If there’s one thing you’ll notice about the display before even powering up this Quattron, its that it throws a fair bit of light around even when it’s off — for a “matte” screen, it actually has quite a sheen. From 15 feet away, you’ll easily see yourself seated, even if it’s not quite the mirror-like reflection of a pure glossy screen. That said, the potent LED backlight seems to have no problem overcoming daylight, and we never had much of a problem seeing the screen, even during afternoon viewing sessions in a room with a wall full of windows.
The X-Gen panel in the Sharp LC70LE732U boasts a response time of 4ms and a dynamic contrast ratio of 6,000,000:1. That’s a bit short of the 8,000,000:1 Sharp claims for the panel in its top-tier LE835 series — according to Sharp, due to the lack of a high-performance polarizing filter. While black levels and peak brightness don’t match the “pop” of the best plasmas and top-tier LED TVs, the 70LE732U delivers a superb image that will impress viewers based on far more than size alone.
The Quattron comes quite neutral out of the box in its Auto setting, requiring minimal calibration to bring out a natural, balanced picture. We were quick to set the image mode to “dot by dot” since the default “stretch” mode trims out a rather severe 10 percent of the image through overscan.
Sharp’s “fourth pixel” may be a bit of a marketing stunt, but make no mistake: Yellows have a rich, vibrant look that you seldom see in competing LCDs, even if it sometimes takes the right source material to coax it out. We weren’t as pleased with blues, which seemed to lack the same radiance. Our RGB gamma tests seemed to confirm this impression to some degree: the blue spectrum looked smeared together rather than graduated in clear bands, and the TV seemed to have trouble reproducing the darkest blue hues without crushing them to black.
The biggest problem we expected to see in a 70-inch screen was simply pixelation: Screen sizes get bigger and bigger, but 1080p is still 1080p, and many sources don’t even reach that standard. Thanks to some very competent on-board silicon, you don’t need a $3,000 Blu-ray library to enjoy the LE732U. The TV’s built-in scaling for lower resolution videos was top notch. Even standard-def Netflix movies streaming over Wi-Fi looked surprisingly presentable at a size when every artifact and glitch is typically easy to spot. Low-quality 70s B movies (dredged up and mercilessly mocked courtesy of Mystery Science Theater 3,000) looked surprisingly watchable plastered across 70 inches. Sharp would probably credit Quad Pixel Plus, which uses all four subpixels to attempt to smoother lines, but we noticed no discernible difference in A-B comparisons.
The LE732U has two motion-smoothing options: Motion Enhancement and Cinema Mode. Even on high, Motion Enhancement rarely induces unnatural motion, and significantly improved performance in our tests with panning content. Cinema Mode, however, quickly makes characters look like they’re floating around on their feet as they glide around rooms in soap opera style. We found it usable on Standard mode, but overbearing with anything stronger.
As a result of all this processing magic, the LE732U suffers from one pesky problem for gamers and HTPC users: lag time. When using a mouse or controller with the TV, there’s a significant lag between input and the actual display. Sharp addresses this with “Vyper Drive” to reduce the delay between input and response. It works. Engaging Vyper Driver took the delay from obnoxious and bordering on unusable to completely imperceptible. Trouble is, it’s only available by switching to gaming mode, not as an independent setting you can enable from any other mode. Because it works by paring out video processing, settings like Motion Enhancement and Cinema Mode also become unavailable.
During steady pans, the 70LE732U did exhibit a subtle “dirty screen effect.” These cloudy patches on the LCD are imperceptible under normal use, but become apparent with giant patches of solid color, which can look blotchy, or steady panning, in which the image seems to be moving beneath an ever-so-slightly dirty window. We’re not surprised to see these almost-unnoticeable inconsistencies on a 70-inch behemoth, but let’s not overstate their significance: Only the most determinedly stubborn videophiles will even notice what subtle effect they have.
Remote and interface
In contrast to the size of the TV, Sharp’s remote is surprisingly compact — tall but unusually slender and lightweight, like a cedar roofing shingle. We prefer the vanilla look and feel to some of the more outrageous attempts to stand out, but it doesn’t exactly carry the gravitas of a $3,799 TV, either. The uniformly rectangular keys, limited color and lack of backlight can also make it tough to discern what you’re pressing in less-than-ideal lighting. Fortunately, commonly used functions like Aquos Net, Apps and Menu have distinct, dedicated buttons in prime thumbing turf, right above the directional pad.
The menu system on the LE732U is about as clean as they come: big menu categories across a stripe on the top, the fine-tuning options these categories contain running down a column on the right. Options like brightness and contrast can be adjusted with the menu pane open, or you can click enter on them to bring the video playback to full size and see the effects of tweaks in real time. Sharp even includes the full TV manual as an on-screen option — a boon for the environmentally conscious or just terminally lazy.
The LE732U comes with a variety of Internet-connected apps, including Netflix, Blockbuster, Vudu and Aquos Net, which is really a portal to a number of other services, like WeatherBug, news clips from MSNBC, and Twitter. Filing some services under other services (like Pandora under Vudu Apps) helps make the menu less cluttered, but can also make it more difficult to find services off the bat.
In general, the app interfaces are clean and easy to use. Netflix, in particular, has an up-to-date interface that includes searching, a feature many Netflix boxes still miss. Speed, however, is not really this set’s forte. Moving from selection to selection on different app menus follows a second or so behind your thumbs, and Aquos Net in particular seems to take a long time to boot up — nearly 10 seconds for what amounts to a glorified iGoogle page. Perhaps more frustrating, if you come to rely on these apps, is the roughly 30-second delay from turning the TV on to having connected Wi-Fi, during which time connected apps are worthless.
Chances are, if you’re in the market for a $3,799 TV, you have a home theater system to hook it up to. Which makes it surprising, to us at least, that the LE732U actually delivers shockingly good sound, provided you’re not looking for the kick-in-the-pants bass that should really accompany movies on a 70-inch TV. Midrange and treble from the down-firing speakers are respectable right up to max volume, providing all the oomph you really need for dialogue-driven television shows, even if Transformers 2 and Napster will ultimately have you hunting for a pair of tower speakers.
The sound menu includes adjustments for treble, bass, and balance, although playing with the bass slider is an exercise in futility.
Who needs a projector, again? Sharp’s 70LE732U achieves the wall-devouring size of a projector with the convenience, image quality and daylight-defying brightness of an LED TV, for a lot less than you might expect. While its image quality won’t oust the best in the biz and its connectivity options are a little sparser than we would like, we’re shocked to find ourselves describing a TV this size as… well, practical. None of Sharp’s competitors make LCDs this big, and the ones that come closest actually cost more — $4,4999 for 65-inch models from Toshiba, LG and Panasonic. Granted, those models pack more features — like 3D — but if you’re not sold on ninja stars flying out of your TV at you and would rather soak in content as big as your eyes can handle it, Sharp’s 70LE732U may be a winning proposition
- Largest consumer LCD available
- Vibrant Quattron X-gen panel, LED backlighting
- Built-in Netflix, Vudu, Napster, other apps
- Clean, intuitive menu system and remote
- Surprisingly affordable for its size
- Better-than-average sound
- Interactive apps feel sluggish, limited selection
- Some “blotches” visible with solid colors, panning
- Screen lag outside gaming mode
- Basic remote with no backlight