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Sharp LC-80LE844U

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Product Description

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If you’re in the market for a very large TV for a room that isn’t always perfectly dark, you’ve probably narrowed down your decision to the big DLP rear projectors and an 80” Sharp LED LCD. Last year I was able to get an in depth look at the first 80” television from Sharp, the 80LE632U; and I was pleased to see that, in comparison with the competition, the Sharp was so good it wasn’t even a fair fight. Cleveland Plasma owner Chris Majoros told me he could arrange some evaluation time with Sharp’s newly updated version, the 844U, and I was eager to see what improvements, if any, were brought to an already good display.

The 632U had size, but it lacked many of the features or technology of some of Sharp’s smaller offerings. The 844U addresses that concern, bringing 3D, Quattron technology, and some calibration refinements to the feature list.

It retains the semi-matte (or semi-glossy) screen that does a pretty good job of diffusing reflections and staying dark in moderate lighting conditions. Areas of the screen that are not picking up reflections stay commendably dark. However, in a typical living room, care should still be taken to avoid direct reflections which can cause large washed out zones.

The viewing angle, like most LED LCDs, is quite sensitive if you value realistic skin tones and maximum contrast. Specifically, moving from the center couch cushion to a side cushion causes slightly visible compromises, especially on the far side of the screen. It’s a difference many people would not care about, even if they did notice, but videophiles should take care to view the big Sharp directly on axis and have it tilted down toward the viewer if applicable.

Before calibration:

Before making any calibration adjustments, I started some familiar Blu Ray demo material to evaluate the 844U’s out of the box performance. In Auto mode, color was inoffensive though lacking in richness. There was very good depth and pop in the image, and excellent shadow detail. However, dark objects were a little too visible and light. Pans and movement were too smoothed out, leading to the infamous Soap Opera Effect, and there were some motion artifacts that caused intermittent blockiness in the image. The picture quality was very good overall, though lacking in warmth and richness, leading to a slightly polite presentation that needed a little more zest to be realistic.

Standard mode looked awful, with oversaturated colors, blinding highlights, overexposed whites, and a bluish cast. The image was very etched and “enhanced” looking, with sunburnt skin tones and the same SOE and motion artifacts noted in Auto mode.

Movie was slightly too rich overall, and colors were slightly off: bright color highlights looked to have a different tone than subtle color shadings. Skin tones were a bit pinkish, and Movie shared a hint of the etched quality that made Standard mode unbearable. Motion and pans showed the same overly smoothed and artifact prone qualities.

Game mode was somewhat highlighted and overexposed, with bluish whites and somewhat pale skin tones. Thankfully, motion lacked the SOE and artifacts noted above, but was a bit choppy overall. There was less detail visible in bright whites, and the overall presentation was flat, lacking richness.

User mode was horrible, looking way too colored and highlighted. Color was very unnatural and over hyped, and the image had an exaggerated sense of depth along with the SOE and motion artifacts.

Clearly, the 844U had some very good qualities yearning to be unleashed with proper calibration.


Care had to be taken to resync the meter with different settings of the Aquo Motion selection. Sync rates were found to be between 120 Hz and 480 Hz, as expected, although the 240 Hz mode synced at 600 Hz. Light output, changing only the AquoMotion setting, was 52 fL in 480 Hz mode, 54 fL in 240 Hz mode, and 71 fL in 120 Hz High and Low modes. Since the higher, more advanced settings resulted in less light output and contrast, 120 Hz High, Low or off would be preferred unless 240 or 480 settings were found to improve the motion. I could see no visible improvement to the higher settings with the material I sampled.
Uniformity was very good with black and white, though with a 10% dark gray field I could see that the middle looked slightly darker and greener than the right and left edges. I can’t imagine this being visible with normal program material.

With past Sharp LED models, I have found the need to turn the Red tint CMS adjustment away from the direction the measurements indicated it needed to go in order to achieve realistic skin tones. Thankfully, that tradition has been broken with the 844U, and the Red CMS adjustment seemed to behave more predictably and accurately than on previous models. There was some interaction between the CMS controls, with the Blue control affecting Cyan, etc.

I looked closely at the 844U’s screen with a magnifying glass, and the Quattron exclusive yellow pixel was active with every picture mode and setting change I tried, including the Color Gamut Range selection.

To my surprise, I found that after connecting the 844U’s serial port to my computer, I was able to tell CalMAN that I was connected to a Sharp Elite and activate the same ISF Day and Night picture modes that are normally found only on the Elite. However, as with the Elite, those modes were not without their limitations. The main limiting factor was that gamma ended up being less flexible than in Movie mode; because in the ISF modes, changing the gamma selection, along with any reduction of the contrast control below hard clipping at the 235 level, and even strong RGB drive adjustments, resulted in significant displacement of the 10 point white balance adjustment. If I got gamma, white balance, and contrast set to their optimal positions, then adjusting the blue 10 point adjustment at position 8 would affect the output somewhere else, say 95%, instead of the intended 80%. This was not linear with position, so it could not be compensated for. This caused all sorts of problems, making the 10 point adjustment very compromised if not unusable. In the end, I found that if I was willing to accept a much lower gamma and no whiter than white, I could get a good result. Since Day modes are often tuned for lower gamma and higher contrast, ISF Day mode was calibrated in that fashion. Movie mode, which did not have as severe limitations and displacement, was calibrated as a more accurate Night mode.

The modified ANSI contrast measured 2571:1 after calibration, with black at .014 fL. The black level will vary with the backlight setting.

Colors were more linear with level at a contrast setting of 28, but that setting displaced the 10 point controls too much even in Movie mode, and it reduced the ANSI contrast to 2036:1. After finding these limitations, I returned the contrast to the slightly higher setting.

After calibration:

In a dark room, Movie mode looked great, with good pop and natural color. Skin tones were very good: possibly a bit polite, but true. Overall, skin tones were more natural than on previous models. There was excellent shadow detail and depth. Blacks looked great; slightly lighter than on the best plasmas, but in line with a mid tier plasma. There was no banding or otherwise nasty layering; transitions in brightness levels and color were impressively smooth. In addition, the picture was perfectly stable, with no pumping or fluctuations. Watching hockey, I could see no Dirty Screen Effect unless I looked intently for it, and at that point I may have been fooling myself by looking too hard.

3D picture quality was well above average in the traditional aspects of color, contrast, and so on, although I was bothered by more excessive crosstalk than I see on most televisions.

Overall, the 844U shows a very impressive picture. The addition of a 10 point white balance/gamma adjustment and better red behavior led to an important upgrade in picture quality over the already good 632U, and the addition of 3D should provide added enjoyment for many.

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