Big screen entertainment is the dream of many but often other considerations get in the way such as cost, space and spousal resistance. As modern TVs shrink in terms of their chassis depth and bezel size and take on a more pleasing form in terms of their overall design, the last two factors are becoming less of an issue. That still leaves cost of course but even here there are opportunities if you shop around, which brings us to the subject of this review - the Sharp LC-60LE636. A quick search on the Internet will reveal that the 60LE636 can be picked up for just under £1,000 which is remarkable value for a 60" LED LCD TV. It would appear that Sharp are even able to offer such sizeable girth without skimping on the features, as the 60LE636 includes both their smart TV platform and full calibration controls. Obviously some concessions have to be made, there's no Quattron panel (not necessarily a bad thing), the 60LE636 doesn't have built-in WiFi (although Sharp include a dongle) and there's no 3D. However, given the general apathy shown by the public towards the third dimension, the absence of 3D isn't really a big issue either. Is the 60LE636 too good to be true or are we looking at a potential Best Buy award winner?
Design and Connections
The concessions made to hit such a low price point for such a large screen become apparent when you look at the overall build quality. Whilst it isn't bad, the construction is entirely made from plastic, with the exception of some metal parts in the stand and it has a slightly budget feel as a result. However the simple appearance will appeal to many and we rather liked it, preferring the minimalist chassis and glossy black bezel to some of the other designs we have seen lately. The bezel itself measures 2.5cm all around but there is also an additional lip 3cm wide along the bottom. At the centre of the bottom bezel is the Sharp logo along with an illuminated symbol that thankfully can be turned off and to the right of that are the remote control and OPC sensors.
At the right hand edge of the screen there are some basic controls, including power, menu, input, channel up/down and volume up/down. The included stand uses glossy black plastic to match the bezel and it is easy to assemble and attach. Although the stand can't be swivelled it does at least provide solid support for the 60" screen above it. The back of the chassis is made of hardened matte black plastic and all the connections are positioned to the left hand side, with the power cable more central and hardwired. Whilst the overall dimensions are not as slim as some of the competition, a depth of 3.5cm is reasonably svelte considering the screen size.
The remote control is made from black plastic, is well constructed and has nice feel to it, making it relatively easy to use with one hand. The button layout is reasonably sensible but it does suffer from some of them being rather small and closely packed together. All the standard controls are there plus some additional ones for time shift features and Aquos Linked devices. Sharp's internet platform is called Aquos Net+ and is accessed via a button called Net but its size and position shows you how little emphasis Sharp are currently placing on smart TV.
The choice of connections is excellent, especially considering the price and there are a total of 4 side-facing HDMI inputs, with HDMI1 being ARC (Audio Return Channel) compliant. Also facing sideways are the Common Interface (CI) slot, a USB port, a SD card reader and a headphone socket. We were pleased to see that the side facing connectors are 20cm from the edge of the screen, so you can't see the HDMI cables, even if they're quite chunky. Facing downwards there are two more USB ports, one for the supplied WiFi dongle and one for HDD recording, as well as an Ethernet socket, an aerial socket, a digital audio output and an analogue 3.5mm jack. Facing rearward there is a SCART connector, a VGA connector, composite and component video, both with analogue audio, and a RS232 serial connector.
The 60LE636 uses the standard Sharp menu system that places all the options along the top and the sub-menus down that right hand side. We appreciate that Sharp trying to preserve the picture whilst the menu is up but it does mean that everything is crammed into a small space. We're not big fans of this particular layout and it's particularly annoying when calibrating. We would prefer a more centrally positioned menu screen but, on the plus side, the menus are clearly labelled and easy to navigate. Along the top there are choices for Tool, Link Operation, CH List and Setup, with all the main controls residing in the latter option.
The first of the Setup sub-menus is View Settings which gives you access to Network Setup, Quick Start, DivX Setup, Individual Settings, Wall Mount Audio Setup, Language and Net TV Setup. The next sub-menu is Audio and provides all the sound related controls including Auto Volume, Treble, Bass, Balance, Surround, Bass Enhancer and Clear Voice.
