Hardly a major force in the UK flatscreen TV market, Japanese brand Sharp has a huge LCD business that’s largely Asia-focused and has, in recent times, been concentrating on the budget end of the TV and consumer electronics markets elsewhere.
That all changed last year when Sharp introduced Quattron – a new colour reproduction technology for flatscreen TVs that was long overdue.
TV pictures are made up of individual pixels that mix elements from three sub-pixels – red, green and blue – to produce colour. This RGB system has been in operation since the year dot in TVs, but Sharp changed all of that when it dropped a fourth sub-pixel – yellow – into the mix.
Reviews for Sharp’s first Quattron TV, the LC-46LE821E, were good. But now this 40-inch LCD TV, the LC-40LE831E, is 2011′s attempt at combining Quattron with 3D.
The LC-40LE831E uses active 3D tech (with a built-in transmitter) and is as fully featured as any on the market; Freeview HD, Full HD, DLNA networking and a stunning 34mm depth combine on this neatly designed package.
As well as some touchy-feely controls on the TV set’s lower reaches – effectively on top of some hidden stereo speakers – there’s a nice ‘V’ design, too.
It doesn’t exactly recall Sharp’s early reference-level (at that time) titanium Aquos LC-45GD1E LCD TVs from the mid-Noughties, but in sheer quality terms it’s surprisingly close for such a low-cost TV, priced as it is at around £750.
Elsewhere in Sharp’s stable of LE831 second generation Quattron screens is the 46-inch Sharp LC-46LE831E, a 52-inch Sharp LC-52LE831E and a 60-inch Sharp LC-60LE831E. Proof, if any was needed, that the major LCD TV manufacturers think that 40-inch is the new 32-inch, in popularity terms.
Features and specifications
As well as being late to market with its 3D TVs, Sharp has also been one of the relatively few brands to swerve the idea of a connected TV portal. While its contemporaries have launched into the murky world of content deals, Sharp – along with Philips and Loewe – have chosen to rent a third-party smart TV interface to put its logo on.
To be fair, Sharp’s use of Net TV is re-branded slightly, but the resulting Aquos Net+ isn’t a patch on similar services from Sony, Samsung or Panasonic.
Its biggest problem is the lack of BBC iPlayer. Instead of genuinely engaging services we get Twitter, Cartoon Network VOD, TomTom, cinetrailer, Funspot, Daily Motion, YouTube and iConcerts (of niche appeal, but this archive live music service is actually rather great), as well as an open web browser.
Not capable of playing Flash-based video, this browser is rudimentary in the extreme, and works only very slowly. Sharp promises that Skype video calling will soon appear on Aquos Net+, although a Skype Freetalk talk7190 camera will need to be bought separately. There’s no sign of it yet.
On pure picture quality, the LC-40LE831E is a serious screen. As well as a Full HD resolution – now utterly standard at this size – and that must-have Freeview HD tuner, this 40-inch telly sports Edge LED backlighting.
It’s a shame that Sharp has got rid of its high-end Full or Direct LED backlit LCD TVs, but we suppose these were considered too fat for the flatscreen TV market at present.
We’ve seen that Edge LED (where light is fired across the back of the panel from the sides, instead of from clusters behind the panel) works wonders on some brands’ sets if – and it’s a big if – an uneven brightness, and light leakage, can be avoided.
Brilliant Colour processing is Sharp’s name for what its Quattron technology does to colour (improve it, naturally!) while the LC-40LE831E is fitted with a 200Hz mode that combines 100Hz with backlight scanning.
Its suite of TV circuitry assured, the LC-40LE831E adds another dollop of versatility with a clutch of ins and outs.
Since the set is so slim, the connections are somewhat shoe-horned into a side panel on the rear, although Sharp hasn’t made the mistake that other TV brands have in supplying a nest of proprietary shrunken adaptors.
Three USB ports are plenty; one is provided on the side panel, so is easy accessible for inserting a USB stick, even if the TV is mounted on a wall. The other two are strung across the bottom; one is meant for hooking up an external USB HDD, while the other is for inserting a Wi-Fi dongle that, surprisingly, is provided in the box.
The Sharp LC-40LE831ED TV also indulges in DLNA networking from a PC, but for those who’d rather have a sturdy connection, wired Ethernet LAN is also possible.
That easy-to-reach panel also houses a Common Interface slot, headphone jack and – most unusually for TVs not made by Panasonic – an SD card slot, although in practice it’s only for temporary AquosNet+ VOD downloads.
Other connections include four HDMI inputs – all easy for wall mounters to tinker with – a lone Scart, component video, composite and a PC input. There are also some analogue
phonos ins and an optical digital audio output.
If that makes the Sharp LC-40LE831E a possible home cinema centrepiece, the inclusion of a RS-232 port take things a step further by enabling the TV screen to be controlled by a home automation/control system from the likes of Creston or AMX. A high-end option, for sure, but a welcome one.
The LC-40LE831E also has eco-friendly ambitions that, not surprisingly, are born from that Quattron tech. Because the extra yellow pixel is lighter than the existing RGB array in each pixel, Sharp claims that more light is let through – so this panel can reach the same level of brightness while using less power. Now that’s the kind of accidental innovation we
Seems good value. Well, say that after this rocket: this 3D TV doesn’t come with any 3D glasses, with Sharp’s AN3DG20B rechargeable 3D glasses available separately for £69 each!
Although reviews for Sharp Quattron TVs were good in 2011, there was a question mark over the new system’s colour accuracy. That makes obvious sense; shaking-up a long-held system of colour reproduction was always going to bring a few criticisms in an industry with existing, and pretty fixed, TV image standards.
