Electronic Design

Sharp Aquos LC52D64U

Sharp’s Aquos LC52D64U takes light and thin to a new level. It’s about 20 percent lighter and 25 percent slimmer than prior models and most of the competition. It is only 3.75-in at its thickest point and weighs just over 55 pounds. The trend towards wall mounting – almost a third of these screens are hung up — makes thickness and weight a significant factor when choosing a large-screen display. Display quality, of course, is the major deciding factor in choosing a big screen and the Aquos line meets this requirement well. The 52-in LC52D64U supports resolutions up to 1080p. At the moment, you’ll need a 1080p source like Sharp’s BD-HP20U or Samsung’s BD-P1400 Blu-ray player to get this kind of content, since most digital signals from satellite or cable are only 1080i. Out of the box, the Aquos LC52D64U has a noticeably thinner outer bezel. It has a clean look but the interesting stuff is hiding on the rear and sides. The VGA and two of the three HDMI inputs face the side, (Fig. 2) but are in the back where they cannot be accessed if the unit is mounted on the wall. The same is true for the other rear-accessible connections (Fig. 3). An HDMI and component video input can be found on the right side of the display (Fig. 4) along with the USB-based service port. The connector complement includes 3 HDMI inputs (1 side, 2 rear), 2 HD component video input (1 side, 1 rear), a VGA PC input, S-Video, 3 composite video inputs (2 used via component inputs) and 4 stereo audio inputs. There is also an RS-232C input that provides complete computer control over the display. This can be handy for digital signage applications where the inputs may vary over time. For example, the VGA display input could be used for the general user interface but the computer could switch to another input when playing streaming media from another device or reception via the ATSC/QAM/NTSC tuners. The display quality of the LC52D64U is excellent. It employs Sharp’s Advanced Super View technology with a wide dynamic contrast range of 10000:1 (2000:1 native contrast). The dynamic support is achieved by adjusting nearby pixel colors on the fly. This leads to very deep black images with performance comparable to plasma displays that used to have the edge in this area. The display has a wide 176-degree viewing angle. One caveat about the display quality is that it needs tuning. Out of the box, it was fair at best. I had to reset to the factory defaults and do some further tweaking to make the display optimal. The defaults tended to have too much contrast leading to a chalky or blocky look on non-HDTV content. Keep in mind that the video source is critical for calibration and you need to consider all your sources. Having a 1080p source like the BD-HP20U Blu-ray player is key to making adjustments that are not due to poor input. Unfortunately I have not found an HDTV that provides multiple customizable configurations. Having a mix of antenna, cable, and various input devices can be interesting. The 4-ms response time of the display is most noticeable in faster moving presentations like action movies. The faster response time gave the unit an edge over slower displays. Action films were crisp and clear. There are a host useful options and a few stand out. The dynamic brightness control (named OPC) uses data from a built-in light sensor to adjust the backlighting. This is handy if your display is in a room with windows. Another option is to enable automatic detection of 24 frames/s video. Movies are typically recorded at this rate and the ability to playback in the original form improves viewing quality. The Blu-ray players tested with the display can provide this type of input assuming the disk was created in a similar fashion. Video scaling tends to be a big issue due to the range of content from 480i letterbox to 1080p. HD content format is detected automatically, but a single button on the remote is needed to cycle through the four zoom options. The Smart Stretch works well for filling up the screen for most low-res, standard-def content. The only limiting factor of the LC52D64U is its built-in audio support. Compared to other TVs, it’s good, but the pair of 15W amplifiers and small speakers can’t hold a candle to a decent component audio system. Luckily, the audio can be routed to a 5.1 system like the one I have in place. Of course, disabling these speakers was one of the first things I did. If you are sticking with the Sharp remote, you’ll be pleased by features like the favorites buttons. This is handy for a home with lots of viewers, or for conglomerating or scanning content like sports or HD channels. Each of four favorites buttons is limited, though, to four entries. The more impressive remote support comes when plugging in an Aquos-Link (HDMI) device like the Sharp BD-HP20U Blu-ray player or a Sharp audio system. The buttons on the LC52D64U’s remote work with the HDMI-attached devices as soon as they are connected. This is also true for many other HDMI-based products, but compatibility will be an issue since this type of support is just emerging. Still, I was pleased to find that the display worked equally well with the Samsung Blu-ray player when connected via HDMI. The display switched inputs to the appropriate player when a disk was started. Overall, I am pleased with the LC52D64U as the Best of 2007 pick. The display is key but it is the combination of inputs, features, and user interfaces that make the difference. I would have definitely mounted it on the wall if I didn’t have to return it after my review. Related Links Sharp

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