Sharp LCD TV Review
Model: Sharp LC-37D40U
Description: 37" LCD Television, Widescreen 16:9 Format
Resolution: 1366X768 (WXGA)
Includes: Integrated pedestal stand and 20W integrated speaker system,
NTSC and ATSC (HDTV) tuners, 2 HDMI high-definition Input terminals,
2 component video, 3 composite video, 1 S-Video connection
Color: Matte Black "Chocolate" Finish with gloss black frame and speakers
Reviewer: Paul Doran
The Sharp LC-37D40U is the latest in a line of impressive Sharp flat-panel LCD televisions. It combines the unsurpassed LCD TV display capabilities of the Sharp family with the beautiful new "Dark Chocolate" bezel that would look great in any living room. With all input formats, the LC-37D40U impressed the review staff with its excellent image scaling and processing.
The Sharp LC-37D40U is the latest in the line of the Sharp LCD televisions to be designed by Toshiyuki Kita, Japan's renowned electronics designer. Following the latest trends, the LC-37D40U moves from a silver finish to a matte and gloss black which Sharp is predicting will fit with new home trends. However, Sharp's product updates are not merely cosmetic. The LC-37D40U, the 6th generation of Sharp's 37" LCD TV, also has many technology upgrades from the model it replaces, the LC-37D6U, including better black levels, wider viewing angles, and faster response times.
Once we took the Sharp LC-37D40U out of the box and turned its power on, we noticed its vividly bright picture. Because the settings are initially calibrated for the retail environment, minor corrections were necessary to make the television suitable for viewing in a home environment. An initial comment about the picture is that the blacks seemed to be flushed out of the picture by the over-use of the LCD backlight—which was set to maximum output right out of the box (leaving the backlight on its maximum setting will drastically diminish the lifetime of the LCD backlights).
Because Sharp allows the user to adjust the power of the television's backlight, it is much easier to attain a good black level from the LCD screen. By setting the backlight to Zero (the midpoint on the –16/+16 scale), most of the black level potential of the Sharp LCD is realized. With this simple adjustment, the black level of the Sharp LC-37D40U is among the best of any LCD that we have tested thus far. The only realistic competition for the LC-37D40U in the LCD TV market is the Sony KDL-V40XBR1 LCD.
The LC-37D40U utilizes Sharp's new Advanced Super View / Black TFT Panel which improves light throughput allowing for deeper blacks and purer whites. This panel display improvement increases black levels thus allowing the television to display fuller detail in darker scenes. With these black level improvements, the LC-37D40U has made major strides to close the gaps in the race against plasma technology. When viewing Unforgiven in HD-DVD (using the Toshiba HD-XA1) connected via HDMI to the Sharp LC-37D40U, the outdoor scenes seem very vivid and colorful—long a strength of the Sharp LCD line, but the higher-quality black levels give the picture more detail in darker scenes. After using the Digital Video Essentials calibration suite, the Sharp's picture improves dramatically.
|Sharp LC-37D40U||Optimal Calibrations using Digital Video Essentials|
|Contrast||25 / 40|
Once we completed the Digital Video Essentials calibration steps, we opened the advanced menu of the Picture setup. The beneficial feature on the advanced menu is the Color Temperature Adjustment. One should set it to "Medium" before calibrating the picture, and then use it to fine-tune after calibration. After calibrating the Sharp LC-37D40U, we noticed that skin tones appeared a little too red. Moving the Color Temperature setting from "Medium" to "Med-High" took care of the problem without adding a blue push to other material.
After the Digital Video Essentials calibration, the picture is stunning. In the Unforgiven HD-DVD, more details are noticeable in the dark campfire dialogue between the characters of Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman than before calibration, but the color saturation of vivid outdoor scenes remains excellent. Here it is important to note that the full potential of the picture, as with any high-definition television, can be fully realized only with a full ISF calibration, so use our included notes on proper settings.
After they ambush the cowboys, Clint Eastwood's character in Unforgiven, William Munny, stands among the grassy, rolling hills against the mountainous backdrop contemplating the crimes he had just committed. The Sharp LC-37D40U skillfully captures not only the hardened grimace on Eastwood's face in his exchange with the Schofield Kid, but also the beauty of the western landscape in stunning high-definition. While this is a moving point in the film, the scene is particularly powerful because of the excellent color saturation and vivid detail of the actors' surroundings. The Sharp LC-37D40U LCDs performance in displaying HD sets the bar for LCD televisions and can be compared to the best of today's plasma displays. I will be very interested to see how much Sharp's D90 1080p series can improve on this already excellent picture.
While the Sharp LC-37D40U excellently displays HD pictures in 1080i, it also does a respectable job upconverting a 480 interlaced signal to its 720p resolution. While the conventional DVD image from Unforgiven obviously does not match its HD-DVD counterpart in picture quality, the upconverting technology of the LC-37D40U still makes the conventional images appear very detailed.
Multi-Pixel Technology, one of Sharp's latest LCD TV innovations—introduced for the first time on the Sharp LC-37D40U—increases the quality of the picture when viewed from wide angles. Gone are the days when buying an LCD television meant that you either have to view the television from straight-ahead or deal with a drastically degraded picture! The Multi-Pixel Technology divides each pixel into two sections and uses its advanced driving system to deliver a more natural and accurate color reproduction from wider angles. While Sharp advertises a 176° viewing angle, the viewing angle for the LC-37D40U was about 160° before we observed any noticeable color degradation or loss of contrast—still among the best LCD technology has to offer.
