Review: Sharp UD27 Series AQUOS 4K Ultra HD LED TV
TV manufacturers are quickly transitioning larger-sized screens to 4K Ultra High-Definition (UHD) resolution, and the latest wave of models are bringing must-have features at increasingly tempting prices. The Sharp LC-60UD27U 60-Inch Aquos 4K Ultra HD 2160p 120Hz Smart LED TV——————— $1797 (UD27U line) is a fine balance of technology, style, and value that further impresses with professional calibration.
More of the review after the break:
Size, style, and setup
The UD27U line is available in two screen sizes: 60-inches and 70-inches. The TV’s thin-bezel design (0.5-inches wide) is outlined with an attractive strip of brushed aluminum, and centered along the frame’s lower edge is a matching brushed-finished badge that houses the IR receiver and power LED. I appreciated a menu option to toggle the bright white LED for a more immersive dark-room viewing experience.
Standard wall mounting hardware is compatible with the UD27U, and a pair of beefy “scorpion” style stands provided solid stability but required a much wider resting surface compared to centered stand designs or dual-placement configurations like that of the Sony X900B.
The Sharp AQUOS 4K UHD TVs feature THX 4K certification that involves more than 400 lab tests to help ensure accurate and faithful video reproduction. I’ve found THX video testing to be some of the most stringent in the industry, but how its recommendations translate into a shipping display product have left much to be desired. More on this later.
The TV’s four HDMI ports were compatible with video formats up to 4K60 with 4:2:0 chroma sub-sampling. HDMI 1 was ARC- (audio return channel) enabled for use with compatible AV receivers, and HDMI 4 provided HDCP 2.2 support for use with protected video sources like the Sony FMP-X10 4K Media Player.
Compared to the initial troubles I experience with ARC output on the JVC DM65USR, all alternate audio options with the Sharp UD27U enabled without fuss. Soundbar users will find the TV’s optical audio port provides bitstream output with connected HDMI devices.
The Sharp AQUOS 4K also features a single component video input, an SD card slot, and three USB ports.
I continue to regard the pricier Sony X900B and its beautiful fixed side speakers as the gold standard for built-in audio quality. However, the UD27’s stereo speakers (2x 10W) are augmented with a dedicated 15W subwoofer, and this 2.1-channel audio configuration proved capable of very loud volume levels with minimal distortion of the high-quality audio tracks that I sampled. I was less impressed with the UD27’s 3D audio effect options, and a wall-mount sound mode degraded sound quality compared to leaving this setting off with a mounted configuration.
The TV’s slender baton-style remote has lots of small buttons and no keypad backlight, but its tactile feedback was good and the oversized Netflix button should prove popular with subscribers. Remote reception was excellent from everywhere in the room.
I was impressed with the UD27U’s ability to tune local digital stations using a simple indoor antenna. Although its initial channel scanning speed was slow, the TV found more stations than other TVs I’ve tested recently and its tuner proved very good at maintaining a stable signal lock. Unlike the Samsung HU8550 and H6400 LCD televisions, the Sharp UD27U showed me every video pixel of 720p broadcasts for improved picture detail.
The UD27U features a colorful TV guide as part of its smart features as well as a more basic but complete channel list available from the main menu.
Somewhat smart stuff
Sharp’s SmartCentral 3.0 suite of apps includes only one 4K streaming service at this time: Netflix. No word on if or when Amazon Instant Video or other 4K streaming providers will be added to the lineup.
The SmartCentral 3.0 mobile app (iOS and Android) provides an attractive interface for remote control, content selection, and search. However, the app’s execution left much to be desired as its remote control feature doesn’t work with all apps (YouTube), and some remote commands were ignored unless a menu navigation button was pressed first.
The UD27U has WiFi and Ethernet networking as well as support for a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse – the latter for use with the TV’s web browser. Considering how infrequently I’ve seen people actually browse the Internet on their 4K UHD TVs, I’d like to see a manufacturer repurpose these Bluetooth chipsets to support audio devices for wireless listening options.
