Sharp AQUOS 52GD7X
- Remarkable image quality at 1080p, Also excellent at 720p, Great upscaling of Standard Definition content
- PC resolution not high enough, Speaker resonance issues
While the price is rather high, the Sharp LC52GD7X is easily the best 1080p television we have reviewed.
Price$ 9,999.00 (AUD)
Sharp has built a reputation as the manufacturer of high quality LCD panels and as such we expected great things from the LC52GD7X - one of their new, native 1080p displays. For the most part, we were not disappointed. The image quality in 1080p and 720p High Definition resolutions was top notch and the Standard Definition capabilities were better than any 1080p panel we have reviewed thus far. However connecting to a PC was problematic. That said, the fact that the unit also has an integrated HDTV tuner, a good range of connection options and an attractive design, makes it a premium choice when looking for a 1080p television.
To test the 1080p capabilities of the panel we ran a HD-DVD film and performed gaming tests using the Xbox 360. A caveat, of sorts, is necessary before we continue this review. To view HD-DVD films we use the Toshiba HD-E1 HD-DVD Player which currently only outputs in 1080i. Since LCD panels are progressive scan devices, video authored in 1080i will be de-interlanced which will require no scaling. As long as no evidence of poor de-interlacing is present, the image quality can be used for 1080p testing since the resolution of both signals is identical. In the case of this unit, there were no de-interlacing issues to speak of so we used the Toshiba as a test bed for the High Definition video playback.
We used the film Mission Impossible III as our HD-DVD test. The level of detail and sharpness was impressive, and the image was crisp and error-free. There was only a minor amount of noise, most of which looked as though it stemmed from the movie itself rather than the panel. The colours and contrast were also handled exceptionally, with no bleeding or contrast stepping to speak of. Overall, we were highly impressed at how good HD-DVD looked on this panel and would gladly recommend this unit to prospective HD-DVD buyers.
We also played Tony Hawk's Project 8 on the Xbox 360 at 1080p and the image quality was stunning. There was no ghosting during fast motion, the clarity was excellent and there was no image noise whatsoever. A noticeable degree of over-sharpening was visible on edges but we were able to correct this by turning the sharpness setting to zero. At 1080p resolution, the level of detail is exceptional and a true testament to Next Generation gaming. If you are looking for a panel specifically for gaming at 1080p, you can't go wrong with the LC52GD7X.
At 720p we performed gaming tests and High Definition video playback using the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. For the gaming test we played Resistance: Fall of Man, an action packed first person shooter title. The detail and motion handling were both superb and any particles in the image were free from stepping or pixilation. There was a slight definition loss on edges and some over sharpening but both were not noticeable from a comfortable viewing distance. For Next-Gen gaming, this television is more than capable of handling both the High Definition consoles on the market.
We viewed 720p High Definition trailers on the Xbox 360 and were again impressed by how sharp they looked. There were no problems to speak of with the results only echoing our earlier findings.
Standard Definition (576i)
Of all the 1080p panels we have tested, the LC52GD7X handled Standard Definition video with the least amount of problems. 1080p televisions generally struggle when displaying 576i content and this is no surprise considering how much interpolation is required to display the image. However, the Sharp panel did the job quite well. Colour and contrast were handled nicely across all our tests with no over saturation and no stepping. We tested using three DVDs including the Philips CE2006 Demo DVD, Digital Video Essentials and The Matrix.
We viewed the lobby scene from The Matrix and were surprised by how good it looked. Naturally there were a few problems, but no nowhere near the number we have seen on other 1080p panels. There was no discolouration and no contrast stepping at all. There was a slight over sharpening but we were able to remove this by reducing the sharpness level in the calibration options. The only problems we could not repair were the degree of noise in the picture and some pixilation on the finer details. However, from a viewing distance of around two metres, this becomes barely noticeable.
The Digital Video Essentials and Philips tests both showed no real problems when viewing our still image test patterns. All the colour tests showed no over-saturation and the contrast tests only revealed a minor over-sharpening which we were able to correct as before. There was a little pixilation on text, as was to be expected, but no problems in any other tests. Overall, this panel performed well in Standard Definition. Naturally, the best option is to watch movies in one of the new High Definition movie formats, but if you also have a massive DVD collection, then this panel is a great hybrid option.
This was the area where we had the most problems. They weren't to do with image quality so much, but rather the supported resolutions and PC mode set up. Considering this unit has a native resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, it should have supported 1920 x 1080 as a PC desktop resolution, but this was not the case. The highest supported resolution was 1360 x 768 and anything larger resulted in a jumbled mess of pixels. The LC52GD7X has a dot by dot picture mode for PC connections, which is awesome, but at 1360 x 768, this uses up only a portion of the panel. We tested with a variety of sources and none of them would output to 1080p resolution properly. The unit has a DVI port which we used for these tests but we also attempted to use a DVI to HDMI cable with no improvement. Simply put, this unit will only support 1360 x 768 at maximum, and even then, to display this resolution, you need to explore the on-screen menu and select 1360 x 768 support manually.
We ran DisplayMate Video Edition at 1360 x 768 to check for any problems and it handled almost all the tests perfectly. The only issue we found was some horizontal banding on some of the resolution tests which are no doubt caused by the upscaling the panel needs to do. The fact that this panel doesn't support 1920 x 1080 is very surprising. Hopefully this will be corrected in future models.
TV Tuner, Speakers and Design
The LC52GD7X has both analogue and HD integrated tuners, although we'd recommend using the HD tuner where possible. Setting it up only took about four minutes which is fairly speedy. It found all the channels in the area and the image quality was as good as can be expected. Channel switching was fairly easy and other functions such as TV guide worked well. We found the remote control a little confusing when it came to using the digital tuner but after consulting the manual we got used to it fairly quickly.
Following the current Sharp design trend, the speakers on this unit are located below the bezel, covered by a silver grill. The sound quality was mostly excellent but at about 30 on the volume scale we noticed some annoying vibrations which distorted the sound quality. If you're planning on using the default television speakers, then this will be an issue, but those with home theatre systems can happily ignore it.
The design of the unit is attractive, if fairly standard for Sharp televisions of late. The matte black bezel is complimented by the silver speaker grill and stand, with the manual function buttons running along the top. The rear contains all the ports, hidden behind a removable panel. These include two HDMI ports, two component, two composite and one DVI connector. Both TV tuners are also located beneath this panel. We would have liked to see the option for S-Video but even without it the connection options should be enough for most users.
This is the best 1080p LCD television we have reviewed to date. It has some minor flaws but the image quality at 1080p has yet to be matched. The price tag is fairly hefty and will most likely be out of reach for the average consumer. If you have the cash and supreme 1080p performance is what you are looking for, you will be very pleased with the Sharp LC52GD7X. Those that can't afford it might consider looking at the 46in version which is a few thousand dollars cheaper.
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