The buttons comprise of a dedicated input switch that allows quick switching between the analogue and digital ports, direct volume controls that double up as left and right level adjusters, a menu button and a mode/down button. Now, I have to say that using these buttons to move around the OSD is not intuitive. For instance, there are four menus covering image adjustment, gain control, white balance and mode select and cycling through these requires sequential presses of the menu button rather than the left and right buttons. In other words you can’t step backwards through the menus. Furthermore, the brightness level adjustment sits alongside the volume level, which is not the first place I would look. Still I got used to it over time and there’s a good range of settings including phase and clock, black level and contrast, as well as five defined colour temperatures and a user adjustable one.
Well, so far so good. I am suitably impressed with the design, and most of the features apart from the weak bass and awkward OSD menus, but what is the picture quality like? Under DisplayMate tests using our Matrox Millennium G550 graphics card, and both the DVI-I and D-SUB port with the supplied ICC profile this 1,280 x 1,024 display’s overall picture quality is rather good. The 64-step greyscale test was excellent. I could easily maximise the visibility of the darkest greys right down to the third step while still maintaining a black background. The same could be said of the white-level saturation test screen where the steps in the high-end of the greyscale were evenly graduated and I could just make out the 254th level. The colour ramps were smooth too and there are minimal signs of banding. The RGB test screens were also suitably vibrant despite the pretty standard brightness of 250cd/m2 and 430:1 contrast ratio. The performance did drop slightly when switching to the analogue signal but this mainly manifested itself as a slightly dulled down vibrancy and some signs of interference after a full days use (correctable by instigating an auto-adjust by pressing the menu button and then the right volume button – see, told you that the OSD isn’t instinctive).
Resolution and sharpness cannot be faulted and as for our test pictures and DVD movie; skin tones, skies, explosions and water all appeared natural with no severe graininess or heavy blocking of closely toned colour. Motion smearing is also kept at bay thanks to the 20ms response time. Finally, I have to say it’s not all a bed of roses and the Sharp’s main problem is one that plagues the majority of LCDs – viewing angles and resultant colour shift. The LL-T17D4’s horizontal viewing angle is as wide as you’ll ever need, but the vertical viewing angle is limited. While the illumination drops somewhat, there’s also a distinct colour shift as you elevate or lower your eye level through a range of about 15cm or more. Move up and the colours wash out and become more pastel, move down and they become dark and more saturated. However, don’t go thinking that Sharp has manufactured a dud. Far from it, and to be frank I’ve yet to see a 17in display that doesn’t suffer from this to some degree. I would place the LL-T17D4B as an average performer in this department, but well above average when you consider the whole package.
Apart from the criticisms I’ve mentioned, this display is nevertheless a fine performer in the areas that really matter. Image quality, head on, is very precise while the design and build is equally good. It also comes with a 3-year on-site exchange warranty, giving piece of mind, and I was able to find the LL-T17D4-B for £357.20, which represents reasonable value.