If LCD TVs are the hot item these days, so-called "thin-bezel" LCDs must be on fire. Several manufacturers are out this season touting new super-thin frames around their screens for a kind of floating-in-space effect. Why we should care is beyond me; I doubt that anyone would knowingly buy a TV with a picture inferior to that of its like-priced competition simply because its bezel is an inch thinner. But since certain kinds of shoppers don't seek out expert advice from Sound & Vision before plunking down their plastic (shame on them!), little things can make the difference between a sale or a walk-by.
That said, Sharp's new 64 Series LCDs do not sport the thinnest bezel on the market, a bragging right that currently falls to another manufacturer's hyper-anorexic panels. But these redesigned models in Sharp's bread-and-butter midprice line do boast notable cosmetic improvements over last year's versions, including both a thinner bezel and a reduction in the TV's depth, which measures just 33/4 inches for the 52-incher reviewed here. More critically, after stumbling a bit with the first TVs coming out of the advanced LCD plant it opened last fall in Kameyama, Japan, Sharp has continued to refine its manufacturing and design to address picture-quality issues that S&V and others reported on. So I was naturally curious about the Aquos LC-52D64U. Would we finally get a Sharp that lives up to the company's heritage as an LCD pioneer?
Among look-alike LCDs, the 64 Series is about the classiest I've seen. To the extent that you can add a statement to something you're trying to make disappear, these new models manage the task with the aforementioned slim bezel and the subtle, flowing curved lines along the bottom edge that break up the rectangle and add a touch of softness to the high-tech. Hidden speaker grilles are integrated below the curve. This set is nicely equipped on the tech end, too, with three HDMI 1.3 inputs, including one in a convenience jack-pack on the right side of the screen that also has component and composite inputs. Additional inputs of all three types are on the back as well, along with an RBG computer input and an RS-232C terminal for custom controllers.
The LC-52D64U's contoured remote was nice to hold, though I'd have preferred bigger and more widely separated volume and channel rockers, and the critical navigation keys are a little too low for me to comfortably get my thumb on. And while the remote is backlit, the legends aren't, so this feature becomes useful only when you learn the keys.
The remote's input button calls up an onscreen menu to navigate to your sources or cycle through them. Not only can input labels be renamed, but the TV even recognized one of our HD DVD players when it was plugged in via HDMI, and the TV automatically renamed that input to reflect both the product type and the model number. Sweet!
Meanwhile, the View Mode button, though awkwardly placed up top, toggles through the aspect-ratio modes. These include a Dot-by-Dot mode for viewing HDTV signals without overscan, along with a couple of stretch and zoom modes.
There was plenty of stuff to play with in this Sharp's setup menu. Any of five preset video modes can be modified and assigned to any source input, with your adjustments carried over. The set's User mode, which can also be selected for any input, allows full customization for each source, so I opted to use that.
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