As a member of the smallest screen size we currently review here at CNET, the 32-inch Sharp LC-32D43U competes against other name-brand 32-inchers from Samsung and Sony, among others. This is a step down from the company's 1080p model, the LC-32GP1U, but it still offers the company's best specs for a 32-incher in other performance areas. And in our lab tests, the LC-32D43U did turn in an impressive score, exhibiting deep blacks, more accurate color than we've seen from Sharp in the past, and decent uniformity. It lacks the kind of picture adjustments found in our favorite 32-incher so far this year, Samsung's LN-T3253H, but in some ways, it exceeds the picture quality of that set. All things considered, the Sharp LC-32D43U makes a good choice if you're willing to spend more than budget sets demand.
The LC-32D43U continues Sharp's tradition of sleekly styled HDTVs, and it starts by bucking the current trend of using nothing but glossy black for the flat-panel cabinet. Sure, it still sports plenty of gloss, but around the black frame is a slim silver border along the top and sides that flows a bit wider along the bottom edge to encompass the small silver speaker grilles. Its overall appearance is unusually rounded and organic, a look that's reinforced by the smooth lines of the stand and the oblong curves of the base.
Including stand, the Sharp LC-32D43U measures 32.3 inches wide by 23.2 inches tall by 9.6 inches deep and weighs 43 pounds. Remove the stand, and the panel measures 32.3 inches wide by 20.9 inches tall by 3.8 inches deep and weighs 36.4 pounds.
Sharp's been using the same remote for years, and the LC-32D43U is no exception. It has full orange backlighting, the ability to command four other pieces of gear, keys that are nicely spread out and well-differentiated, and a generally logical button layout. We say "generally" because the key controlling aspect ratio is stashed clear at the top of the long wand, the one for freezing the image is given an unduly important spot near the main directional keypad, and the one for changing picture modes is hidden beneath a flip-up hatch. The menu system is simple enough to navigate and includes helpful explanations that appear along the bottom.
With a native resolution of 1,366x768, the LC-32D43U matches the pixel count of most other flat-panel LCDs on the market. The set can fully resolve 720p HDTV sources, and all sources, including high-def, standard-def, DVD, and computers, are scaled to fit the pixels.
Sharp doesn't include as many picture adjustments as many of its competitors, including Samsung, Sony, and Vizio, so serious picture tweakers will probably be left unsatisfied. We would most like to see the ability to further refine the TV's color temperature beyond the five available presets, but at least the most accurate Low preset comes much closer to the standard than it did on previous Sharps. We did appreciate the wide range of the backlight control, which affects the TV's all-important light output and black level performance. We also liked the ability to adjust five of the TV's global picture preset memories, along with a sixth User memory that's independent per input.
Other picture controls of note are an OPC setting that uses a sensor to automatically adjust the picture according to room lighting, a Black setting that affects shadow detail, and a three-position noise-reduction control. For standard-def sources, you also get a 2:3 pulldown control labeled Film Mode and an Image Compensation setting designed to optimize the picture for fast or slow movement.
Disappointingly, the LC-32D43U cannot change the aspect ratio of HDTV sources at all--unless your source can switch aspects, you're stuck with the default wide mode. There are four aspect ratio choices available for standard-def sources.
The Sharp LC-32D43U offers the standard array of connections, albeit split between two different bays. The bay on the top right side houses a pair of HDMI inputs, a VGA-style PC input (1,360x768 maximum resolution), an RF-style coaxial input for antenna or cable, and an optical digital audio output for surround signals from the ATSC tuner. The bay on the back boasts two component-video inputs (one of which shares a slot with a composite-video input) and an AV input with composite and S-Video.
All things considered, the Sharp LC-32D43U outperformed most of the low-buck LCDs we've tested and was competitive with the well-reviewed Samsung LN-T3253H in most areas of picture quality. It evinced relatively deep black levels and more accurate color than many Sharp TVs we've tested, but its standard-def picture quality left a good deal to be desired.
Our tests began by setting up the Sharp's picture for optimal performance in our darkened room, which meant reducing the backlight control to achieve a maximum light output of around 40 ftl (footlambert). We chose the Low color temperature preset, which came relatively close to the NTSC standard despite tingeing the grayscale a bit too red, and made sure to disable the automatic light-sensing function, which caused the set's image be too dim for our tastes. For our formal evaluations, we set the Sharp up next to a couple of competing LCDs, namely the aforementioned Samsung LN-T3253H and the Viewsonic N3235W along with our color reference, the Pioneer PRO-FHD1, and checked out V for Vendetta played over the Toshiba HD-XA2 HD DVD player at 1080i resolution.
