Sharp Sends Off Aquos 4K Ultra HDTVs With Android TV
In sending off 9 third-generation 4K Ultra HDTVs for 2015 Wednesday, Sharp executives indicated that they will be adding 4K Amazon Instant Video streaming to select lines for the first time, and demoed some of the company’s first models powered by the new Android TV platform.
In total this year, Sharp models represent seven different screen sizes, five of which are hitting retail floors now in two Aquos 4K Ultra HDTV series, the UE and UH.
More on Sharp’s 2015 Aquos 4K Ultra HDTV offerings after the break:
Jim Sanduski, president of Sharp Electronics Marketing Corp. of America (pictured at top), said the company expanded and fine-tuned the lineup this year to find “the right models across the right screen sizes, and priced for volume sales.”
Sharp also managed to overcome a weak link in past smart TV models by adding the popular Amazon Instant Video platform, including Amazon 4K UHD streaming. The service will be coming to models that include the Android TV operating system, which includes both of the new model lines. Sanduski told us the company is working to have it available through a download later this year.
Noticeably absent from the new models for 2015 were any of the company’s 90-inch screen sizes, which were its largest last year, but only offered in Full HD 1080p resolution. Sanduski told us that Sharp still has some carryover 90-inch Full HD models available but is not planning any new ones.
He added that the “Beyond 4K TV” that Sharp used as a focal point of its press conference at 2015 International CES will not be shipping to the U.S. market until early 2016. Sanduski said that for the U.S., the company is doing further tweaking to the set, including the addition of the Android TV OS. The set will also accept high dynamic range metadata from special content encoded with HDR that is expected to be delivered by some streamings services including Netflix, M-Go and Amazon by the end of the year or early next year.
Sanduski also told us that Sharp’s ultra-thin-depth LED TV models announced at CES are still planned, but will not reach market in 2015.
Commenting on recent reports that Sharp has had financial difficulty requiring a recent infusion of funding and its with drawl from the TV business in Europe and Canada, Sanduski said the television business “is a brutal market” but Sharp “has no intention of vacating” the U.S. He added that Sharp now expects to post an operating profit in the current fiscal year.
Reflecting on Sharp’s expanded 4K Ultra HDTV lineup this year, Sanduski pointed to market research with forecasts for a four-fold increase in shipments of 4K UHD TV sets to 4 million in the U.S., representing some 30 percent of predicted TV revenue.
Among the highlights of this year’s line is a 70-inch THX-certified 4K Ultra HDTV in the company’s UH series.
The UE and UH series models have either just hit the market or will be arriving shortly. They will join the previously introduced UB series.
The UH series sets include the 70-inch ($3,299) and (80-inch $5,000 UPP) screen sizes.
The UE and UH series models include new adjustable feet stands, which can be positioned for placement toward the side edges of the screen or closer to the center of the screen for greater cabinet placement flexibility. Cosmetic designs for both series include a 0.3-inch bezel width, down from 0.4 inches last year.
All of Sharp’s 2015 4K Ultra HDTVs include HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 copy protection, and add both HEVC and VP9 (for 4K YouTube streaming) decoding.
The two UH series models include Sharp’s Spectros technology for a wider color gamut, although the sets do not support wide color gamut metadata decoding from future content that is planned to be encoded with added color detail that can be reproduced by TVs with quantum dot technology and some 4K OLED sets. Spectros boosts the color on currently available material, using a green and yellow LED phosphor along with additional processing. This gives shades a deeper more vibrant look than models without Spectros. Sharp said the technology boosts color by 21 percent over models without it.
The 80-inch models in both series include full-array LED backlighting. This means that LEDs are placed across the backplane of the TV for more even and consistent illumination without a splotching effect, sometimes seen is edge-lit or direct-lit LED sets. Sharp mates the full-array LED backlighting with what Sharp calls “AquoDimming.” This enables pixel-level dimming control of the backlight to give the picture a deeper black level and improved contrast.
AquoDimming is added to models in both the UE & UH series as well as the 65-inch model from the UB series. This includes models with edge-lit LED lighting. Sharp said it has developed the system to give similar “pixel-level” dimming control using software for both full-array and edge-lit applications.
None of the 4K TVs in the three series available this year will be upgradeable to support forthcoming content encoded with high dynamic range metadata, Sharp executives said.
UH and UE series with Android TV, will bring a broader range of streaming services to the TVs. Like an Android smartphone or tablet, Android TV gives users the ability to select favorite apps from a GooglePlay store and download them to the TV. Running a compatible OS for TVs and mobile devices will also enable developers to create one app for multiple devices. Google representatives said the GooglePlay Store for Android TV provides over 600 apps and games.
Games can be played with an optional gaming controller. Android TV also builds in voice control command capability that lets users speak the name of popular apps and other commands into a mic on the remote to call up selections and begin playing them.
Sharp also includes its SmartCentral system in TVs that provides one central on-screen menu guide that users can browse or search for favorite programs offered by multiple sources, such as a cable service or over-the-air broadcast. It does not, however, include streaming content in the Android TV section, which provides its own apps to search for favorite programs available online.
By Greg Tarr
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