Yes sir, that right there is the biggest TV in Canada. Or at least, it will be when it goes on sale next month for the equally big price of $5,299.00.
The gargantuan AQUOS LC-80LE632U (hey Sharp – must we still use such awkward model names?) is 80 inches of full HD awesomeness and also sports these features:
- UltraBrilliant Full Array LED backlighting system
- Dual USB Inputs – enable viewing high-resolution video, music and digital photos on the TV
- Connected TV Services – delivers streaming video, customized Internet content and live customer support via built-in Wi-Fi
What I find a little surprising are the features it lacks, namely: 3D and Quattron.
I can certainly overlook the lack of Quattron. While I was impressed by the technology’s picture quality (Sharp claims that the inclusion of the extra yellow pixel renders colours more accurately) I’ve never been convinced of the science behind it. Given that no digital cameras or other recording equipment possess yellow sensors (they all use combinations of Red, Green and Blue) it seems to me that any data being sent to Sharp’s yellow pixels had to be interpolated from the original signal, so how accurate could it be?
But no 3D, especially at that price? That’s a tougher nut to swallow. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan of 3D by any means. In fact, I still consider it to be both a fad and a gimmick despite what some manufacturers would have us believe. But I’d also be the first to acknowledge that the kind of buyer who is ready to drop over five grand for an 80-inch TV, is likely not going to be happy with a unit that doesn’t “do it all.” If you want 3D and Quattron, you’ll have to give up the extra 10 inches and grab Sharp’s LC-70LE735U which has both and MSRPs for $4599. Like most of the rest of Sharp’s high-end line, the LC-80LE632U comes equipped with Sharp’s AQUOS Advantage LIVE service. This free service actually lets a Sharp service advisor connect to your TV remotely in order to help you trouble-shoot any issues you might be having, or simply to calibrate the unit so that it gives you the best picture for your environment. While most techies will scoff at this, plenty of buyers will appreciate not having to describe technical problems over the phone to a customer service person.
If, by some stroke of luck, Sharp has managed to create a screen that is as beautiful to watch as it is large, then I will consider the money well spent. But I’m not sure that this is the case. Consider for instance that this new 80-inch behemoth only runs 120 Hz motion processing. The standard for most high-end HDTVs is at least 240 Hz, which is still a far cry from a plasma screen’s native 480 Hz. At 120 Hz, especially at an 80-inch screen size, I’m concerned that motion-blur will be an issue.
Of course, it’s completely unfair to judge a TV – or any other gadget for that matter – until you’ve seen it in real life, so I’ll stop my premature hand-wringing. Speaking of real life, if you want to get a sense of just how big this TV is, check out CNET’s photo of the unit complete with a bored-looking Sharp spokesperson for scale.
Secretly, I can’t wait to see what GT5 looks like on this monster!
This is the kind of week it’s been in the world of TV and video, with stories not necessarily in chronological order…
First up: The 3D debate got hotter and well, weirder, when Roger Ebert – who has maligned the technology openly in the past – declared the format “inferior and inherently brain-confusing.” To prop up his thesis, he quotes liberally from fellow 3D-denier and award-winning editor, Walter Murch – whose work you are familiar with if you’ve ever watched Apocalypse Now, Ghost or The English Patient.
Now there’s no question that Murch’s credentials as far as the art form of cinematic editing is beyond reproach. But in a recent letter to Ebert, he goes way beyond a critique of 3D from the perspective of editing, citing biological arguments against the format such as:
[…] the “CPU” of our perceptual brain has to work extra hard, which is why after 20 minutes or so many people get headaches. They are doing something that 600 million years of evolution never prepared them for.
He’s referring to the process by which our eyes must try to converge on two different focal lengths in rapid succession. Now he may very well be right that this is the component of 3D that has caused undesirable effects amongst some viewers, but to claim that our very biology isn’t up to the task because of how we’ve evolved strikes me as a reach.
I get that Ebert hates 3D – heck I even agree with some of the points he’s made in the past – and I get that Murch isn’t impressed by it either, but I’m not buying the so-called scientific explanation as to why it sucks. Read the full post and see if you’re on-board or not.
Next: A new report suggests that this is the year we will see Blu-ray players for as little as $40 and 42″ LCD HDTVs coming in at under $300. Despite the fact that these devices will likely not support advanced features such as 3D, Wi-Fi or streaming, those are nonetheless stunning price points. It looks like 2011 will be the year that fantastic picture quality will be within reach of nearly every economic group in the West.
Finally, Pioneer and Sharp have announced that they will be creating a new line of LCD HTDVs that will bear the “Elite” badge – a marque that hasn’t graced a TV display since Pioneer discontinued its production of plasma panels last year. But this new venture, rather than being a rebirth of the TVs that earned CNET’s highest rating of any HDTV, appears to be at best a new line of LCD’s from Sharp with Pioneer’s Elite designation and at worst, nothing more than a re-badging of Sharp’s existing line-up of high-end models.
At first it might seem that this is a dig at Sharp. It isn’t. I’ve had the chance to audition their latest line-up of Quattron 3D TVs and I was duly impressed by their image quality and feature set. They’re good TVs. But they aren’t plasma and they aren’t Pioneer units – in short, they aren’t “Elite”. Now I realize I should withhold final judgement until I see the new Elites in the flesh, but I am (as you can tell) highly skeptical. I’m also a little stunned that Pioneer – a company that put plasma on the map – has decided to back LCD as a display technology after all this time. I would have much preferred that they partner with Panasonic, a company that has stayed the course on plasma and has inherited Pioneer’s HDTV crown as a result. Perhaps Pioneer believed that LCD will eventually eclipse plasma as the best display technology, or maybe they’re just looking for a more cost-effective way to re-enter the TV business without having to actually make their own glass. Either way, I worry that the Elite marque – so long a pinnacle of quality in the A/V space – will be diminished by this move.
Update, Jan 30: I knew I had forgotten something. Back on the 20th, CNET’s David Katzmaier wrote an interesting piece concerning the merits of active vs. passive 3D based on his experiences comparing VIZIO’s new passive-3D TV (XVT3D650SV) to Panasonic’s class-leading active-3D set (TC-P65VT25). The results are instructive for those who are looking to make their move into the 3D arena: Passive possesses quite a few advantages over active (and I suspect will become the standard soon) but falls short in one key area which I hadn’t previously realized – the VIZIO TV at least, can’t do full HD in 3D. Their passive system uses a circular polarizer to blend two 540p images – that’s half the resolution of Panny’s active system which can present the full 1080p signal to each eye. I’m sure as newer passive systems come on the market, this limitation will be overcome, but in the meantime, active 3D would seem to be the better choice for folks who aren’t willing to sacrifice a pixel of their Blu-ray material.