TV manufacturers like to blast the marketplace with a completely new range of devices every couple of years, and now it’s Sharp’s turn. So welcome Aquos, a range of TVs from a massive 52 inches all the way down to a positively cute 19 inch model for benchtops and bedrooms.
Here today is the 46 inch, destined to be one of the more popular models. It’s from Sharp’s top-end D85 series, which adds 100Hz functionality over the cheaper D63 series.
What the D85 series really has going for it is depth, or lack of it. This TV is only 93 mm thick, which means it has a very diminutive presence as furniture, despite its 46 inch display – that’s 117 cm by the newfangled metric reckoning.
The frame has a piano-black finish, which means it’s shiny, which can be a little irritating if you have a lamp on in the room, as the fascia will reflect quite a lot of light.
As a high-end unit, the D85 includes everything that should be considered essential in a serious, modern TV purchase. There’s 1920 x 1080p resolution, analog and HD digital tuners, a 2000:1 native contrast ratio, 4ms response time, and most importantly, 24-frame Movie Sync technology for largely judder-free Blu-ray playback on the full 1080p display.
Another intriguing feature is the RGB blacklight. It uses LEDs rather than fluoro tubes, which is what allows the TV to be so thin. It also uses four different colours, making reds redder, blues bluer and greens greener.
This said, there is very little to separate this from the cheaper D63 series, except for the inclusion of 100Hz Fine Motion Advanced tech.
However, 100Hz functionality should really be considered de rigueur for any new TV purchase, especially if you’re a sports fan!
It’s hard to believe that no so long ago, big TVs were just ‘dumb displays’ that did nothing to help the viewer actually watch television. Where the D85 really shines is in its integration of the free electronic program guide (EPG).
With Freeview just around the corner, nearly all the major free-to-air networks now broadcast a proper EPG that will show you every program for the rest of the day.
When viewing a list of tuned digital channels on the D85, you not only get the name of the network, but also the current and following programs. Handy!
The TV also uses Sharp’s HDMI-based Aquos Link technology to allow the TV to talk to a PVR and schedule recordings, without having to first switch to the PVR’s input.
Aquos Link is Sharp’s implementation of the Consumer Electronics Control (CEC) system that’s part of the HDMI standard. Technically, CEC can work with all devices that support HDMI, but manufacturers are still limiting their implementations to same-branded products. This means Aquos Link only works with Sharp Aquos Link devices; it can’t control a device with, say, Sony’s Bravia Theatre Sync.
We tested visual quality using the onboard tuners and Sharp’s own HP50X Blu-ray player. The four-wavelength LED backlight does make a difference to areas of very bold colour: reds really do scream at you and blues are deeper. Extremely sensitive viewers will note the red is slightly dominant, however.
The 100Hz motion interpolation system is great for sport, especially on 1080i broadcasts. You probably didn’t even realise the action was slightly juddery, until you turn on 100Hz and everything smooths out. Once you go 100Hz, you won’t want to go back!
The 100Hz functionality is an option you’ll need to enable via the fairly overwhelming onscreen display (lots of lists and options!) but 1080p24 functionality works automatically when the display detects this input via HDMI.
Display from an analog source such as the Nintendo Wii is a bit disappointing though, with areas of high contrast strobing or showing barbershop-pole patterns.
A quick note on contrast: the documented 2000:1 native ratio (and 10000:1 dynamic ratio) sounds great, but blacks are perhaps not as black as they could be. Fiddling with the Optical Picture Control function – where the screen dims in response to ambient light conditions – makes a difference, especially if you turn it off!
For less than $4,000, this is a lot of TV. The tuner offers good EPG functionality, and there are enough settings to tinker around with to keep even the fussiest viewer happy.
This can be a bit fiddly though, having to set individual colour temperatures and RGB values. Is it too much to ask that, since our AV receiver can automatically set audio for our room, a TV can’t sample ambient conditions and set its output accordingly? Something for the next generation perhaps…
Lots of tech, lots of inputs, a super-thin body and a reasonable price. Not a bad package at all!