Sharp is a veteran manufacturer of high definition DLP displays, having brought to market one of the first DLP front projectors (the XVZ9000U) back in late 2001. Sharp has now added its first DLP HD rear projector— the 56DR650—to its television line, which also is the first 2005 modelyear television I am reviewing. These are quite interesting times, as we will see many more microdisplay televisions appear, all with built-in ATSC digital tuners owing to FCC regulations that, as of July 1, 2005, require all TVs with 36" and larger diagonal screen sizes to have ATSC tuners.
Where most of Sharp's 2005 competitors have industrial-looking, angular cabinets, the 56DR650 has arcs, with a curved lower section mounted on a fixed stand with a rounded front. The 15.5"-deep unit has a thin screen bezel that measures about 1.5" per side. The entire front of the cabinet in finished in bright silver.
Sharp has opted not to include TV Guide On Screen (TVGOS) or the Program System Information Protocol (PSIP) guide, nor does the current model include a CableCARD port for cable TV tuning without a set top box, (though Sharp will be adding a CableCARD model later this year).
But in terms of basic display-oriented features and functions, the Sharp is well-equipped. Video inputs for the 56DR650 include one HDMI (digital), two component, three pairs of composite/ S-video, and one PC (15-pin sub D). All video inputs have associated stereo audio inputs, including the HDMI, where the audio inputs are for use with DVI-equipped sources that are connected to the Sharp via DVI-to- HDMI converter cables (HDMI carries digital audio and video, while DVI carries video only). The inclusion of only one HDMI input may necessitate the purchase of an external HDMI switcher if the user opts for two (or more) HDMI sources such as a direct broadcast satellite (DBS) box and one of the upcoming HD DVD players.
The Sharp's built-in digital overthe- air tuner has very basic features, with no signal strength meter or channel list; the tuner provides only the virtual channel number, the language and sound type (surround, stereo). It performed well, tuning in all my local network channels without any picture or sound issues. There are two separate antenna inputs, one for analog (unscrambled cable or over the air) and one for digital (only 8VSB over the air) signals requiring manual switching between analog and digital via the remote control DTV/TV hot button, a minor inconvenience.
Sharp's remote is a hefty pre-programmed unit designed to control up to seven additional components; it comes equipped with lite keys and many hot keys (single-purpose buttons) including individual ones for ZOOM, AV input selection (COMPONENT or S-VIDEO), PC/HDMI inputs, component video input switching and AV mode (DYNAMIC, STANDARD, MOVIE, GAME and USER for each input). The MENU button is used to access picture control functions, PIP setup, and some new functions such as controls for onscreen display positioning and display duration (adjustable from 15-49 seconds).
Changing contrast requires a reasonable four button pushes. The VIEW MODE button offers four aspect ratio options: SIDE BAR, which gives a 4:3 image with black side bar; ZOOM, which is a proportional stretch that will fill the 16:9 screen with a 2:35 nonanamorphic source; S. STRETCH ("S" for "Smart"), which offers a non-linear horizontal stretch that leaves the center of the image intact and progressively expands the sides of the picture to fill a 16:9 screen; and STRETCH, more commonly know as "Full" mode, for viewing anamorphic DVDs and HD sources. These four modes function only with 480i/p signals; 720p and 1080i HD signals lock into STRETCH mode with component and HDMI inputs. The PC input loses the S. Stretch mode and adds DOT BY DOT mode, putting almost all pixels on the screen with only about 1% "overscan."
The Sharp uses Texas Instrument's latest HD4 DLP chip, which has a matrix of 640 x 720 and uses TI's "Smooth Picture" pixel-shifting technique to place 1280 x 720 resolution on the screen. I began my viewing tests by setting the user controls (BRIGHTNESS, COLOR, TINT, etc.) to the industry SMPTE standard. None of the factory presets were close to correct, but this was not unusual. My initial observations: The black levels were excellent, making this TV suitable for rooms with low ambient light levels. Turning off the room lights while viewing HBO's Six Feet Under revealed film-like blacks in dark scenes. My measurements confirmed the Sharp's exceptional brightness with a maximum of 67 ft lamberts (100 IRE) after the contrast control was properly adjusted.
In an early scene in Sideways [Fox], when Miles (Paul Giametti) arrives in Los Angeles, we see above his Saab convertible a deep blue sky. Using my DVD player's 480i component video output, I observed some false contouring, which broke the clear, smooth, azure expanse into separate pieces, each with different amounts of brightness. Not good. After switching to a DVD player with upconverting DVI outputs the degree of false contouring was reduced, but not eliminated. The Sharp offers five color temperature settings, with the LOW setting most closely approaching the ideal D6500, and producing colors of black and gray that were quite neutral out of the box. This was good. I could probably have