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Subpixel processing and a pair of 4K sets promise to up the graphical ante of the Aquos line

Sharp Corp. (TYO:6753) showed off a variety of TV sets this morning at a press event at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.  Central themes were big, high resolution, and smarter televisions.

I. 3D, Smart TVs are Here to Stay, Says Sharp

The Japanese set-maker continues to forge ahead with its own proprietary smart TV technology dubbed "SmartCentral".  Its refresh of its Aquos line includes 21 new sets distributed among the 6-Series (low-end), 7-Series (mid-range), and 8-Series (high-end).  Each set features a dual-core ARM architecture processor.  The sets range from 60+ inches to 80+ inches.

The latest version of SmartCentral adds the ability to use your Android or iOS device as a remote control.  It also features SmartBeam, which allows you to push files from your mobile device onto your LCD set.  A Flash- and HTML5-capable web browser will also be built into the sets.

Taking a page from Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) playbook, Sharp's luxury 7- and 8-Series models feature diamond-cut silver brushed-aluminum finishes.
Sharp Aquos 8
Sharp Aquos 8-Series (60-inch)

All of the TVs have built in Wi-Fi and 1080p "Active" 3D compatibility.  The new twist on 3D is improved filtering on the Bluetooth link; customers can now use the Bluetooth powered glasses without fear of interference from other Bluetooth signals (previously customers were advised to turn off other Bluetooth-communications in the area when watching 3D content).

Also included in the lineup is Sharp's proprietary sub-pixel processing, which the company claims offers double the detail per pixel as rival RGBY/RGB LCD designs.

The lineup answers two of the big questions of last few years' shows -- will 3D and smart-TVs flare out? While neither technology has wowed in terms of adoption or customer enthusiasm, the solution Sharp and other manufacturers appear to be pursuing is to simply overhaul the entire lineup to feature some level of these technologies.

II. Going Big

Sharp was also eager to plug its 90-inch LED set, which it brags is the biggest available LED-illuminated LCD TV on the market.  Launched in June 2012, this will continue to be a crown jewel in the company's lineup, getting a minor refresh with improved SmartCentral technology.

But 1080 is not the final destination for Sharp.  The company will be launching a pair of 4K (3,840 × 2,160 pixel) sets this year.  Sharp dubs these models "ultra-HD" (UHD) sets, pointing out that they quadruple the pixel count of 1080p.

Sharp ICC Purios
[Image Source: Jason Mick/DailyTech]

The first, the ICC Purios, will hit this summer. Named after Sharp's processor partner -- the I-cubed Research Center Inc. (ICC) -- the ICC Purious will pack ICC's (integrated cognitive creation) image processor, which supposedly mimics the way a human brain deals with images.  The 60-inch set is the first 4K model to receive THX certification, according to Sharp.
Sharp ICC Purios
Sharp ICC Purios

Sharp will push out a second set -- an Aquos-branded UHD set -- sometime in the second half of the year.  That set will feature an upscaler, which will try to convert standard 1080p content to 4K (similar to how the Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) PS3 upscales DVD content to 1080p).

The latter set will also feature "Moth Eye" a nano-scale conical coating, which mimics moth eyes.  Apparently moths have evolved the ability to minimize glare off their eye lenses to avoid predation.  Inspired by nature, Sharp applied a similar design to eliminate glare on the set.

In case that wasn't enough, Sharp showed off an 85-inch 8K LED-lit LCD TV prototype (7680 x 4320 pixel).  The ultra-ultra HD (so to speak) set won't be available this year, but Sharp calls it a "glimpse of the future of high definition".

Sources: Sharp [1], [2]

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Not sure I want a smart TV
By kleinma on 1/7/2013 2:08:59 PM , Rating: 2
TV's tend to be long term investments. Unlike a laptop or tablet, if I buy a big ass TV, I expect it to have a longer service life than some of my other electronics.

I am not against the concepts and features of these smart TVs, I just don't think I fully trust the manufacturers to keep ones they already sold up to date and running properly.

I can just see them releasing new features or updating a webbrowser, but uh oh, your 2.5 year TV misses the support cutoff and are left with series of broken features.

RE: Not sure I want a smart TV
By morgan12x on 1/7/2013 2:18:17 PM , Rating: 4
Agreed. Just give me a great display without all the "Smart" features and knock off a few hundred bucks.

RE: Not sure I want a smart TV
By othercents on 1/7/2013 2:44:39 PM , Rating: 3
Many Times the features are not part of the problems with the display, but the fancy touch sensitive buttons on the front. Good old physical buttons always worked since we usually use the remote anyways. The fancy ones wear out even though we never use them.

By whickywhickyjim on 1/9/2013 11:31:08 AM , Rating: 2
Many Times the features are not part of the problems with the display

Not so. I bought one of the the Sharp first gen 1080P LCDs (LC-45GD7U) in early 2006. While this was advertized as a 1080P set (as were many others), these sets were not capable of accepting a 1080P signal and could only render 1080i. Total bunk.

