different picture modes as they come right out of the box, including Movie, Auto, Standard, and User. Not surprisingly, all of the modes except Movie were pretty far off reference standards, with an overly cool (blue) color temperature, very light gamma, and inaccurate color. The Movie mode was much closer to reference out of the box, with an average correlated color temperature of 6,272 Kelvin (6,500K is the goal), a somewhat green emphasis in color balance, and an average gamma of 2.14. The largest grayscale Delta Error was 6.71 at the brightest end of the spectrum. All six color points came in around or below the target Delta Error of three (cyan was the least accurate with a DE of 3.1, which is still very good). The light output was only about 21 foot-lamberts, but that's because the OPC automatic backlight adjustment is turned on by default and I performed my measurements in a completely dark room. When I switched off OPC, the light output jumped to about 68 ft-L, and both gamma and color temperature moved a little closer to the reference standards (2.18 and 6,348 K, respectively). Given the LC-60LE650U's price point and market position, I'd venture a guess that the person who buys this TV isn't likely to have it calibrated, so it's good to see that the Movie mode offers a respectable level of accuracy as is and can be improved by making a few adjustments to the basic picture controls using a disc like Digital Video Essentials or Disney WOW. The combination of the slightly warm color temperature and green color emphasis actually keeps skin tones looking rich and "fleshy" without appearing too flat or red.

For those who are curious about how this Sharp TV calibrates, I was able to achieve very good results using the advanced picture adjustments at my disposal. The post-calibration color temp average was 6,461 K, color balance was very good, the average gamma was 2.24, and the largest grayscale Delta Error was just 2.12 at the darkest end of the spectrum. I was able to further improve the accuracy of most of the color points. However, even though I was able to get a Delta Error below three for red and blue, both were fairly undersaturated, and I couldn't fix the problem using the color management system without making the hue and brightness much worse. So, compared with my higher-end reference Panasonic TC-P60VT60 plasma display, red and blue (in various shades) were the two colors that consistently looked a little flat and off the mark. Using the adjustable backlight, I easily obtained a light output around the THX-recommended 35 ftL.

Next, it was time for the all-important black-level tests, using my favorite demo scenes from The Bourne Supremacy (Universal), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (Buena Vista), and Flags of Our Fathers (Paramount). It should come as no surprise that an edge-lit LED without local dimming could not compete in black level and contrast with the best (and more expensive) plasma and LED/LCDs I've reviewed this year, but the LC-60LE650U was able to produce a fairly deep black level for an entry-level model, which results in solid overall contrast for dim- or dark-room viewing. In the darkest scenes from the above-mentioned movies, blacks were notably lighter than those of my reference plasma, but they were actually a little darker than those of the more expensive LG 55LA7400 LCD at a comparable brightness level. The TV also did a good job rendering the finer black details in these scenes. Unfortunately, dark scenes also revealed some major screen-uniformity issues that I will address more in the next section.

Sharp-LC-60LE650U-LED-HDTV-review-profile.jpgIn terms of overall light output, the LC-60LE650U isn't as insanely bright as the Samsung UN55F8000, but it's still plenty bright for daytime viewing. The Movie mode served up almost 70 ftL at its maximum backlight, which is ample for most any non-3D viewing needs (and since this isn't a 3D-capable TV, you don't have to consider 3D light output). Factor in the matte screen, and you've got a good choice for a sunlit room with lots of potential reflections. I was better able to enjoy dimly-lit film/TV scenes during the day on the Sharp TV than on any of the reflective screens I had around, where you can clearly see yourself and other room accoutrements in the image. The tradeoff with a matte screen, though, is that the picture doesn't have that razor-sharp crispness or deeper-looking blacks that you get with the better reflective screens.

