True colours: Sharp Aquos Quattron LC-46LE820X TV review

Sharp’s new line of Aquos TVs the LE820 series adds a new colour to the mix. In addition to the red green and blue of every other TV out there Sharp has figured out a way to jimmy in a fourth colour: yellow.

TVs and PC monitors use what is known as additive colour mixing combining coloured light to obtain new colours. The displays we use can be thought of as a massive array of independent red green and blue lights flashing on and off and at different brightness levels to make up the colour we want for each pixel.

Sharp has added yellow in to the mix which increases the amount of colours that the screen can display. Though red green and blue are often thought to be able to make “every” colour they really can’t. Designers and colour experts talk about the “gamut” of a display which is the defined number of colours the display can make. The inclusion of a fourth yellow primary colour increases the gamut.

So what does that all mean to those looking for a new TV? It means that the Sharp 820 series TVs can show more colours which means its images look more realistic. Yellows for one pop out of the screen while gold and green/blue are also noticeably improved.

The best thing about this technology is that you don’t need any other devices to take advantage of it. The screen’s video processing looks at the incoming video signal from your Blu-ray player TV tuner or games console changes it from RGB and maps it to RGBY automatically.

Sharp has done a lot of hard yards to get this technology working and looking right. An LCD panel has a pretty well defined design with the RGB subpixels lined up evenly and spread over the panel. As the screen panels can’t change their shape or resolution Sharp’s engineers managed to squeeze the extra sub-pixel in to the same amount of space or adding another 25% complexity to the panel over a standard LCD TV.

So is all that effort worth it? It sure is. The colour reproduction of the screen is noticeably better when compared directly with RGB panels. Side by side with a current-generation panel from a different vendor the Sharp LE820X gave a much more vibrant reproduction of yellow and blue/green tones. Quite interestingly skin tones benefit from this technology more than you would think; skin was much more natural-looking on the Quattron screen.

Physically the screen is not unattractive but its rounded corners and screen outlined with a grey metal edging doesn’t really fit in with our idea of high style. The TV’s menu system is acceptable but doesn’t meet the high standard set by Sony’s XrossMediaBar. Similarly the remote control is good enough but not the best we’ve seen in terms of layout and responsiveness.

With high-definition content from Blu-ray the TV shines. There’s no noticeable juddering or jags indicating a nice low response time and nimble video processing engine. The colour reproduction was – of course – excellent and our tests showed little in the way of banding in colour gradients that plague many LCDs.
This is a technology that occupies one of those special places. It’s a technology that you don’t notice specifically but appreciate all the time. In isolation this screen looks great but put it next to another (high-quality first-tier manufacturer) screen and you realise just how different it is.

Available from Sharp retailing for $2499.
APC rating: 8/10