RE: Not sure I want a smart TV
By retrospooty on 1/7/2013 3:00:56 PM , Rating: 2
Yup... That and most of todays cable/satelite boxes have the same or similar functionality, so you have it doubled.

Give me a good TV, I will work out the rest.

RE: Not sure I want a smart TV
By Milliamp on 1/7/2013 4:17:18 PM , Rating: 3
A lot of the "smart" features already fit inside something the size of a USB drive (for $70). Maybe it is a good idea to have the module for the "smart" part be in a small swappable bay in the back.

This way you can upgrade the "smart" components by replacing a $100 module on the TV without needing to replace the full display.

By ShaolinSoccer on 1/7/2013 9:48:02 PM , Rating: 2
I would hate to get a virus on a TV.

RE: Not sure I want a smart TV
By Solandri on 1/7/2013 3:54:44 PM , Rating: 2
TVs are no longer a dumb monitor connected to a tuner. They're now computers running sophisticated signal processing software to process the video before it's displayed on screen. I took apart a projection HDTV to fix, and it even used a standard DVI connector between the built-in computer and monitor portions.

Adding a web browser to that computer to make it a "Smart TV" is trivial. That's probably why you're seeing them pushed so heavily. A $5 heftier CPU and a network jack, plus a few megabytes of software, and you can sell the TV for $150 more.

By mgilbert on 1/8/2013 9:06:23 AM , Rating: 1
7620 x 4320 isn't eight times the resolution of standard HD. It's 16 times. Why is everyone calling it 8K???

3820 x 2160 IS 4 times the resolution of standand HD, so "4K" makes sense.

RE: 8K???
By theapparition on 1/8/2013 9:25:06 AM , Rating: 3
4K refers to the approximate horizontal resolution. Current HD TV (1920 x 1080) would be considered 2K.

8K is doubling that horizontal resolution.

That's why they are called "K" (thousands) and not "X" (times/multiple).

RE: 8K???
By mgilbert on 1/8/13, Rating: 0
RE: 8K???
By OCNewbie on 1/8/2013 10:01:02 AM , Rating: 4
You said it in your first sentence: the horizontal resolution of 4k is 3840 (they're rounding that 3,840 up to call it "4K", as in 4 thousand). Nobody said anything about 4x or 8x (as in four or 8 "times") the resolution. It's 4K and 8K, again, as in thousand.

RE: 8K???
By CaedenV on 1/8/2013 11:19:37 AM , Rating: 2
minor correction, but 2K is a slightly different standard which is a bit wider than 1080p.

Similarly, theatrical 2K 4K and 8K are not 1.78:1 (aka 16:9) ratio, they are a wider 1.85:1. This basically means that we are still going to have good old pan and scan between 4K movies which adopted the theatrical 4K format 10 years ago, and the UHD 4K format which is coming out now. I was really hoping to have less standards when 4K came out... but I guess consumers can never win.

Anywho, oddly enough 2K only refers to the theatrical 1.85:1 format, while 1080p only refers to the popular 16:9 format even though they are extremely similar.

I really wish that the Manufacturing marketing directors would have just said UHD instead of 4K... it really makes things overly complicated.

RE: 8K???
By Shadowself on 1/8/2013 1:59:02 PM , Rating: 2

The Digital "TV" "standards" are
NTSC: 480p/i : 720 x 480
ATSC, 720p/i : 1280 x 720
ATSC, 1080p/i : 1920 x 1080

Digital Cinema Standards are
2K : 2048 x 1080
4K : 4096 x 2160
8K : 8192 x 4320
16K: 15384 x 8640 (not a standard, but being discussed)

To my knowledge 3840 x 2160 and 7680 x 4320 are not recognized as "standards" by any independent organization.

There are also other "standards" like the various IMAX resolutions.

I too was hoping for things to converge to a single set of standards, but, alas, it is easier to just double the horizontal and vertical numbers of what you already have rather than work to make things the same. Then you just attach buzzwords (e.g., "4K") to what you have (accurate or not) and market the hell out of it.

RE: 8K???
By Fritzr on 1/11/2013 3:21:07 AM , Rating: 2
Digital Standard Resolutions
720×480 : Widescreen DVD (anamorphic)
1280×720 : HDTV
1440×1080 : HDTV (4:3)
1920×1080 : HDTV
1998x1080 : 2K Flat (1.85:1)
2048×1080 : 2K Digital Cinema
3840x2160 : UHDTV
4096×2160 : 4K Digital Cinema
7680×4320 : UHDTV
8192x4320 : 8K Digital Cinema
10000x7000 : IMAX
15360x8640 : 16K Digital Cinema

The 1080 series is
1920x1080 (HD -- this is the hi-res Hi Def)
3840x2160 (UHD -- this is the lo-res Ultra Hi Def)
7680x4320 (UHD -- this is the hi-res Ultra Hi Def)
15360x8640 (16K Digital Cinema)

The 2K/4K/8K do not designate a particular res, they designate families of resolutions with similar horizontal res. 1080pHD falls in the 2K group, but the group designator has never been used in marketing. The naming rules for UHD (4K/8K television) were announced at CES 2013. The Super Hi Vision (8K UHD) is also being retired.

