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Sharp LC-80UQ17U First Impressions Review

ces 2014 $5,999.99
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Great, or gimmick?

Later this year, Sharp plans to unleash two particularly innovative TV series: the UQ17 and the SQ15, both of which fall into Sharp's "Quattron+" designation.

The LC-80UQ17U (MSRP $5,999.99) may seem a tad pricy for an 80-inch LCD TV, but you're really paying for 10 million more sub-pixels than other Full HD TVs, and the unique ability to dynamically display an effective resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 (4K), even though it's still only a 1080p panel.

Whether you call it FauxK or 2K/4K, early adopters may want to keep the Quattron+ TVs on their radar as a way to more gently bridge the upgrade gap between Full-HD and 4K resolutions.

Picture Quality

Sometimes you feel like 4K—sometimes you don't.

Our immediate impressions of the UQ17's picture quality are very positive. Sharp's demo showed off the usual reel of native 4K content within the TV's split-pixel matrix, and at a cursory glance it looked just as good as a 3840 x 2160 native resolution TV: a high degree of detail, some semblance of the Rec. 2020 color space, and decent overall contrast.

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The 1920 x 2160 UQ17, playing native 4K content.

The Quattron+ design achieves its unique sub-pixel map by splitting more luminance-heavy green and yellow sub-pixels—the latter being unique to Sharp—into equally-sized clusters of RGB (red, green, blue) and RYB (red, yellow, and blue). Each cluster of sub-pixels features either one green or one yellow color filter, those two colors being the most naturally luminous when perceived by the human eye. By splitting its RGBY Quattron pixel map vertically, Sharp doubles the vertical resolution of 1080p and enables a "dynamic" horizontal resolution.

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Sharp's concept image of the Q+ sub-pixel map.
Anyway, if you want to know more of the science behind Quattron+, check out Dr. Timur Senguen's article here.

Yet any objective improvement to picture quality is directly quantifiable in terms of pure numbers: Where Full-HD TVs offer about six million sub-pixels, and 4K TVs about 24 million, the UQ17 and SQ15 Quattron+ TVs strike a middle ground with 16 million.

The LC-80UQ17U is also equipped with Sharp's "Revelation" upscaling engine, the same engine the company employs within its full 4K TVs. According to Sharp, the UQ17 is one of only two 1080p TV series on the market (the other being the step-down SQ15) able to receive and display a native 4K image. Simultaneously, the UQ17 is still technically a Full-HD TV, so potential buyers need not worry quite so much about the quality of upscaling when sourcing from 720p or 1080p.

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For what is essentially a surgically-altered 1080p TV, the 80-inch UQ17 is pretty impressive.

Design & Features

SmartCentral 3 has some very stiff competition.

The LC-80UQ17U brings more to the table than Jekyll & Hyde pixel technology. It's also a smart TV, featuring Sharp's latest iteration of Smart Central. Last year's outing was... well, let's just say it should have stayed indoors compared to some of the sleeker, more processor-heavy competition. Smart Central 3 promises both new features, like Miracast, and old favorites like "wallpaper mode."

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Smart Central 3's tablet functionality is a breath of fresh air compared to last year's remote.

That's good, because Smart Central 3 is going to need everything it can get to compete with the new hotness from Samsung and LG.

Smart Central 3 promises new features, like Miracast.
Let's be honest, if you're buying a Quattron+ TV, it isn't for smart features—but no one wants to shell out $6,000 and get sluggish software, either.

Fortunately, Sharp has prepared to offer a more streamlined experience by fitting the LC-80UQ17U with a dual-core processor. Unfortunately, dual-core processors are old news in the smart TV world, which this year is breaching quad- and six-core processors. The UQ17 will also be 3D-capable, though how the FauxK resolution will handle active shutter is anyone's guess.

From a design perspective, this TV is big, bold, and burnished. Smooth, grainy metal wraps the bezels and surges down to support the TV on small, unobtrusive feet. Sharp's TVs are traditionally more about function than form, and the 80-inch UQ17 is no exception. The UQ17 is equipped with four HDMI inputs, two USB 2.0 inputs, and a booming 15w sub-woofer with Bluetooth audio. As 4K-capable 1080p displays, we expect the Quattron+ TVs to be HEVC/HDMI 2.0 compatible, as well, though Sharp has yet to confirm this.

The Finish Line

Don't cross the bridge, stand in the middle.

The LC-80UQ17U carries a hefty, $6,000 MSRP—but for a massive 80-inch smart TV that's "half" 4K, it's not a bad price.

From what we've seen, this technology—unique to Sharp—pulls off what it aims to. If you've got a home theater setup replete with 1080p Blu-ray discs, but don't want to be out of the loop once content providers like Netflix and YouTube nail down 4K streaming, the UQ17 could be a stellar gray choice in a black-and-white world.