The Eco sub-menu provides controls for all the energy saving functions, including ECO Picture Control, Energy Save, No Signal Off, No Operation Off, Sleep Timer and Audio Only. Finally there is the Option sub-menu which includes controls for the Aquos Link Setup, Terminal Settings, Screen Effect, Illumination, Time Shift Settings, Game Play Time and Key Lock.
The 60LE636 has an excellent set of calibration controls, all of which are found in the Picture sub-menu. On the first page you can select the AV Mode, turn the OPC feature off and set the Backlight, Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Tint and Sharpness controls. You can also access the Advanced features from this first page and here you will find the main calibration controls. There are controls for turning the Fine Motion Advanced, the Active Contrast and the DNR off, as well as selecting the correct Gamma setting and Film Mode.
Also within the Advanced sub-menu there is a control for selecting the desired Colour Temperature as well as a two point White Balance control to allow a calibrator to correct the greyscale more accurately. There is also a Colour Management System (CMS) which allows a calibrator to accurately adjust all three primary colours and all three secondary colours using controls for Hue (Tint), Saturation (Colour) and Value (Luminance or Brightness).
Audio and Features
We found that the audio on the 60LE636 was surprisingly good, which is probably due to the slightly deeper chassis, larger screen size and the speaker positioning. The 60LE636 was certainly able to produce clear and well defined soundstage, thanks in part to the larger speakers and their greater distance apart. Obviously the built-in speakers are no match for a dedicated audio system but dialogue was clear and there was a noticeable degree of stereo separation. The bass response was also reasonable, considering the limitations of the speakers themselves and we found that some of the audio features did help to give the sound a more immersive presence without losing too much focus.
The 60LE636 is easy to set up although it did take quite a long time for the Freeview HD tuner to scan all the frequencies. Sharp's Electronic Programme Guide is rather uninspired compared to much of the competition, with no picture-in-picture feature and small type that can be difficult to read, even on a screen this big. The EPG tries to cram too much information onto one page, which means that along with the hard to read type, it often doesn't complete the titles of programmes in the listings. Thankfully you can change the default setting, which shows six hours ahead, to a setting that only covers three hours and makes the guide far more readable. You can also access the channel listings from the main menu but then you can't check for upcoming programmes. There is also a search feature in the EPG that uses either genres or dates which can prove handy.
Sharp call their internet platform Aquos Net+ but compared to the smart features employed by many other manufacturers, it is fairly basic. The Home page offers a rather limited choice of apps and whilst YouTube is present and correct, the BBC iPlayer is surprisingly missing. Other apps include Napster, Twitter, Picasa, iConcerts, Aupeo, Viewster, TV5Monde, Meteonews, Euronews, CineTrailer and Dailymotion. There is an App Gallery where you can find additional content like eBay, TomTom and TED Talks, plus you can also customise the layout, to a degree. However compared to the all-singing, all-dancing platforms provided by other manufacturers, Aquos Net+ is something of a disappointment. There is an open web browser included which actually works quite well but is rather slow to use, as is the entire platform.
The 60LE636 offers media playback support, either through the USB ports or over a network via DLNA. When you first connect a USB drive, the 60LE636 asks you if it is for Media or Time Shift. If you select the latter then you can use the attached HDD and the timer features in the EPG to create a basic PVR, allowing you to record from the built-in tuner. If you select Media then you can choose to look at photos or play music and video files from the connected USB drive. File support over USB includes JPEG, MP3, MPEG2, AVI, MKV, ASF, WMV, MP4 and MOV. Alternatively, you can stream content over your home network and here the file support includes JPEG, LPCM, MP3, MPEG2, WMV, ASF, MP4, MOV and AVI.
Whilst picture quality is always important, it becomes even more important as the screen size increases. After all a 22" screen can hide a multitude of sins that will be all too obvious on a screen that is 60" or above. Thankfully the 60LE636 is strong in most of the areas that will determine how good such a large image will look. First and foremost, it is capable of an excellent level of accuracy in terms of greyscale and colour gamut. This means that whatever you are watching - standard definition TV or DV, high definition TV or Blu-ray - the image is exactly as the creators intended. Secondly the 60LE636 has some excellent video processing, which means that with standard definition content in particular, the deinterlaced and scaled images still look good, even on such a large screen.
