Review: Sharp Gaming Aquos 32-inch 1080p TV

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This wine-colored Sharp Aquos HDTV is aimed at gamers with a few specific features. Its 32 inches may not satisfy the more home-theater-orientated of you, but maybe its wealth of inputs and the mysterious “Vyper Drive” will make it worth your while.

By Gamers, For Gamers (not actually by gamers)

The LC-32GP3U, or “TV” for the purposes of this review, is part of a drive by Sharp to embrace gamer considerations. The two major additions are the “Vyper Drive,” which purports to reduce lag time between your console and the TV. What I’m thinking it boils down to is a quick display response time and a high rate of polling the inputs. Either way, I certainly didn’t have any problem with the PS3, PS2, or SNES I hooked up to it. Everything appeared snappy, but I wouldn’t say there was a dramatic difference when compared to the monitor I usually use.

sharp-002The dedicated “Game” button on the rather crowded remote is essentially just a way to switch back to the game from whatever input you’ve switched to. Handy if you can’t remember (or don’t want to remember) which HDMI you’ve got yourself hooked up to or whatnot. Not exactly brand new technology (I had a “flashback” button on my TV in the 80s) but the ability to choose which input it goes to means that you’ll always be just one press away from your game. Or, alternatively, you can set it up so your technologically-challenged significant other can switch to the DVD player easily. This makes more sense if you end up using a lot of its inputs, which it has plenty of.

Inputs

sharp-003You won’t have to pass your systems through a switch if you don’t want to (although it makes the “game” button more practical), because this TV has got 3 HDMI, 3 composite, 2 component, an S-Video, and one VGA, all nicely laid out. That should be enough to plug in all your current consoles and all the ones worth having from the last 10 years, plus a Blu-Ray player, leaving a couple inputs to spare for your random gadgets.

The Medium-Sized Picture

How’s picture quality? Great, I thought, with one major caveat which I’ll explain next. We watched some 1080p movies on the thing and it was sharp and lovely in general. One person present thought it was a little over-bright, but better that than the alternative (besides, I think “The Mist” was shot that way). I saw no evidence of ghosting or trails, and colors were great. In the shot below, you can see that the TV (on the right) tends toward the cool end of the spectrum, and that wasn’t even on the “cool” setting of the somewhat limited color correction menu. I noticed since I’m a white balance freak, but it certainly didn’t affect our enjoyment of the movie.

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But…

Unfortunately, when I fired up Final Fantasy XII, I found a very, very annoying issue. Entering a dungeon, I fought a few battles before I noticed that this dungeon was a dark one indeed. Much darker in there than I remembered, having been to the dungeon before.

Oops, I thought, I must have forgotten to turn the backlight up. I went to the menu and found that the backlight was set to full. Strange. Just to test it, I pulled it down one notch. The picture brightened immediately. What the hell? I began playing again, and shortly after, it was dark again. I did the same thing with the backlight and it brightened up. Give me a break!

Consulting the manual, I found that there is an automatic brightness control setting which increases or decreases the brightness of a scene depending on the natural darkness or lightness of the scene’s contents. Reasonable, but clearly malfunctioning. I turned it off. The same thing happened. I fiddled with its brackets, turned it on and off again, and it still did it. I had to suck it up and complete the game while stopping every once in a while to wiggle the backlight level. This feature may be worthwhile in some situations, but it seems poorly implemented and most annoying of all will not turn off. If I set the backlight to full, keep the backlight at full. Maybe I like my blacks a little grey, or maybe it’s just necessary for this scene.
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On the plus side, the speakers are surprisingly good. There’s audio outs, of course, but in a small space (where this TV would be at home), the speaker bar is loud enough, and quite clear. Not a lot of bass, but hey.

When you get down to it…

This TV is an excellent TV in all but that brightness problem, which may or may not be something you even notice. I personally couldn’t handle it, but I’m an image quality snob. The rest of the TV is great. I also like the coloring and would recommend it over plain black or white. It’s a great size for a small apartment, although the base (while stable) is a bit large, so you’ll need some space if you’re not mounting it. At just under $1000 on the street, it’s a bit expensive, though. I can only recommend it if you can get into a store somewhere and see the thing, and maybe get a feel for the auto brightness. You can, of course, get a bigger TV for cheaper, but the Aquos brand carries a certain cachet and level of quality, and nobody wants a streaky, dim, soundless TV in their apartment. Give this one a try.

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