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.
In 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.
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.
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.
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