The built-in Freeview HD tuner was capable of delivering some very nice standard definition images that when deinterlaced and scaled top fit the screen, showed detail without appearing too soft or processed. The main problem with Freeview broadcasts stems from the amount of compression involved, which is not the fault of the TV itself. However with such a large screen, any compression artefacts can easily become apparent. This is not a problem with high definition broadcasts where the 60LE636 was capable of delivering accurate and detailed images that really suited the larger screen size. We found that motion handling was also good for a LCD TV and whilst there was a degree of smearing on fast pans, overall the 60LE636 handled both standard and high definition content well.
When we tried DVDs we were genuinely surprised at how good the ageing format looked and thanks to the superb video scaling, well encoded DVDs were genuinely impressive. Once we moved onto Blu-ray, the 60LE636 stepped up a gear, delivering some absolutely spectacular high definition images. The picture had real 'pop' to it and a wonderful level of detail and clarity that brought the huge screen to life. The images were so good, in fact, that we had to remind ourselves how cheap the 60LE636 actually is. The motion handling with 24p content was also extremely good, with no judder or other issues evident on any of the content that we watched.
As mentioned elsewhere in this review, the 60LE636 only real weakness in terms of picture quality is the uniformity of the backlight, which could manifest as bright patches on dark scenes viewed at night. However we did find that this could be mitigated to a degree through careful setting of the backlight and we rarely found it to be an issue with most content, even when viewing at night. In fact for a LCD, the black levels and dynamic range are actually very good and as a result images often had real impact. This was no doubt helped by the larger screen size and the accurate gamma but overall the picture quality of the 60LE636 far exceeds its price point.
The reason behind these default measurements is to show readers just how inaccurate TVs are when first taken out of the box. It's worth pointing out that this isn't just aimed at Sharp, all manufacturers are guilty of shipping their TVs in modes that are too bright, too saturated and, frankly, too blue. The 60LE636 defaults to the Standard AV Mode preset and the High [tip=Colortemp]colour temperature[/tip] setting when first turned on, so the results shown below weren't a surprise.
As you can see from the RGB Balance graph above, green is underpowered, there is nowhere near enough red and blue was quite literally off the scale (we had to rescale the graph before saving it). As a result, to the naked eye, the [tip=Greyscale]greyscale[/tip] had a very obvious blue tinge, and thanks to the [tip=gamma]gamma[/tip] hitting below 1.0, the image appeared washed out. In fairness the [tip=gamut]colour gamut[/tip] wasn't as bad as some that we've seen but it was still quite poor. You can clearly see white is measuring way over towards blue and this is in turn dragging cyan and magenta along with it. Red and green are not as bad but there is a sizeable error in yellow that gives images a slightly jaundiced look. Whilst the 60LE636 does not use a Quattron panel with its additional yellow pixel, it would seem that Sharp still love their yellows!
Basic Set-Up Results
The good news is that these errors are easy to correct and, as anyone who has been following the PicturePerfect campaign will know, you just need to select the correct AV Mode, which in this case is called Movie. By doing that the 60LE636 defaults to the far more accurate Low colour temperature and immediately things start to look better. In terms of other settings, we made sure that OPC, Fine Motion Advanced, Active Contrast and DNR were all turned off and we used the Standard Film Mode. We set the Backlight, Brightness and Contrast controls to suit our viewing environment and we left the Colour, Tint, Sharpness and Gamma controls all at zero.
As you can see things have improved considerably as far as RGB Balance is concerned, green is now tracking close to 100 and whilst there is still too much blue and not enough red, the overall [tip=DeltaE]DeltaEs[/tip] (errors) are on the edge of our tolerances. The gamma has improved too and whilst it is a bit high at 2.4, our target is usually 2.2, at least the image is no longer washed out. Thanks to the more accurate greyscale, white is now measuring much closer to [tip=D65]D65[/tip] and as a result the accuracy of cyan and magenta have improved. The colour measurements for green, blue and yellow are all rather over-saturated and there is a sizeable error in the hue of red but overall the colour performance is much improved with a slight green tinge being the only obvious issue.