Sharp has been responsible for some of the deepest black levels we've seen from LCD, and the LC-32D43U can produce a nice, dark black itself. Compared to the Samsung, its letterbox bars and black areas were basically identical in depth of black--both to the naked eye and according to our measurements--which is among the best we've seen from LCDs at this size. When Evie stands with V atop the building to watch the pyrotechnics, for example, the black of his robes and hat, along with the night sky and the black letterbox bars themselves, all appeared satisfyingly dark. Shadow detail was solid for an LCD as well, although the Samsung still looked a bit more realistic with its shallower rise out of black, especially in near-dark areas such as the folds of V's robe.
One area where the Sharp outdid the Samsung was in its consistent grayscale in dark areas--specifically, it didn't get too blue. Evie's skin tone on the rooftop and the actual dark sky looked more natural, for example. That's not to say the Sharp's color couldn't use some improvement. We mentioned its slightly reddish overall grayscale, and as we indicate in the Geek Box below, its primary color accuracy could also be closer to the HDTV spec. Color decoding was off significantly as well, but instead of Sharp's customary red push, the LC-32D43U actually undersaturated red, as well as green, in comparison to blue. We adjusted the color control as best we could to compensate, but blue areas such as Creedy's door and Finch's shirt still appeared too intense and oversaturated compared to our reference Pioneer. This effect wasn't as bad as red push or green desaturation, however, so overall, the Sharp's color accuracy was still superior to most LCDs.
Screen uniformity on the Sharp was quite good for an LCD, without any of the banding we've seen on the company's larger models. We did detect that the edges were slightly brighter than the middle when viewing flat black fields, such as the night sky behind Big Ben, but the difference wasn't distracting. Like all LCDs, the set's black areas became more washed-out looking when viewed from off-angle, but the falloff was about equivalent to the Samsung, and there was no discoloration to speak of.
In terms of resolution, the Sharp LC-32D43U delivered a slightly sharper image than with 720p sources than with 1080i, although we did not notice the difference in real program material, as opposed to test patterns. According to our tests, the Sharp also failed to correctly deinterlace 1080i film-based material, and we did detect some moiré in the stands of Raymond James Stadium from the HQV disc, and the grille of the RV at the end of Chapter 6 of Ghost Rider, for example. All of these issues considered, we recommend feeding the Sharp 720p sources as opposed to 1080i when you have the choice.
With a standard-def source, namely the HQV test DVD delivered via component-video at 480i resolution, the Sharp turned in a decidedly below-average performance. The set could not resolve every line of horizontal resolution and evinced some flicker in the color bar pattern. We detected softness in the grass and the stone bridge from the Detail scene, and while increasing the sharpness control did improve the image a bit, it also introduced visible edge enhancement. The Sharp's noise-reduction control, even set at High, didn't clean up the snowy, low-quality shots of skies and sunsets nearly as well as the Samsung or even the Viewsonic, which lacks a noise reduction control. We also tested the Sharp's image-compensation setting with both slow- and fast-motion scenes, and saw that it sacrificed some detail, and it failed the 2:3 pull-down test in the in the Fast setting. We left it on Slow, because to our eye, there wasn't any benefit to Fast.
In its favor, the LC-32D43U did smooth out the jagged edges from moving diagonal lines, such as the stripes on a waving American flag, and it engaged 2:3 pull-down detection quickly and accurately. Despite these good points, if you're going to be watching a lot of standard-def via analog inputs (as opposed to SD channels from an HD source such as a cable or satellite box that converts everything to high-def--obviating the Sharp's problems), you may want to choose another set.
We also tested the Sharp as a PC monitor using the VGA input, and it performed relatively well, although not quite as well as the other two 32-inch LCDs. It fell just short of showing the full horizontal resolution of a 1,360x768 signal, but text still looked crisp albeit a tad softer than perfect. Notably, you have to choose between 1,360x768 and 1,024x768 resolution from a menu--the Sharp apparently does not, like most HDTVs we've tested, automatically adjust itself for the incoming resolution. We also connected a PC's DVI output to one of the Sharp's HDMI inputs, and got basically identical results.
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