The TV feature of the moment, without a shadow of doubt, is 3D. The hype surrounding this intriguing new TV development seemingly knows no bounds. Which is a damn shame for Sharp’s LC-46LE821E.
For rather than jumping on the 3D bandwagon, the 46in 46LE821E is ploughing its own innovation furrow with a little trick called Quad Pixel technology. A trick that’s tragically likely to get completely lost amid the whole 3D marketing maelstrom, despite the fact that it’s really rather good.
As you can doubtless tell from its name, Quad Pixel technology has something to do with the number four. And that ‘something’ is the addition of a yellow sub-pixel to the normal red, green and blue ones usually found in LCD TVs.
At first, this perhaps doesn’t sound all that significant compared with adding a whole extra depth dimension to images as offered by 3D. But anyone who’s had more than a passing interest in TVs will know that throughout the history of colour television, the thinking has always revolved around the core red, green and blue triumvirate. So for Sharp to suddenly expand this fundamental aspect of colour TV construction really is a big deal.
Of course, if adding a fourth colour sub-pixel to proceedings is really that important, you might well wonder why nobody else has done it before. But the answers to this are simply that a) making four sub-pixels happen requires the sort of out-of-the-box thinking that’s not always a feature of the AV world at large, and b) adding a fourth sub-pixel is actually pretty difficult.
After all, the 46LE821E only has the same screen ‘real estate’ to deal with as any ordinary 46in LCD TV. So Sharp has had to completely redesign its LCD pixel structure to make room for the yellow sub-pixel alongside its red, green and blue brethren. This process, Sharp claims, has taken no less than four years of R&D to perfect.
Needless to say, Sharp hasn’t just undertaken such an extensive development process for fun. Adding the yellow sub-pixel to proceedings promises to deliver some truly significant picture quality improvements.
The most obvious of these is an improved colour palette. Yellows, naturally, should be able to look much purer and more natural since there’s no longer a need for yellow colours to be ‘mixed’ from the red, green and blue pixels. But actually the impact goes much further than this, with yellow derivatives like gold and mustard also potentially looking much more accurate than they can on normal LCD TVs.
In fact, almost all colours have the potential to benefit from the yellow sub-pixel, since the more core colours a TV has at its disposal for creating hues across the spectrum, the more accurate those colours could be. Cue the charming claim by Sharp that its Quad Pixel TVs can produce 1,000 times more colour than any ordinary RGB model!
There’s a good reason why Sharp has chosen to add yellow rather than cyan or magenta to the RGB mix, too. For yellow is the most ‘transparent’ of the secondary trio of colours, allowing light to pass through more easily and so helping the 46LE821E potentially look brighter (20 per cent brighter, according to Sharp) than normal LCD TVs.
The relative translucency of the yellow sub-pixel should also help the 46LE821E run more efficiently, as it doesn’t have to push as much light out from its edge LED lighting array.