The 60LE636 comes with an impressive set of calibration controls so we should be able to improve the accuracy still further using the two point [tip=WhiteBal]white balance[/tip] control and the [tip=cms]colour management system[/tip] (CMS).
Unless the three primary colours are all tracking parallel to each other, it can be a bit tricky to get the greyscale perfect when you only have two points to manipulate. The calibrated greyscale of the 60LE636 is a good example, where you can see that even though 30[tip=IRE]IRE[/tip] and 80IRE are perfect, there are still minor errors at 60IRE, 90IRE and 100IRE that we couldn't completely correct. That's not to say there's anything wrong with the results we achieved, they're excellent, but they're just shy of being reference. All the DeltaEs are below three - which is the point at which the human eye can no longer distinguish errors - with the exception of 100IRE, which is just above. We found we were also able to improve the gamma, which as you can see from the graph, is now tracking very close to our target of 2.2.
The CMS on the 60LE636 is very effective, offering controls for hue, saturation and value (brightness) and allowing you to adjust the three primary colours (red, green and blue) and the three secondary controls (cyan, magenta and yellow). As the [tip=cie]CIE Chart[/tip] above shows, this level of control allows us to create a very accurate colour gamut that is now replicating the [tip=IndStand]industry standard[/tip] of [tip=Rec709]Rec.709[/tip]. Of the three elements of colour, the most important is luminance or brightness, and here the 60LE636 was spot on. The most important colour is green because it forms 70% the colour gamut and once again the 60LE636 is delivering a perfect green. All the other colours are also very accurate, with the exception of red which has some minor errors in saturation and hue. Whilst the overall errors in red are still just under three, these errors do prevent the 60LE636 from achieving a reference score, although the colour performance is excellent.
Contrast and Black Level
Considering its size, the 60LE636 offers plenty of brightness and using the dedicated backlight control, we had no problems hitting our target of 120cd/m2. In terms of the panel's black levels, they were very good and measured 0.02cd/m2, which equates to an impressive on/off contrast ratio of 6,000:1. Whilst this is a great set of results, especially for a LCD TV, the performance was slightly let down by some poor backlight uniformity which resulted in a degree of clouding and light pooling at the edges. Since the 60LE636 uses edge LED lighting, this doesn't come as a surprise as it was never going to be easy to distribute the backlight evenly over such a large surface area. This would explain why Sharp are using full array LED backlights on their 70 and 80 inch screens. In fairness, we have yet to see a TV that uses edge LED lighting and is completely free of any backlight uniformity issues and the strengths of the 60LE636 far outweigh this one issue. The screen itself was pleasantly free of reflections but the off-axis performance could be better, so it is best to ensure that you are sat facing the screen as much as possible.
The graph above shows the spread of measurements for the ANSI contrast numbers, resulting in a ratio of 3,783:1 which, as with the on/off contrast ratio, is very good for a LCD TV. The spread of measurements do reflect the uneven back light to a degree but overall this is a good performance and gives a fair indication of the 60LE636's real world performance.
The 60LE636 performed very well in our tests, correctly scaling standard definition content without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing, which is important with such a large screen. The 60LE636 also performed well when it came to the video deinterlacing and motion adaptive deinterlacing tests, as well as the detail and film detail tests (provided the Film Mode is set to Standard). The 60LE636 had no problems displaying film material with scrolling video text and it was able to correctly detect the 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence. The60LE636 also performed extremely well in tests on the HQV Blu-ray benchmark disc and with the player set to 1080i it correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests. The 60LE636 had very good motion handling and it had no problems handling 24p material, reproducing the test images smoothly with no judder or other artefacts.
