In the race to produce ever bigger commercially available LCD flat panels, the lead is currently held by Sharp with the Aquos LC- 65D90U. Other companies have demonstrated larger prototypes at trade shows, but you can actually buy this 65-inch monster—that is, if you’ve got the scratch. At its recently reduced list price of $16,000 (down from $21,000), it’s still the most expensive LCD panel on the market.
The input complement is adequate, with one HDMI, one DVI, two i.LINK (IEEE1394), and two component along with one S-video, three composite, and three RF. The RF inputs feed the integrated ATSC, NTSC, and QAM (unencrypted digital cable) tuners, and the i.Link inputs can be used with D-VHS VCRs or other 1394 devices. Interestingly, the DVI audio input is a single stereo quarter-inch jack, not two RCA jacks.
Also included is a CableCARD slot. Because current CableCARD technology does not allow the use of the cable service provider’s electronic program guide (EPG), Sharp provides access to the TV Guide On Screen free EPG.
The panel itself embodies Sharp’s latest Advanced Super View/Black TFT LCD technology with an impressive 6ms response time. The value of this spec was evident in the complete absence of motion trails I observed throughout the review process.
The LC-65D90U provides a Color Management System (CMS) that allows you to control the hue, saturation, and brightness of the three primary colors (red, green, blue) and the three secondary colors (yellow, cyan, magenta). This proved helpful in tweaking the set to produce the best possible picture, but don’t try it at home unless you have the requisite skill and equipment.
Another feature touted by Sharp is a 4-wavelength backlight, which exhibits a spectrum with peaks at blue, green, red, and crimson (a longer wavelength than normal red). This is said to produce more vivid reds, and the measurements seem to bear this out: the red primary was oversaturated, but not as much as I might have guessed.
Digital 1080i signals entering the HDMI and DVI inputs can be mapped onto the display pixel for pixel in the Dot By Dot viewing mode. This is a true 1:1 mode—using 1080i test patterns not available to the general public, I determined that the pixel mapping was perfect. These inputs cannot accept 1080p, however.
One design note: the internal speakers are mounted in a detachable module below the screen. This lets you remove the module for a cleaner look if you are using an external sound system (definitely recommended).
The remote is a longish silver affair that can control up to four devices in addition to the display. It can be illuminated at the touch of a glowin- the-dark Light button, though some of the button labels are printed on the remote body, so they can’t be seen in the dark in any case.
The buttons are well spaced and reasonably well organized, but there are a few quirks. For one thing, the Mute button is located next to the Channel Up/Down rocker, not next the Volume rocker where it should be. Also odd is the placement of the View Mode (aspect ratio) button with the transport controls.
I accidentally discovered that pressing any of the four-way cursor buttons shifts the image up, down, right, or left one pixel at a time. It is far too easy to hit one of these buttons by mistake. The ability to shift the image around is great, but it should only be accessible in the menu system.
Unfortunately, there are no direct-access buttons for the inputs; an Input button calls up a list from which to select the desired input. A few buttons are found under a flip-down panel at the bottom of the remote, including the AV Mode button, which selects the picture mode. Interestingly, there is no way to select the picture mode from the onscreen Menu system.
Speaking of which, the menu system is reasonably well organized, with the main menu items across the top of the screen. However, there are a few quirks here, too. For example, the 3D and Mosquito Noice Reduction controls are in the Options menu, not the Picture menu. More importantly, the Picture menu doesn’t disappear when adjusting one of the picture controls, obscuring the image you’re using to make the adjustment. It would be much better if the Picture menu disappeared and the control you’re adjusting moved to the bottom of the screen.
As with most TVs, the LC- 65D90U came out of the box with Brightness and Contrast too high. The user picture controls are associated with the selected picture mode, not the input; changing a control setting for one input changed it for all other inputs set to the same picture mode. The workaround is to assign different picture modes to each input.
As I was adjusting the user controls, I discovered that the correct Brightness setting was significantly higher for the component input than it was for DVI. In addition, the component input did not pass below-black information, while the DVI input did. Even more oddly, the component input would not display any of the Pluge bars (below or above black) on Digital Video Essentials from the Denon DVD-5910 DVD player; I’ve never seen this behavior before. It did display the aboveblack bar from the Accupel signal generator, but not the below-black one. As a result, I strongly recommend using the DVI and HDMI inputs on this set.