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Hands On Review: Sharp LC-70LE847U 70" LED TV

This Just In -- Bigger Is Better.

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating

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Hands On Review: Sharp LC-70LE847U 70
Photo: Sharp Electronics
In today's overpopulated TV market, there really aren't so many ways for manufacturers to distinguish their offerings from those of their competitors.  Some tout a better picture, others a lower price; some focus on slicker styling or an easier remote control.  All very nice, but at the end of the day, it's all pretty much the same experience, plus or minus.  You're still watching a TV.

But what if your TV was really big? Like custom home theater front projector big?  That would clearly be a different experience, much closer to being at the movies or at a live event than watching TV, would it not?   

That change of experience is what Sharp is going for on its latest line of LED TVs, which start 60 inches and extend to a colossal 90 inch model.  Under review here is the 70 inch LC-70LE847U, which through its combination of scale and performance, actually pulls off the cliche of being a game changer.
 
Description

The Sharp Aquos LC-70LE847U is a 70" edge-lit LED TV with 3D capability and a loaded feature set; the top of the line model in its size. Relative merits of its specs and features aside, what makes the most obvious impression is this set's sheer proportions. Compared to a more conventional screen, its physical presence is a genuine leap forward, not unlike the one experienced when we all switched from our old 27-32 inch CRT tube TVs to today's common 42-55 inch flat screens.

The immensity of the LC-70LE847U makes a much more obvious and positive impression on the viewer than any incremental improvements in picture fidelity that another set may have to offer.  Not that this TV is any slouch in the performance department, as we'll see, but in this case it's the size that makes the statement.  There's 62% more screen area than a conventional 55 inch TV, which is big to begin with.

Until this TV and its larger brethren, you had to own a (usually) custom installed front projection system and (likely) a separate screen to approximate this kind of cinematic experience, at least if you wanted a flat TV (there are non-flat sets in this size and bigger).  That you'd pay more for such a system (at least to get this kind of quality) is a given, of course.  But more to the point, projection systems need darkened rooms, and this TV does not. You no longer have to go into serious "we're now going to fire up the theater" mode; you just turn on the TV anytime, just like any TV, and it feels like you're in a theater.

Feature Set

The LC-70LE847U has all of Sharp's most up to date picture technologies, including Quattron, which is the company's color recipe that adds a yellow subpixel to the standard red, green and blue (RGB).  The company claims this technique produces more subtle hues of color.  There are enough picture controls to give even finicky videophiles plenty of adjustment latitude, including selectable controls to automatically (or manually) adjust for room lighting, content type (film, sports, video games, etc.), individual color intensity, overall color gamut, motion enhancement (240 and 120 Hz), noise reduction and edge refinement, among others. 

There's enough connectivity here for most modern equipment, including 4 HDMI ports, 2 USB inputs (for photos, music, etc.) a PC input and built-in Wi-Fi. Older gear is less generously supported; there's a component video input and a composite video input.  There are built-in apps of course, including Neflix, YouTube, Vudu, Hulu Plus and a few more usual suspects. The standouts here are a web browser (clumsy but functional) and "Aquos Advantage" which allows Sharp technicians to remotely assist you with setup, optimizations or any problems.

The LC-70LE847U comes with a stand and a slim frame that visually maximizes the screen, which has a nice matte finish and happily, doesn't reflect much room light.  It does not come with 3D glasses (these are optional), and while I wouldn't call the remote control outstanding, it's better than average in terms of usability.  The internal speakers are adequate, but for a set like this you really want to have a sound system that measures up (no pun intended).

Performance

In terms of pure picture capability, the LC-70LE847U is genuinely impressive to an expert and thrilling to a normal person. I've seen darker black levels (on smaller screens), and there were minute deviations in light uniformity, which frankly you only notice on pure black backgrounds (like movie credits) and are no more distracting in real terms than those I see on the majority of mainstream LED and LCD sets from every brand.  Colors are rich and eye-popping, and I had a lot of fun trying out the various picture modes and processing combinations for different program material.

Because the screen size of this set reminds you so much of a movie theater, you begin to really think about the logic of digital cinema through this TV.  With a conventional movie projector, a single light source (the lamp) is illuminating the entire frame.  In theory, a well-maintained lamp will light up the entire image adequately, but in practice, theaters don't always replace their lamps all so often (expensive) and film projectors don't necessarily achieve complete edge-to-edge light uniformity themselves.  The center of the picture is often brighter than the edges, and this gets worse as the lamp starts to age.

When you look at movies on an LED TV like this, especially in the local dimming versions that Sharp will now be focusing on for future models, you're seeing every pixel of the picture being intelligently lit.  This has the effect of revealing details that are frequently lost in a 'real' movie theater, and consequently, movies often look different -- dare I say better? -- than they might in the theater.  There's a three-dimensionality to this Sharp's picture with 2D material that's fascinating to watch.  Video material looks like you're watching something that's really live.  Movies 'pop' in a way that makes them look incredibly fresh and new.  Aficionados of high end audio systems are fond of telling you how those components will let you hear new details in even your most oft-played recordings.  This TV will have the same effect with your favorite movies, as well as making sports and concerts seem incredibly lifelike.

Conclusion

Sharp has created a paradigm shift with these new massive new televisions.  Even the most casual, non-technical viewer immediately "gets" the advantage -- the entertainment effect is much more dramatic to the viewer than a couple more degrees of contrast ratio or another whiz-bang pixel smoothing technique (not that there aren't plenty of them here).  What Sharp has achieved by combining physical scale, convincing performance and relative affordability is extremely impressive. Basically they've created a true theatrical experience that can be as casually integrated into your life as an ordinary TV experience. 

Herding the family into a darkened custom theater room just to watch some Simpsons re-runs or catch the news is an experience that has a tendency to get old after a while -- it's deliberate rather than spontaneous. And while in most cases, the picture from high-end, custom-installed front projection-based home theaters like those will often surpass the technical performance of this set (if you've got the room and the budget for one), you can now get much of the same pleasure with a lot less hassle and expense. 

I've covered the evolution of TV going back to the days of armoire-sized rear-screen projectors and the biggest CRT tubes (36-40 inches).  I drooled at the first 42 inch plasma screens I saw in Japan going way back to 1996, and marveled as 15 years later you could get a credible 50 inch TV for about 1/20th of the price of those originals.

The LC-70LE847U is a milestone as far as I'm concerned.  If you've got the room for a set this size (or the even bigger 80 or 90 inch models) and an appropriate viewing distance -- here's an About video and an engineer's chart to help determine best screen size for your room -- you really want to check out this line of Sharp TVs.  I haven't had this much fun with a television in I don't know how long.

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