Finally we moved on to the Spears and Munsil test disc where the 60LE636 sailed through all the cadence and deinterlacing tests. In addition we were able to use the ‘Dynamic Range High’ test to check we had the contrast set correctly. We noticed that you needed to be very careful when adjusting the contrast, as a setting of 33 or higher would result in clipping. We found that a setting of 30 was best and you could then adjust the overall brightness using the separate backlight control. At this setting the headroom performance from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) was excellent with no signs of clipping. On the ‘Dynamic Range Low’ test the 60LE636 also correctly showed detail down to a video level 17 and reference black below that to video level 0 which confirmed that we had also correctly set the Brightness control.
The 60LE636 has a Game mode but unfortunately even using this dedicated preset which is designed to bypass all unnecessary processing, the best we could get was an input lag of 57ms. This is clearly too high for dedicated gamers who will be looking for an input lag of less than 30ms but it should be fine for the more casual gamer who wants to play on a big screen but isn't concerned about a lightning fast response.
- Standby: 19W
The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 87W
- Calibrated – User Mode: 71W
- Big screen size
- Excellent greyscale and colour performance
- Full calibration controls
- Superb motion handling
- Effective audio
- Excellent video processing
- Good black levels for LCD
- Impressive energy consumption
- Comprehensive set of connections
- Great price
- Some backlight uniformity issues
- No 3D capability
- Basic design
- No built-in WiFi
- Smart TV platform is limited
- High input lag
Sharp LE636 (LC-60LE636) LED LCD TV Review
There's no question that the Sharp LC-60LE636 offers fantastic value for money, with a 60" screen size and an all-round solid performance for less than £1,000. Certain concessions have been made of course but none of these directly impact on performance and if you're not interested in 3D - and most people aren't - then the 60LE636 offers some genuinely impressive big screen entertainment. The build quality is reasonable but the simple design and gloss black plastic construction betray the display's budget ambitions with a look that is best described as minimalist. However, the remote control is well made, sensibly laid out and comfortable to hold and at the back are a decent set of connections including 4 HDMI inputs.
The menu system is the standard Sharp design, with most of the information along the top and right hand side of the screen. We aren't huge fans of this layout but the menus are easy to navigate and reasonably informative. We're pleased to see that the 60LE636 includes a complete calibration suite, with a two point white balance and a full colour management system. The 60LE636 also includes a reasonable set of features including Sharp's Aquos Net+ smart TV platform, DLNA compliance, media playback and basic PVR features when attached to an external HDD. However compared to some of the competition, Sharp's smart capabilities are somewhat limited but this applies to their entire range and not just the 60LE636.
The out-of-the-box performance of the 60LE636 was quite good, with reasonable accuracy in both greyscale and colour gamut. Thanks to the inclusion of a full set of calibration controls we could get an excellent degree of image accuracy. Whilst not quite reference, the measurements were very close and any errors were too small to be perceived by the viewer. The video processing was also excellent, passing all of our tests and delivering very watchable images from standard definition, despite the large screen size. When it came to high definition content, the 60LE636 stepped up a gear, delivering a wonderfully detailed and enjoyable big screen experience. The motion handling was also very good and free of any unwanted judder or other artefacts. The 60LE636 has plenty of brightness, even with such a large screen, and once setup properly it is also able to deliver some fairly decent black levels for a LCD TV. The contrast ratio and dynamic range were also very good, delivering images that had plenty of punch.
Our major issue with the 60LE636 is the backlight uniformity, which could be patchy in places, especially when watching dark scenes at night. The 60LE636 uses edge LED lighting and it was always going to difficult to create an even backlight with such a large screen but we would have preferred greater uniformity. In fairness, clouding and bright edges are a problem with just about any TV that uses edge LED lighting and the 60LE636's other strengths outweigh this one issue. The other possible issue is that the 60LE636 has an input lag of 57ms, even in Game mode, which might be too high for hardcore gamers. Energy efficiency was excellent however and in its calibrated mode the 60LE636 was using only 71W which is impressive for a 60" screen.
Ultimately the Sharp LC-60LE636 offers big screen entertainment and excellent all-round performance at an incredibly attractive price. There really is very little to compete with the 60LE636 at this screen size and definitely not at this price, so if you're in the market for a big TV put it at the top of your list - an easy Best Buy.
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
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