capsule review

Sharp LC-42D85U 42-Inch HDTV

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder LC-42D85U

Though the images that the Sharp LC-42D85U puts up on its screen aren't spectacular, they're more than acceptable. The sound is impressive--within the limits of any TV's sound. And the $1100 street price (as of April 22, 2009) keeps the LC-42D85U competitive with 42-inch sets that aren't nearly as good--such as the $1040 Honeywell Altura MLX, the $1100 Philips 42PFL7403D/F7, and the $2800 (!) Allio ATVI-3G4542.

In our image quality tests, the LC-42D85U's images were okay, but not exceptionally good. Many scenes looked too bright, and I spotted occasional noise and artifacts. Another judge noted that the set had an narrower-than-usual range of viewing angles. Yet another had trouble seeing details on David Letterman's jacket in a clip from The Late Show. While watching the NASCAR test, she noted that the Sharp was "not great."

This HDTV did better with sound, producing an excellent surround simulation. A scene in The Phantom of the Opera where quiet dialog suddenly gives way to a loud organ blast had the intended dramatic effect--a sign of good dynamic range. Of course, if you want a really good dynamic range and true surround sound, you'll have to buy a separate sound system with an amplifier and detached speakers.

When you press the remote's Menu button, you get a menu that is legible without taking up much of the screen's real estate. The menu options come with useful, on-screen explanations. But the menu design has its problems: Select a video option such as Contrast, and the full menu remains on-screen while you adjust the selected option. Most TVs hide the menu entirely at this point, so that you can see the entire picture as you adjust it. The Sharp's menu may be small, but it's not that small.

Another shortcoming: The TV has no secondary menu for quick access to frequently changed options.

The remote control is programmable and backlit, but the backlighting isn't handled particularly well. The buttons light up when you push the backlighting control button, but the labels don't. As a result, you can see the buttons, but not what they do. The remote is quite large, with some frequently used buttons uncomfortably out of reach.

On the whole, the Sharp LC-42D85U is a fine TV. It does a solid job of handling video and sound, but there is little about this set that really stands out.

This story, "Sharp LC-42D85U 42-Inch HDTV" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder LC-42D85U

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