The outlier in the Digital Cinema group is the 16K which is an (U)HDTV resolution. The 16K Digital Cinema should be 16384x8640 which doubles the 8K Digital Cinema. Expect renaming for that standard in 5 to 8 years when the HDTV manufacturers begin playing with that 1.5*IMAX resolution.

RE: 8K???
By theapparition on 1/10/2013 10:21:34 AM , Rating: 2
Thanks for the info. I didn't know that.

RE: 8K???
By mgilbert on 1/8/2013 9:56:21 AM , Rating: 2
OK, wait. I get it now... 4K doesn't mean "4 times the resolution of full HD". It means 4K lines of horizontal resolution - which would actually be 4096. 3840 is almost, but not quite, 4K, and 7680 is almost 8192 (8K). So, it's misleading and confusing! So, 4K means 4 kilolines... Geez...

Rival RGBY designs?
By Sivar on 1/7/2013 5:21:35 PM , Rating: 3
Also included in the lineup is Sharp's proprietary sub-pixel processing, which the company claims offers double the detail per pixel as rival RGBY LCD designs.

Sharp's claim is of course highly suspect, but I thought I'd note: There are no rival RGBY designs. Sharp is the only company that includes a yellow phosphor in addition to R, G, and B.

This is probably because the yellow phosphor is a gimmick and offers no benefit.

RE: Rival RGBY designs?
By spread on 1/7/2013 9:20:59 PM , Rating: 2
This is probably because the yellow phosphor is a gimmick and offers no benefit.

If it's such a gimmick, then why is Sharp posting negative profits and a decline in sales and operating income too?

They say Smart TVs are here to stay. I think they know what they're doing. What Sharp needs to do is to make really crappy remote controls and awful interfaces for these Smart TVs.

RE: Rival RGBY designs?
By phazers on 1/8/2013 1:52:01 PM , Rating: 2
This is probably because the yellow phosphor is a gimmick and offers no benefit.

I have compared the Sharp 70" Aquos 4-color sets side-by-side with Vizio, Sony, etc 3-color displays and you're right - not much of a noticeable difference - so it seems to be mainly marketing BS. I would have to do some research into the RGBY color gamut and compare it to the standard however to make sure however.

Also, I would have to be convinced that Sharp offers the best value by a large margin before I would do business with them again. I had a 46" Aquos a few years back, that developed a horizontal line about 1/3rd of the way up the display, about a month after the 1 yr warranty expired. I contacted an authorized repair center and they told me Sharp discontinued manufacturing that particular display, so it could not be replaced as none were to be had. So IMHO Sharp treats their customers pretty poorly, selling them disposable TVs. Luckily my platinum visa card extended the warranty by a year so I got enough back to go buy two Sony TVs. Have never considered Sharp since then..

RE: Rival RGBY designs?
By superflex on 1/9/2013 9:05:04 AM , Rating: 2
Sharp quality is poor at best. I purchased a top of the line CableCard compliant 26" Aquos back in 2006. The remote quit working after 2 years and the speakers quit another year later. I had to rig up some computer speakers to the TV in order to get sound to work and purchased another remote off ebay.
I recommend googling Sharp Aquos Quality before you plunk down any money for an overrated, overpriced crap quality product.

RE: Rival RGBY designs?
By tng on 1/9/2013 9:20:13 AM , Rating: 2
Anecdotal evidence of poor quality I think. I have owned 2 Sharps (52" and 42") for over 6 years and never have had an issue with either. What does that tell you? I got lucky, or you got unlucky?

Face it, just because you had a bad experience with Sharp does not mean that they are horrible. I can send you to forums where people will say the same things about Samsung, Sony, Vizio, ETC...

Watch out
By Dorkyman on 1/8/2013 1:15:47 AM , Rating: 4
Man, these guys are skating on thin ice. First, they deliver a display with rectangular dimensions, then they do the brushed-metal finish. Apple is probably filing the infringement paperwork as we speak.

I love Ultraman!
By MrBlastman on 1/7/2013 4:23:10 PM , Rating: 3
He was a stud.

By sulu1977 on 1/10/2013 12:12:58 PM , Rating: 2
They need to start increasing the frame rate before going beyond 4K. 120 fps would be good, but 300 fps should be the ultimate goal.

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