So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Sharp AQUOS LC37AW5X
- Excellent High Definition quality, Good Standard Definition quality, Attractive design, Great price point
- Over sharpening in HD, Image noise in SD, Limited connection options, No PC connection
The LC37AW5X is a quite a good television but it is not up to the same standard as its predecessors. It performs well in both Standard and High Definition, but has some sharpening issues and poor connectivity support which stop it from scoring higher.
Price$ 2,499.00 (AUD)
Sitting at the lower end of the current Sharp LCD television line up is the LC37AW5X, a unit designed for those on a limited budget who still want the advantages of a high definition television. While the image quality is still quite good, the connection options are limited (with no real support for PC connection) and the integrated tuner is only analogue compatible.
High Definition (720p/1080i)
The LC37AW5X has a native resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels and is the 37in version of the smaller LC32AX5X. To test the High Definition capabilities of the panel we ran gaming and video tests using the Xbox 360 games console. We played Tony Hawk's Project 8 and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas and discovered no problems with fast motion or ghosting but an unfortunate level of over-sharpening on edges. This was greatly reduced by turning the sharpening down to zero in the calibration options but it did not remove it entirely. There was also a minor level of pixilation on edges but this was only a problem when in close proximity to the panel and won't be noticeable at a comfortable viewing distance. The colour reproduction is excellent and the black levels are greatly improved from last year's Aquos LC32-AX3X series. Thankfully there was no image noise to speak of and no contrast stepping either.
The High Definition video tests using trailers for Mission Impossible III and Halo 3 revealed similar results, with over-sharpening being the only concern. Overall, the image quality of the panel in High Definition is quite good and definitely better than many other televisions on the market at this price point.
Standard Definition (576i)
For Standard Definition testing, we used three test DVDs including the Philips CE2006 Demo DVD, Digital Video Essentials and The Matrix. The Philips DVD uses still images to test the capabilities of the panel at an elementary level. There was no over saturation in the colour tests and no stepping in the contrast tests. The colour reproduction was excellent and the black levels were superb. The over sharpening was still present, but no worse than in the High Definition tests.
We ran video footage using the lobby scene from The Matrix which was handled well but not perfectly. There was some noticeable noise in background textures and some minor contrast stepping on the character's faces. The over sharpening issue appeared in these test too but curiously it was not as bad as in the still image tests and could be removed via calibration. Motion was handled very well with no stuttering or ghosting to speak of, but there was a minor level of pixilation on curved edges as a result of the upscaling process.
Using Digital Video essentials we noticed a minor level of noise in low to mid grays at between 20% and 40% amplitude. Since gray is the base element of all colours in an LCD television, any noise in gray areas can potentially carry over to coloured images, as seen in our video tests using The Matrix. We also found a yellow discolouration at the lower grays between the blend point of low gray and black. Thankfully, there were no problems at all in the contrast tests or the colour block tests. Overall, the blend along the greyscale was quite good without any stepping at all. For watching DVDs, this television will do a very good job but if you are a videophile or image quality purist, the problems may become irritating.
PC , TV Tuner, Sound and Design
Not a group to be defeated by a stubborn television set, we attempted to try and run a PC on the unit regardless of the fact that it has no DVI or D-Sub ports. Using a DVI to HDMI conversion cable, we connected the PC to the unit but unfortunately were disappointed. The best resolution we could get it to run error free at was 800 x 600, but as we increased it, high levels of interpolation, cropping, over scan, interlacing, discolouration and pixilation started occurring. It is very clear that this television is not meant to be used as a monitor and simply doesn't support it adequately. The image quality issues experienced in these tests wont affect the score the LC37AW5X gets though as we knew full well that PC connections weren't supported, we just wanted to try anyway.
The integrated TV tuner only supports analogue broadcast signals, which is increasingly becoming an outdated standard on High Definition panels. Many television manufacturers are beginning to push for High Definition tuners in their TVs and it is a shame that this unit didn't follow suit. However, considering that it is at the low end of the range, this was to be expected. If you live in an area that receives excellent analogue signals then you should get a reasonable image from the TV Tuner, however, if you are not one of the lucky ones, we suggest you use this panel with a HDTV set top box.
The speakers are located at the bottom of the bezel and produce excellent sound at low and middle volumes. There was some distortion at the highest levels, but since many people wont need it that loud, that isn't such an issue.
Aesthetically the LC37AW5X is similar to previous models, although this time around, Sharp has had the input of award-winning Japanese designer Toshiyuki Kita. The differences between this series and the previous Aquos LC32-AX3X series are the speaker and bezel design. The bezel is matte black but has a rounded silver strip on the top. This gives the bezel an almost recessed look. Meanwhile the speaker has a raised horizontal ripple effect running through the middle. Kita has definitely produced an attractive unit but it isn't really enough to stand out from the crowd.
Another change from the previous model is the connection options. The LC37AW5X has only one component connection, two HDMI connections and one composite connection. This is a very bare-bones set up for a High Definition television. At the very least we would have liked two component connections as the emphasis on HDMI seems premature at this point, with only limited devices utilising it. Also, the exclusion of S-Video is a curious choice as most televisions that have composite usually include S-Video as well. As stated earlier, there are no connection options for a PC, which will disappoint Media Centre PC owners.
The LC37AW5X is a quite a good television. There are some image quality issues but, for the most part, users will not notice them, especially from a comfortable viewing distance. The price it quite impressive for a 37in unit, especially considering their price a year ago. For High Definition gaming this is a great LCD television and it will look good when watching DVDs as well.
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