The UD27U’s 120Hz 4K UHD screen is a VA type panel for darker black-level performance at the expense of some color saturation loss when viewed at wide angles. The TV’s Multi Pixel Drive feature improved the off-axis appearance of natural hues including skin tones and desert sand without impacting normal viewing so I left it enabled full time.
The TV’s backlight system incorporates upgraded LEDs for improved color saturation. Sharp’s SPECTROS color technology features blue LEDs that are coated with red and green phosphor materials that enhance the spectral output of this white light source. Compared to older Sharp TV’s I have tested, red saturation levels were especially improved.
Although I calibrated the UD27U for an accurate depiction of the HD color palette (Rec. 709), Sharp’s SPECTROS technology covered the larger DCI color space quite well.
Uniformity and contrast
The UD27U lacks hardware local dimming for improved contrast by reducing backlight output behind portions of the screen that are displaying dim or dark imagery. Dark screen uniformity was average, but no obvious hot spots were noted in the black bars of letterboxed movies. Bright uniformity was very good with no signs of banding.
Even with the UD27U’s lack of local dimming, it presented a well-contrasted image when viewed from the sweet spot in a dark room environment. Maximum light output was a blinding 115.1 footlamberts when displaying full-screen white using the Dynamic picture preset.
The UD27U features a Movie THX picture preset with bright- and dark-room sub-options. The dark-room preset measured slightly closer to the HD spec but both options had average color accuracy and a white balance that skewed toward blue in the bright grays.
The TV’s calibration controls include 2-point and 10-point white balance adjustments, but the latter was only available with the Standard picture preset. Fortunately, the 2-point controls proved ideal for balancing the dark room preset with impressive results.
Taming the white balance brought color accuracy into line as well, and the end result transformed the viewing experience from average to impressive.
Gamers may want to take a pass on the UD27U as its 123.4ms video lag post calibration was reduced to 72.2ms with Game mode enabled – over four video frames with 60Hz input. The best gaming TVs are about 20ms on this test.
Video processing exams using the Spears & Munsil and HQV benchmark discs revealed generally solid processing of 1080i video sources. Motion resolution results were similar to other LCDs with motion compensation/estimation features disabled: 300-350 lines on a 1080 line test pattern. Oddly, enabling the UD27U’s AquoMotion presets had no affect on its motion resolution results including the AquoMotion480 setting that added backlight blinking. As I would recommend leaving this setting configured to off to minimize the “soap opera effect”, this result wasn’t a big deal.
Post-calibration viewing on the UD27U was a visual treat. The Netflix series House of Cards in 1080p and 4K exhibited excellent detail and color. 4K movies with increased film grain like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon benefited from configuring video noise reduction to low as the artifact appeared too intense and distracting without it.
4K viewing with the Sony FMP-X10 was sublime as well with its variety of real-world content and feature films that further highlighted the TV’s flat grayscale and accurate color response.
The Blu-ray reference disc Samsara and its beautiful worldwide visual journey also appeared impressively natural and detailed with superb color rendition. The black bars of this letterboxed feature highlighted the TV’s solid contrast performance in a dark room environment.
Likewise, the epic action movie The Dark Knight and its handful of full-frame IMAX-shot sequences were crisp and detailed, and the wide variety of skin tones of its many characters were flawlessly represented.
The Sharp Aquos LC-60UD27U Ultra HD LED TV is a solid choice for affordable and capable 4K UHD display technology. I’d like to see Sharp release a firmware update to further enhance the TV’s selection of 4K streaming options and to clean up some software quirks, but its calibrated picture quality and strong big-screen value drew me in and increased my appreciation of its performance the longer I looked at it.
By Robert Heron
Disclosure: The Sharp LC-60UD27 was a manufacturer’s loan.
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