These days, you don’t need to spend a lot of money for a good HDTV. Sharp’s LE653U series includes models ranging from 32 to 55 inches, and they’re all reasonably priced. The 43-inch LC-43LE653U we tested retails for $479.99, making it just a bit more expensive than our Editors’ Choice for bargain televisions, the TCL FS4610R series. The Sharp set is a similarly solid performer, and offers a handful of integrated online services, but with relatively few apps and a slightly oversaturated picture, it’s just shy of matching the value that TCL’s Roku TV delivers.
Editors’ Note: This review is based on tests performed on the Sharp LC-43LE653U, the 43-inch version of the series. Besides the screen-size difference, the $599.99 48-inch LC-48LE653U is otherwise identical in features, and while we didn’t perform lab tests on this specific model, we expect similar performance.
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DesignVery plain-looking, the 43LE653U has flat, glossy black plastic bezels measuring half an inch wide on the top and sides, and curving down an inch and a half on the bottom edge. The front of the display is distinguished only by an LED indicator and an infrared sensor on the bottom bezel, along with a painted gray Sharp logo, and HDMI, Dolby, and Wi-Fi logos you won’t notice unless you squint. The screen sits on a glossy black plastic, trapezoidal stand that holds it up very securely, but doesn’t let it pivot.
A set of physical controls sit along the right side of the screen, including Power, Volume Up/Down, Channel Up/Down, Menu, and Input buttons. The left side of the back of the screen holds an HDMI port, a USB port, and optical and analog stereo audio outputs facing left. Two more HDMI ports, a component video input, an Ethernet port, and an antenna/cable connector face downward. The layout is slightly awkward when compared with other HDTVs that group most of their HDMI ports facing one of the sides rather than straight down, but it’s a minor inconvenience.
The included remote is simple, button-laden black wand. The unlit buttons are flat and rubber, and configured so you can easily find the navigation pad and power, input, and volume controls under your thumb. A large dedicated Netflix button sits just under the navigation pad, and a smaller Smart button is located between the Volume and Channel Up/Down buttons and offers access to the set’s other connected features.
FeaturesWhen compared with Roku TVs like the TCL FS4610R series, or connected HDTVs from LG and Samsung, the 43LE653U feels a bit sparse in terms of online features. It has built-in Wi-Fi and can access Netflix, YouTube, Vudu, and CinemaNow easily, but it lacks Amazon Instant Video and other streaming video services. It features Pandora and Rhapsody for music, Flickr and Picasa for photos, and Facebook and TV Tweet (a Twitter client) for social networking, but that’s about it for the big names. The HDTV also has a Web browser, Miracast support, and can play media from USB or network storage. The features cover all of the bases, but the Roku TV platform on the TCL FS4610R HDTVs offer many more apps and services.
See How We Test HDTVs
PerformanceWe test HDTVs with a Klein K-10A colorimeter, a DVDO AVLab test pattern generator, and SpectraCal’s CalMAN 5 software. After basic darkroom calibration, the 43LE653U showed a peak brightness of 234.36 cd/m2 and a black level of 0.08 cd/m2, for a contrast ratio of 2,930:1. This isn’t particularly impressive, but it’s standard performance in the budget price range; the TCL 48FS4610R showed an identical black level and only slightly higher peak brightness for a 3,270:1 contrast ratio, which is a negligible difference.
The chart above shows measured colors at dots and ideal color levels as boxes. While the 43LE653U tended toward slight oversaturation, the colors were fairly accurate and didn’t show any significant skewing towards cool or warm.
We also test for input lag, which is the time between when an HDTV receives a signal and when it updates the screen. The 43LE653U showed a very good result of 38.2 milliseconds. This isn’t nearly as quick as a dedicated gaming monitor, which would be much more expensive and smaller, but it’s very strong performance for an HDTV. And I didn’t need to enable a Game mode (which often hurts picture quality) to ge there.
Considering its price, the 43LE653U offers a very solid picture. Dark scenes, like the alley fights in The Amazing Spider-Man, show plenty of detail without appearing washed out, though the shadows aren’t as inky as they can be on more expensive TVs. Flesh tones in The Big Lebowski generally look natural as well, though they at times appear oversaturated to the point of looking cartoonish. Since they’re simply a bit too harsh and not skewed toward a given hue, though, this can be addressed by slightly reducing the HDTV’s Color (saturation) setting.
Under normal viewing conditions, the 48LE653U consumes 67 watts. You can shave that down to 51 watts by using the Energy Star-compliant Standard picture setting, which doesn’t make the screen appreciably darker, but might skew the colors slightly. This is standard for a 40-inch-range HDTV; the 40-inch Hisense 40H4 consumed 60 watts in the same test.
The Sharp LE653U series of HDTVs show a generally strong picture despite a few quirks. The online feature set is a bit anemic, and colors can appear a little oversaturated out of the box, but it’s a solid option if you want to get a big screen from a familiar manufacturer at a good price. TCL’s FS4610R series offers a much more comprehensive selection of online services thanks to its Roku TV interface, but the LE653U series is a solid alternative.