When Sharp pulls out all the stops to develop a top-tier television, the results are usually pretty spectacular. The only problem is, building a truly remarkable flagship TV can take a while, and attaining THX certification for that TV — a 4K Ultra HD TV, no less — takes even longer. At long last, however, Sharp has formally announced the launch of its Aquos UD27 line, a series of top-notch Ultra HD TVs which have apparently passed THX’s strict standards for performance.
We’ve seen prototypes of these televisions at tradeshows like International CES and CEDIA for the past couple of years, and they were truly impressive. Frankly, we thought they would wind up being a little more expensive, too, but today Sharp announced that the 60-inch LC-60UD27U will be priced at $3200, and the 70-inch LC-70UD27U, which Sharp bills as the world’s largest THX-certified television, will run a cool $4400. However, street prices are actually much lower than that. Amazon currently has the 60-inch model priced at $2300, while the 70-inch model fetches $3,000. To put that into perspective, Sony’s 65-inch XBR-x900b runs $3800 at Amazon.
As for specs, the new TVs come with 4 HDMI inputs, a proprietary resolution upscaler that improves image quality for display on the pixel-dense screen, Sharp’s SmartCentral 3.0 smart TV interface (a huge step in the right direction for Sharp) and H.265 (HEVC) decoding for 4K streaming services such as Netflix. Somewhat disappointing is Sharps decision to go with edgelighting as opposed to direct LED backlighting. The set doesn’t feature traditional local dimming for its edgelights, either. Instead, the TVs use some Sharp calls AquoDimming, which the company says “analyzes picture signal on a pixel level rather than zones to enhance contrast.” The company says the process uses real time picture analysis to adjust the contrast for the TVs’ over 8 million pixels.
THX certification doesn’t come easy, but when it comes to televisions, the THX moniker does count for something, and Sharp clearly felt it was worth jumping through some hoops (400 individual picture quality tests) to get it.
Both of the new televisions are currently shipping to retailers across the US, and Sharp will be hosting launch parties at at Video & Audio Center in Santa Monica, California on November 6 and at Value Electronics in Scarsdale, New York on November 13, where it will also be showing off its impressive new High Resolution Audio Player.
Update by Caleb Denison 10/30/2014: This article has been updated with more specific information about the TV’s backlighting system and associated processing.