televisions

Sharp Aquos LC-40LE550U LED TV Review

40 in.

Sharp's 550U is a good budget buy, although there are some noticeable flaws.

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Overview

“Sharp makes smaller TVs?”

That’s what we all thought when we received the 40-inch Sharp Aquos LC-40LE550U (MSRP $549.99). We’ve reviewed 80- and 70-inch models in the past; 60-inch displays seem like the smallest Sharp has to offer.

So Sharp makes a budget-friendly 40-inch TV. So what? We’ll tell you this much: the 550U isn’t a bad TV. But you probably want to know whether this une petit télévision is a good performer or just good for the money. To be completely honest, it’s more of the latter.

Design

For a budget model, this Sharp is delightfully debonair.

We don’t expect bezels this slender on a TV this cheap. Tweet It

It won’t set the world ablaze with a revolutionary design—ask Samsung about that—but at least the 550U will look good in whatever room you place it in. This is mostly because of the thin bezels that surround the screen. Seriously, we don’t expect bezels this slender (half an inch!) on a TV this cheap.

Aside from the bezels, everything else is standard fair. The remote is small and unoriginal, while the back of the TV sports basic connections (HDMI, component, RF, S/PDIF). At least the 550U is somewhat slim for a budget model, plus it’s extremely light—a major plus if your job involves lugging around TVs.

Interface & Performance

Menu options are plentiful, but so are performance issues.

Sharp’s menu interface is a hate-it-or-love-it affair. It looks rather complex, with menu categories displayed along the top of the screen, and options for those categories listed on the right side. For the record, we’re fans, especially since Sharp includes some advanced options to tweak, like color temperature. Don’t let the industrial grey-and-blue color scheme intimidate you—this menu isn’t that hard to use.

menu-picsettings.jpg
Sharp's menu may look intimidating, but it's quite intuitive.
Content looks satisfactory, but it's far from perfect. Tweet It

After calibrating the 550U to our satisfaction, we watched some content, and… well, content looks satisfactory on this display, but it's far from perfect. The biggest offense is the spectrum of colors it can produce. Blues and reds are off, with blues looking a bit deeper than they should, while reds are muted. You probably won’t notice this too much watching cable content, but with Blu-ray movies, you might find scenes with a lot of red don’t “pop” like they should.

Motion is also an area of concern. No, there aren’t artifacts strewn across the screen during a basketball game, but there is some blurriness to be found during intense camera movement. The 40-inch 550U only has a refresh rate of 60 Hz, so what you see is what you get. The larger models (60- and 70-inch) actually have a 120 Hz refresh rate, so you might see better motion performance on them.

Contrast is top-notch for an LED. Tweet It

We’ll end on a positive note: Contrast is top-notch for an LED. The 550U is capable of reaching plasma-worthy black levels and modestly-bright peak whites. Good contrast means a more realistic picture, and while this lowly Sharp can't compete with plasmas from Panasonic and Samsung, it sure makes film content look pleasant. It almost makes up for the lackluster colors. Almost.

The Finale

It has its flaws, but this cheapo LED is still a worthwhile purchase.

Sharp’s 40-inch 550U has a lot going for it: a pleasing design, a unique interface, and a decent picture, all for around $550. It has its flaws, too, such as slightly inaccurate colors and shrug-worthy motion performance. But we have to keep bringing up this little Sharp’s price tag: $550.

You can easily find a TV with better picture quality—go visit our home page, you’ll find plenty. Finding a 40-inch TV with performance perks like the 550U's is more difficult, though. If you’re on a budget, check out this little Sharp.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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