Andrew Robinson began his career as an art director in entertainment advertising in 2003, after graduating from Art Center College of Design. In 2006, he became a creative director at Crew Creative Advertising, and oversaw the agency's Television Division, where he worked for clients such as TNT, TBS, History, FX, and Bravo to name a few. He now has one of the most popular AV-related channels on YouTube.
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?
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.
Black levels were solid throughout with surprising contrast, though off axis viewing did produce a bit of "float." Skin tones were neutral, or as neutral as they can be in a summer blockbuster, and both detail and saturation were also impressive. Colors appeared rich and though they were clearly manipulated by a colorist, still appeared to be of this world - aka natural. Motion was smooth and motion artifacts were kept to a minimum though they weren't completely non-existent, evident in some of the film's wide shots of San Francisco's skyline. What I appreciated most was the fact that the LC-70 kept the film's original fidelity and makeup intact, meaning The Rock was shot on film using techniques and styles of the mid 90's and at no time did the LC-70 rob me of that experience by altering the image, either though poor image quality or lack of control - mainly in its use of LED backlighting. Speaking of LED backlighting: the LC-70's full panel array is seamless and among the best I've encountered, resulting in one of the more uniform images, in terms of light uniformity, I've seen from an LED anything.
Moving on I cued up another favorite, David Fincher's Zodiac, on Blu-ray disc (Paramount). I use Zodiac a lot in my HDTV demos for it's actually a hard film to get right; the images are rife with subtlety and texture as opposed to pomp and circumstance. Zodiac is a torture test for a lot of HDTVs. Some, like the Samsung 55-inch 8000 Series, fail, where others like the LC-70 pass with flying colors. Via the LC-70, Zodiac was an absolute delight, possessing a warm, rich textural image that at times clearly benefited from its Quattron technology. Black levels were smooth with solid texture and detail throughout, though they weren't inky black the way some other displays are capable of reproducing, though they were far from distracting. Motion was again smooth, though some judder was visible in long tracking shots rife with strong vertical and horizontal lines. Edge fidelity was sharp without appearing artificial or enhanced lending a natural sense of depth to the image. Overall I found the LC-70's performance on Zodiac to be among the best I've seen from any HDTV or projection system.
Wanting to try something on the opposite end of the spectrum I cued up Avatar on Blu-ray (20th Century Fox). If I could say only one thing about the LC-70 it's that its largely truthful to the source material, and by source material I'm not talking the disc itself but the technology, be it computer or camera, used to capture said work. The LC-70 can clearly distinguish the differences between Kodak and Fuji 35mm film stocks the same way it can delineate between a Viper digital cinema camera and the Panasonic ones used on Avatar. This may seem like a duh statement but you'd be surprised at how many displays, good or bad, that will treat things like film stocks, formats and even colors largely the same - I mean blue is blue right? No. Back to Avatar - the LC-70's performance was vibrant and punchy. The gradation, texture and subtlety captured in the various colors themselves, especially blue, was so impressive that even though largely CG in nature, it managed to appear natural within the context of the film itself. Blacks were the deepest thus far, possessing improved contrast and detail throughout compared to earlier tests. Edge fidelity was crisper with sharper delineation between live action and CG elements but not so much so that the two didn't appear to co-exist in the same space. The image had a true sense of dimension without having to artificially create one using glasses.
Comparisons and Competition
At present no other manufacturer offers a 70-inch LED or LCD HDTV. The closest you'll get in size is 65-inches which is still plenty big for most environments. At or near the LC-70's retail price you can pick up Vizio's new 65-inch 3D LED HDTV, which is five inches smaller diagonally but possesses an equally impressive image not to mention passive 3D technology. Also, the 65-inch Vizio boasts better Internet connectivity and Apps than the LC-70, so if you one of the few who insist on multi-tasking and don't need to have the largest screen available, the Vizio may be the better display for you.
Another comparable display is the 65-inch Class 6500 from Samsung. The 6500 retails for $4,499.99, which is decidedly more than the LC-70, and it doesn't include added features such as 3D to justify it. However, it boasts a better form factor and build quality over the LC-70 which may be important to some. If it were me, I'd take the Sharp, but I also don't believe that a display has to be paper thin in order to be great. Of course you can always wait for Samsung's new 75-inch LED HDTV for $13,000 if you're so inclined.
I'd be remiss if I didn't also point out that if things like LED backlighting and/or wafer-thin thickness aren't important to you then you could pick up one of Mitsubishi's latest rear projection DLP HDTVs for about the same money as the LC-70. The Mitsubishi HDTVs tend to come in sizes starting at around 70-inches on up to 90 plus. While rear projection displays are a little more light sensitive, aren't as bright and require some real estate in order to function, they're still the value leader among big screen enthusiasts unwilling to go to a full projection setup.
For more information on which HDTV may be right for you and your budget please check out Home Theater Review's LED HDTV page.
As much as I enjoyed the LC-70, I found its build quality to be a bit on the cheaper side of acceptable. I appreciate Sharp wanting to keep costs down and they did a great job; I feel some of it came at the expense of build quality. None of the LC-70's edges are exactly straight, nor do the plastics it's made out of feel all that robust. Even the table stand charged with keeping the beast sturdy felt like it would bend eventually under the LC-70's weight.
Once you setup and calibrate the LC-70 you'll have little use for its onscreen menus, but that doesn't mean they get to be as awful as they are. If I were running Sharp I'd take a good long look at my competition's OSDs and figure out a way to improve upon the norm versus trying to re-invent the wheel.
With Internet connectivity being all the rage with modern HDTVs, the LC-70's options seem limited versus limitless. Sharp was smart to include the favorites such as Netflix, Vudu, CinemaNow etc but they don't really let you go beyond that. Though I should point out that streaming content on a 70-inch LED display, no matter how good, doesn't a movie night make.
Lastly, the LC-70 has no 3D capabilities of any kind, which may seem like a weird downside coming from me but I think in this instance it is, for the LC-70 is probably the only HDTV currently on the market today that could create an immersive 3D experience in the home.
I think the LC-70 70-inch LED HDTV from Sharp is an impressive display, not to mention pretty affordable when compared to its peers. There are a few issues with the LC-70, mainly cheap build quality and crummy onscreen menus that keep it from being class leading; however where it counts, image quality, it's rather remarkable. If you're in the market for a larger than thou HDTV and don't care for "features" such as 3D or require access to a million and one Apps, then the LC-70 should be on your short list of HDTVs to consider.