Sharp has virtually eliminated traditional LCD television problems such as false contouring, pixelating motion artifacts, and ghosting (motion lag). In the fast-moving action sequences of the Unforgiven and Cinderella Man HD-DVD's, no noticeable motion lag occurred in Sharp's improved Quick-Shoot circuitry. Sharp's proprietary Quick Shoot circuitry is improved to deliver a 6ms response time—nearly a 100% improvement over last year's model, the LC-37D6U, plausibly fast enough for computer applications and high-intensity gamers but certainly faster than other LCD competition. With these improvements, the Sharp LC-37-D40U is poised to compete with today's top plasmas in overall picture quality.
OTHER CONSIDERATIONS: 91/100
Like many of the LCD televisions Sharp has developed before the LC-37D40U, this model ran very quietly. Unlike some plasma televisions, the LC-37D40U does not require a fan to cool the pixels. Additionally, this television uses about half of the power required to operate a plasma display. Because of the lack a fan and lower power consumption, this Sharp television is virtually silent at the recommended viewing distance of eight to ten feet.
Sharp includes an adjustable backlight for the D40U series LCD's, and it is a valuable feature. If you plan to use the television in a bright room rich with ambient light, adjustments to increase the backlight above the zero midpoint may be required. However, if you have a darker television viewing room, less backlight is necessary. Lamp-life of the television (rated by Sharp at 60,000 hours) will be optimized.
The menu system on the Sharp LC-37D40U is very intuitive. It utilizes a drop-down format for the individual settings under the main categories such as Picture, Audio, Power Control, and Setup. The basic Picture controls are easy to find and manipulate, and more advanced controls are found in the Advanced tab at the bottom of the picture controls. The Audio menu options work in a similar fashion. By utilizing the drop-down menu system, Sharp has included many controls, which are sometimes confusing, into a structure which is easily navigable by the average consumer.
While the menu system offers a diverse set of controls for those who wish to calibrate the picture settings to their personal tastes, the preset picture settings leave something to be desired. The user can choose from five Color Temperature settings to regulate white balance—High (produces a bluish white), Mid-High, Middle, Mid-Low, and Low (produces a reddish white). Because the Middle color temperature produces a slight red shift in the white balance using optimal Color and Tint settings, we found the optimal color temperature setting to be Mid-High. Usually, one would expect Sharp to have included several preset picture settings to go with the Color Temperature settings. However, Sharp has left the task of basic picture calibration in the LC-37D40U completely up to the end user.
Like earlier Sharp LCD televisions, the inputs for the LC-37D40U are on the side of the display. This might cause some aesthetic problems if one wants to mount the television on a wall—the input wires could be exposed partially. However, if the table stand is to be used, Sharp provides a wire conduit so that the wires are hidden.
Because of the increased popularity of HDMI, Sharp has included a second HDMI input thus future-proofing the LC-37D40U LCD for the newest components available on the market today and in the future—cable and satellite boxes, upconverting DVD players, high definition video game consoles such as XBOX 360 and Playstation3, and upcoming high-definition DVD players. Also included are two component video inputs, three composite inputs, and one S-Video input.
The two 10-watt speakers (20W total) included on the Sharp LC-37D40U are not nearly as awe-inspiring as the LCD TV's picture quality, but they are more than adequate for the smaller home-theater rooms using a 37" screen. While home-theater aficionados will undoubtedly want to utilize a surround-sound speaker system with the television, most will find the speakers serviceable for daily viewing.
Unfortunately, the remote control included with the LC-37D40U is virtually un-updated from those included with previous Sharp models. It is very long, but it has small and sometimes hard-to-find buttons. The often-used Volume and Channel controls are very small and awkwardly placed. While this is technically a universal remote, few people will decide to use it as a controlling device for their entire home theater.
The black bezel of the LC-37D40U is a very clean and classy new look for Sharp. While previous Sharp LCD TVs had a silver bezel with awkward snap-on speakers, this model has stylishly integrated speakers that aesthetically match the television. Even the pedestal stand is improved for this television from the "two-foot" stand used in previous models. Now users do not have to compromise aesthetics for the unmatched picture quality of a Sharp LCD. On the contrary, the Sharp LC-37D40U is both classy and understated—it will make a great addition to anyone's living room.
The Sharp LC-37D40U has everything one needs in a flat-panel HDTV - a great picture with good color saturation and improved black levels, a wide viewing angle, adequate inputs, NTSC and ATSC (HDTV) tuners, and a beautiful design. While these features are not necessarily groundbreaking on their own, Sharp offers the LC-37D40U for an MSRP of $2,599. After browsing authorized dealers on the internet for only ten minutes, we were able to find this television priced in the low $2,000 range. This is a steep price decrease from the models offered only one year ago (nearly 30%)! When we cruised around town looking for deals at the big-box retailers in our area, we were unable to find prices that beat the online retailers. In fact, big box retailers were selling the LC-37D40U at the MSRP in our area!
Sharp will introduce the pricey D90U series later this year that will offer 1920x1080 (or 1080p) resolution, but the D40U series is the value without "paying up" for the latest higher resolution and still gaining complete ability to show HDTV programming in 1080i/720p.
With Sony and Samsung as its only real competition at the top of the LCD market, most consumers choose to compare Sharp LCD's to similarly-sized plasma televisions. The Panasonic TH-37PX60U, the closest apples-to-apples comparison for the LC-37D40U, retails about $200-300 less than the Sharp LCD. Therefore, if you determine that an LCD television best fits your needs
OVERALL RATING (WITH PICTURE DOUBLE-WEIGHTED): 93.5/100*
Rating scale from 70 (denoting poorest quality) to 100 (signifying the very best quality). A rating in the 60s for any particular category of a product review indicates a serious defect which causes the product not to operate properly. Picture quality is double-weighted in the Overall Rating Score calculation.