To our mind, there’s little doubt that the colours achieved by the Sharp LC-40LE831E during our test DVD I am number four are indeed different to anything else we’ve seen on the market, but that’s a good thing for a number of reasons.
Firstly, the more vibrant, brighter and lighter colour palette gives games, in particular, a new vibrancy that you won’t find this side of a scorch-yer-eyes out projector.
Secondly, fine details are superbly rendered, even in dark areas of images. Some cosmic shots from the BBC’s Wonders of the Universe, for instance, reveals some exquisitely detailed dark and light elements alongside each other in a wonderfully dynamic reproduction of the night sky.
Sharp has actually made a couple of tweaks to Quattron in 2011, most tellingly including a new colour management system.
Brightness is also surprisingly uniform for an Edge LED TV set, with no noticeable light leakage, although there can be a ‘black hole’ look to dark areas of images.
What really blew us away about the Sharp LC-40LE831E, however, was the 3D TV images.
Sharp claims that crosstalk has been reduced by a third, which isn’t something we’re going to quibble with; clean and precise, 3D is also comfy – so it is worth splashing out on those miserably ‘not included’ specs.
Sporting 200Hz tech – utterly essential for a 3D screen – the LC-40LE831E also manages to sidestep motion blur. The panel is rated at 2ms, a tad faster than last year’s Quattron TVs, and it shows during I am number four’s many battle sequences.
With solid edges and fluid movement throughout, there was but a whiff of vertical resolution loss in an all-round cracking performance that makes this an ideal gaming TV screen.
That 200Hz mode isn’t a core reason for the lack of blur – we’d put that down to Sharp’s advanced X-Gen panel – and the Film mode is also worth a swerve (it can make the picture look processed, with noticeable fizzing around moving objects).
Our main criticism of the Sharp LC-40LE831D is that anything less than HD looks shoddy. It’s less of a problem that on the 46-inch version, the LC-46LE821E, but it’s still noticeable that SD images look broken and exposed; it’s not just a problem with softness.
The slimmer a TV is, the weedier its sound, and that applies to the Sharp LC-40LE831E. The two 10W speakers in the underslung soundbar do a reasonable job with dialogue-heavy TV, but don’t stand up to a movie soundtrack.
Various audio presets are provided, such as 3D Movie, 3D Standard, Normal and 3D Hall, but none offer enough bassIt’s better to use the optical audio connection to hive-off sound to a home cinema amplifier, or a chunkier, powerful soundbar more worthy of the name.
In a nutshell, this Edge LED-LCD TV is a serious HD TV screen for AV enthusiasts on a budget.
It doesn’t have much in the way of online frippery, there’s no iPhone app, and it has a user interface that’s closer to Windows 98 than an iPhone, but despite all that it’s much better value than most of its rivals. Why?
Well, it has top-class 3D TV that’s far easier to watch than rival LCD TV sets in its price band, a fabulous 2D performance, enticingly natural colours, unbeatable brightness, Freeview HD… shall we go on?
Ease of use
While the remote control is a touch crowded, it’s easy to use and hold, although we’d like to see a free iPhone/Android app provided – as most brands now offer.
This set’s other digital talents are not in doubt; we managed to stream MKV and AVI files, among myriad other more obscure formats. That’s in direct contrast to rivals that often struggle to meet their claims of comprehensive file support.
Compatibility is open only for video, though, with just MP3 and JPEG files supported for music and photos.
The Sharp LC-40LE831E’s user interface as a whole is old fashioned, with little in the way of swish graphics. We also had some problems getting to know exactly which setting is accessed where; it appears to depend on which source is active.
We have no argument about the sheer breadth and depth of picture adjustments that can be performed. Sub-pixel control and gamma adjustments can be tweaked, as can the hue and saturation.
Calling up adjustments can interrupt what you’re watching, which is a complaint we’d also level at the EPG. As it appears, the live TV channel ceases, although it offers much more at-a-glance information than most EPGs. We counted ten channels, with programme information provided over an impressive six hours.
There are also various filters and other choices, but it all ends up looking like a spreadsheet.
Tightly controlled brightness and decent contrast together help produce some startling pictures, with faultless 3D, pin-sharp HD detail and that Freeview HD tuner all helping out on the Sharp LC-40LE831E TV.
Pausing and recording live TV is also a boon, as is the chance to play back a plethora of video files via USB and DLNA. The Wi-Fi dongle is also very welcome.
What, no 3D glasses. Or smartphone app. It lacks it some areas, and nor do we like this LED TV’s rather old fashioned Aquos Net+ connected TV user interface – it’s simply not smart enough and at times resembles a spreadsheet.
Standard definition lacks punch; this is a screen that’s hungry only for high-definition TV and movie content.
- Clean 3D images
- Full HD detail
- Wi-Fi dongle included
- Clean 3D images
- Full HD detail
- Wi-Fi dongle included
- Spreadsheet-like EPG
- Busy remote
- Rudimentary user interface
- Busy remote
- Rudimentary user interface
An extraordinary 3D performance makes this Edge LED TV seriously good value, although it lacks 3D glasses in the box.
Wi-Fi USB dongle, extensive digital file support and giddy 2D help it
make the cut, though a fussy user interface might put some users off
this otherwise exceptionally talented TV.
If you like to tweak a picture and be fully in control of a hugely
adaptable, often brilliant panel, the Sharp LC-40LE831E is the TV set
for you. If you’d gladly swap star picture quality for apps and icons,
then opt for a more user-friendly set from Samsung, LG or Sony.
Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /var/sites/p/pluggedin.co.uk/public_html/wp-content/themes/magazeen/single.php on line 196
Warning: Invalid argument supplied for foreach() in /var/sites/p/pluggedin.co.uk/public_html/wp-content/themes/magazeen/single.php on line 212