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LC46XD1E Calibration & Benchmarks
The Sharp LC46XD1E offers five colour temperature presets (High, Mid-High, Middle, Mid-Low, Low) but no further greyscale finetuning options in the user menu. As was the case with the LC42XD1E we reviewed, "Low" colour temperature yielded the closest CCT to 6500k with delta errors (dE) below 8 after 40% stimulus. Hardly ideal (dEs are said to be perceptible from 4 onwards), but unless you possess light measuring equipments and are prepared to venture into the service menu (and void your warranty in the process) to adjust the RGB cuts and bias, this will have to do:
Torture Test Scorecard
|Screen Uniformity||Horizontal and vertical bands|
|Overscanning on component||2.5%|
|Blacker than black||Passed (DVI-HDMI RGB Enhanced mode)|
|Black level retention||Stable|
|Video mode deinterlacing||Average (TruD on) to mediocre (TruD off)|
|Film mode deinterlacing||Quick 3:2 cadence lock (Film mode on)|
|Viewing angle||Gradual drop-off from 60° onwards|
|Motion blur||Minimal (best among non-MCFI LCDs)|
|Digital noise||Improved compared to LC42XD1E|
|Sharpness||Defeatable edge enhancement|
Note: the unit we received and reviewed had a serial number starting with 609, meaning that it was most likely manufactured in September 2006. Newer units may have improved and perhaps no longer exhibit the same problem, so please consider the possibility that the description below may only be specific to our review set.
When we put up a mid-grey field test pattern, we could see a few darker horizontal bands across the upper half of the screen and a lighter band on the lower half. There were also some vertical bands, though not as prominent as the horizontal ones:
Under normal viewing circumstances the bands were much less noticeable, only cropping up during slow pans/ tilts over an even background with low saturation. To be honest I was not actually overly bothered by these bands, but owners spending thousands on these TVs may beg to differ (and rightly so). Here's Sharp's response when I asked them about this problem:
"It is sometimes possible to notice small brightness variation depending on the picture content. This can be more noticeable with the larger screen sizes which incorporate more than six million individual RGB pixels. Sharp strives to minimise this effect and is constantly seeking to improve production techniques and quality levels.”
Unless you can open up and inspect a unit in store before plonking down your cash, my advice is to purchase online from an established retailer who complies with the Distance Selling Regulations as explained in our "Why Buy HDTV Online" article.
Black Level & Shadow Detail
Utilising Sharp's proprietary Advanced Super View/ Black TFT Panel technology, the screen on the Sharp LC46XD1E is slightly glossier than what you would expect from matte LCDs, although nowhere near as reflective as plasma TVs or the new Samsung LE40M86BD. Materially I don't think this adversely affects its performance in bright conditions at all; in fact it's probably integral to the legendary black level on the Sharp XD1E series (until the LE40M86BD popped along).
The blacks on the Sharp LC46XD1E was sufficiently ebony to anchor the picture with vigour and dimensionality, but was tinged with a navy hue (partly due to the low-stimulus higher CCT) when viewed off-axis. With the black level pegged to video black, the shadow detail on the Sharp LC46XD1E was marginally better than that on the LE40M86BD, but could not match that on the plasma TVs that we've tested.
As a consequence of its excellent black level and inherent brightness (typical of LCD TVs), the Sharp LC46XD1E cooked up a post-calibration contrast ratio in excess of 1200:1, one of the highest we've recorded thus far.
I've never been perfectly at ease with the colour output on LCD TVs, and with the Sharp LC46XD1E presenting only "Colour" and "Tint" controls in the user menu, I doubt this is going to change. Colour balance was in my opinion better than your average LCD TVs thanks to the greyscale that came within 500k of 6500k above 40% stimulus. Red push, while probably necessary to inject realism into flesh tone by counteracting the (still) cool temperature, jumped out like a matador's cape much to my exasperation. The culprit may very well be the additional crimson red component in the 4-wavelength backlight, but I had no way of verifying or refuting it. Lowering the "Colour" brought the overpushed red down to a tolerable level without losing overall vibrance, but those who are used to (over)saturated colours may find the final picture a touch lifeless.
Detail & Resolution
When fed a 1080i signal in "Underscan" mode, the Sharp LC46XD1E successfully displayed 1080 1-pixel vertical scan lines, but failed to fully resolve the 1920 horizontal resolution (manifested as fuzzy unstable pixels). In spite of this, text from a HTPC looked perfectly formed and legible, and as you shall read in the Picture Quality section, this somewhat surprising result did not undermine the sense of meticulous detailing derived from the set.
I've never taken any numbers quoted by manufacturers seriously, so you can imagine my scepticism at the sticker on the front of the Sharp LC46XD1E proudly proclaiming "4ms response time with Active mode" (LC42XD1E's was 6ms).
But Sharp may be on to something good here. Without proper equipment to objectively measure grey-to-grey response time, I had to depend on the swinging bar test pattern for a subjective evaluation. The Sharp LC46XD1E performed admirably, rendering motion with the least ghosting among all the LCD TVs we've tested so far, bar those blessed with motion compensated frame interpolation (MCFI) technology. The "Action" mode improved motion slightly to my eyes, but because it also introduced flicker especially on bright scenes, I left it off most of the time.
The viewing angle here is better than that on LC42XD1E: it was only beyond 60 degrees off-axis that the colours gradually desaturated and the blacks turned navy-grey.
Without TruD enabled, video mode interlacing on the Sharp LC46XD1E was below average with coarse jaggies throughout our directional and motion adaptive test scenes. TruD improved the situation somewhat, but still wasn't enough to elevate it beyond average.
With film content, TruD added a frame interpolation component which resulted in unnatural motion and loss of the cinematic feel. For such material I would turn TruD off but enable the "Film" mode which provided one of the quickest 3:2 cadence lock-on I've seen for proper film mode deinterlacing.
Digital noise (or the lack of baseline reduction circuitry depending on how you see it) was one of the few reasons that seriously dented the Sharp LC42XD1E's chance of winning our last 1080p LCD TV shootout. The Sharp LC46XD1E fared much better in this respect: up close there remained the incessant low-level dithering even when fed with pristine signals, but unless you sit closer than 6 feet you never get the feeling that the picture is "unstable".
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