We’ve noted in previous Sharp TV reviews that the brand’s AquosNet service is some way off the Smart TV pace being set by its mainstream rivals these days. And sadly this situation is not changed by the Sharp LC-70LE741E.
Accessing its online ‘charms’ via a rather drab and clunky hub menu screen reveals the same disappointing lack of content we’ve noticed before. Notable video sources - the most important part of any smart TV platform in our opinion - are limited to YouTube, iConcerts, Daily Motion, Euronews, HiT Entertainment, Box Office 365, and the Cartoon Network. The last three of which are subscription only. Remarkably Sharp still doesn’t have the BBC iPlayer, never mind other such key services as Netflix and LoveFilm.
Lacking in social skills
Social networkers, meanwhile, have Twitter and Picasa apps, but there’s no Facebook. All in all, AquosNet really is a pretty impoverished effort - especially, ironically, when compared to the actually quite good service Sharp runs on its American TVs.
By some happy (and obviously entirely deliberate) accident, our testing of the Sharp LC-70LE741E happened to coincide with the Olympics. Meaning we were able to spend our testing days flicking around 24 channels of HD sporting action scattered across London’s remarkably photogenic venues. And for the most part, we couldn’t have been happier.
Bigger really is better
For starters, there really is no overstating just how much impact HD sporting pictures have when they’re delivered on a 70in screen. They even look much more ‘life-sized’ than they do on Panasonic’s 65VT50, with the extra 5in making a remarkable difference to the extent to which you feel involved in the unfolding action. Plus the screen’s prodigious dimensions ensure that your field of vision is completely taken over, making you forget the rest of the world.
Having such a large screen also rams home the benefits of HD, as the extra inches highlight the detail and sharpness that makes HD a more or less essential accessory for any king-sized TV.
To be clear, we’re not saying that the 70LE741E is feeble when it comes to standard definition. Actually it does a reasonable job of blowing standard def sources up to 70in without exaggerating their inevitable inherent noise. But compared with HD, the amount of softness on show with standard definition becomes tough to live with.
Also hugely appealing about the 70LE741E’s rendering of HD Olympics - and HD footage of all sorts, in fact - is how bright and colourful it makes things look. Any concerns about whether edge LED lighting would be able to still deliver bright, punchy pictures at a 70in size are thoroughly laid to rest, as the 70LE741E’s pictures look quite radiant - even when using a fairly sensibly calibrated suite of picture settings.
We were impressed by how natural colours look too, with skin tones looking believable, and plenty of punch on hand to render the various national outfits, colourful venues and abundance of fancy onscreen graphics that epitomise the Olympic coverage. Reds look a bit over-dominant using the TV’s presets, but there’s a colour management system included within the slightly unwieldy onscreen menus that allows you to calm this problem down.
There isn’t, it must be said, as much exquisite subtlety in the rendering of colour blends as you get with higher-end TVs - the Sharp LC-70LE741E’s colour processing is only 8 bit, after all. But images are sharp and detailed enough to ensure that pictures don’t end up looking cartoony.
Although obviously most of the Olympics action takes place in daylight or brightly illuminated arenas, we also felt impressed at this stage by the image’s contrast. Certainly dark corners of indoor arenas appeared to have a pretty nice, deep black tone.
In fact there’s only one major complaint to raise about the 70LE741E’s Olympic performance, and that concerns its motion handling. For the 100Hz engine the TV carries isn’t potent enough to stop the TV from looking a bit blurry when reproducing motion - especially during camera pans. It’s not bad enough to be a deal breaker considering the TV’s affordability, especially as you tend to acclimatise to it over time. But it’s certainly an area of weakness compared with the best efforts this year from some rival LCD brands.