With both SD and HD sources, the LC-60LE650U's level of detail was on par with my reference plasma display, but again, it didn't quite have the clarity and crispness of the best LCDs. The Sharp's video processing is solid but not exceptional. It passed all of the 480i tests on my HQV Benchmark DVD, but did produce some jaggies and moir� in my real-world demo scenes from The Bourne Identity (Universal) and Gladiator (DreamWorks). With the 1080i tests on the HD HQV Benchmark BD, the LC-60LE650U passed the video and jaggies tests, but did not render the film test as cleanly as it should. With the Motion Enhancement function turned off, the Sharp showed blurring down below DVD480 in my motion-resolution test pattern on the FPD Benchmark BD; enabling the 120Hz High or Low mode cleaned up the lines to HD720, with the High mode offering maybe a slight improvement in detail over the Low mode. Sharp's higher-end 7/8 Series TVs offer more Motion Enhancement options that may produce even better motion resolution up to HD1080, but I was perfectly satisfied with the results I saw here. I kept the noise reduction set to Auto and felt that the Sharp produced a clean image, without too much noise in solid-colored backgrounds and light-to-dark transitions.

The Downside
I'm not going to beat around the bush. The LC-60LE650U had the poorest screen uniformity of any edge-lit LED/LCD I've reviewed in quite some time. In dark scenes, I could see little dots of light spilling out across the top and bottom of the screen, and there were clear splotches of "clouding" all over the screen. This problem won't be as evident with bright HDTV content that fills the screen, but it was very noticeable and distracting with darker film content, especially 2.35:1 movies with black bars at the top and bottom ... and especially in a very dim or dark room. The higher you set the backlight to add image brightness, the more evident the problem becomes. I have seen a couple of other reviews of this TV in which screen uniformity was not mentioned as a major concern, so perhaps the issue varies a lot per sample. With that in mind, if you're thinking about buying this TV, try to see a demo with some dark content before you buy and/or make sure there's a good exchange/return policy.

Viewing angle is a common issue with LCDs, and the Sharp's performance is only average in this respect. Image saturation begins to drop off at less than 45 degrees off-axis. Bright images are still watchable, but the black level will rise noticeably to adversely affect the quality of darker scenes.

Competition and Comparison
There's no shortage of options these days at the 60-inch screen size. Panasonic, Samsung, and LG all offer entry-level 60-inch plasma models around the LC-60LE650U's price point, if you're looking for better screen uniformity and viewing angles. On the LCD side, Samsung's 60-inch UN60EH6003 120Hz LED/LCD sells for about $1,200 but lacks the Smart TV functionality. Likewise, LG's 60LN5400 sells for about $1,000 but lacks Smart TV. You have to move up in street price to about $1,400 to get the 60-inch screen size and Smart TV package from Samsung or LG. A major competitor to the LC-60LE650U is the Vizio E601i-A3, which earned a very favorable review from our publication and currently costs about $900. You can get more details on all the flat-panel TVs we've reviewed here.

Sharp-LC-60LE650U-LED-HDTV-review-front-small.jpgConclusion
The Sharp LC-60LE650U is a very good value in the category of 60-inch flat panels, and it isn't just one of those bare-bones, minimal-featured TV values. Sharp omits top-shelf features that many people don't care about, such as 3D, motion/voice control, and a built-in camera, but keeps the core set of features that we like to see, including a solid Web platform, built-in WiFi, DLNA/USB media playback, and a host of advanced picture adjustments to fine-tune the image quality.

Now, about that image quality ... From a theaterphile perspective, the screen-uniformity issues are an absolute deal-breaker, and I personally wouldn't recommend this TV for anyone who plans to do a lot of serious movie-watching. Admittedly, screen uniformity is a concern on a number of lower-priced edge-lit LED/LCDs, not just this one. Many people seem willing to overlook this issue to get a big, bright, lower-priced LCD for casual TV watching. If you're one of those people, then I can tell you that the LC-60LE650U does other things well, serving up a clean, generally natural-looking image with a nice amount of detail and solid contrast. Its brightness and matte screen make it a good choice for a well-lit viewing environment where it will see a lot of use for HDTV, sports, and gaming.

Additional Resources
� Read more HDTV Reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com's staff of writers.
� Explore more reviews in our Blu-ray Player Review section.
� See pairing options in our Soundbar Review section.


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