Sharp Elite PRO-X5FD 3D LED LCD
Last month, Sharp unveiled its new Elite-branded LED-backlit LCD flat panels, which I hadn't seen until now. Licensing the Elite moniker from Pioneerwhich collaborated on the new panelsSharp has hit a grand slam, filling a distinct void in high-end flat panels left by Pioneer's departure from the TV business. The PRO-X5FD has all the bells and whistles3D (including 2D-to-3D conversion with user-controllable effect), access to online content (Netflix, Vudu, etc.), THX certification for both 2D and 3D, and ISF certification to name a few.
The new panels' exceptional performance is due in large part to something Sharp calls Intelligent Variable Contrast (IVC). This umbrella term encompasses full-array LED backlighting with local dimming and a version of Quattron technology dubbed Precision Color Plus, which adds yellow subpixels to red, green, and blue. The Sharp rep called it "Quattron on steroids."
One unique 3D feature is found in the active-shutter glasses, two of which ship with each set. A two-position switch lets you select whether to watch 3D content in 3D or 2D, which means everyone can watch 3D in the most comfortable way for them.
In addition to providing access to online streaming content, a feature called Elite Advantage Live allows a remote technician to control the entire TV via the Internet, troubleshooting problems and correcting picture settings. Even better, this service is free for the life of the TV.
The demo was conducted in a totally blacked out room, and the result was absolutely stunning. Blacks were easily as deep as the Kuroand possibly deeper, even when displaying real-world imagesand it clearly blows the Kuro out of the water in terms of brightness thanks to IVC's ability to punch up bright objects without raising blacks, which is especially good news for 3D. Colors were rich and vivid without being garish, and detail was razor-sharp. Amazingly, shots of fireworks against a black night sky showed no sign of haloing, a common problem with LED-backlit sets.
So what's the catch? For one thing, the image still degrades when viewed from far off axis as with all LCD displays, but not as much as I've seen with most other LCDs. But most of all, it's the price. The 60-inch model will set you back $6000, while the 70-incher is a whopping $8500! In my opinion, exceedingly high cost was the fatal flaw that killed the Kuro, so I wonder how well the new Sharp Elite TVs will fare. They are shipping now, and we are working on getting one in for review as soon as possible.