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New Sharp TVs promise crisper images than 1080p HDTVs

sharp press conference CES 2014.jpg

A Sharp executive speaks onstage during a presentation at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show.Sharp

Sharp has carved a niche by offering the largest-sized LCD TVs at competitive prices, so it was no surprise that part of its CES story was new, bigger sets. What did take us off guard was its claim that it had developed a new bridge technology between 1080p and Ultra HD sets that could basically give 1080p TVs better-than-1080p resolutions. (For more information, read: "Ultra HD vs. HD TV: Is Ultra worth the extra money?")

First, some of the TV announcement details: Sharp announced four new series of large-screen LED-backlit LCD TVs: The flagship Aquos 4K series, followed by the Aquos Q+ (the subject of our wonder), the Aquos Quattron (Q), and Aquos HD. In all, Sharp will have 19 Aquos TVs 60 inches or larger, including some as big as 90 inches.

The new 4K UHD TVs will be offered in 60- and 70-inch screen sizes, and will sell for $5,000 and $6,000 respectively. The Aquos Q+ models will be available in the same screen sizes, and will cost $2,300 and $3,100, respectively. The similarly-sized Quattron Q sets are priced at $1,700 to $2,700. The widest sizes ranges—60, 70, 80, and 90 inches—are found in the entry-level Aquos HD series, where prices will range from about $1,300 to $9,000 for the largest set.

The company also unveiled a new SmartCentral smart TV platform. Among the key features is a new SmartCentral interactive guide that lets you search and access content across your cable, satellite, and streaming services. It also has a recommendation feature that provides program and movie suggestions based on your preferences.

All Sharp smart TVs also come with built in Web browsers and TV/Web split-screen capability, so you can watch a show on half the screen while browsing the Web on the other.

Basically, that's sort of what Sharp is claiming with its Quattron+ sets, which use the company's Quattron color technology and a new pixel process called Revelation to create what it bills are "the highest resolution Full HD TVs" available. As a result, Sharp sees these sets as a bridge to UHD for those who want extra detail and clarity, but who aren't willing or able to step up to the prices that true UHD TVs command.

The technology wasn't clearly explained, but my understanding of Sharp's Revelation technology is that it divides each pixel in half to create two sub-pixels from each pixel. Sharp's Quattron technology already adds a yellow sub-pixel to the usual red, green, and blue sub-pixels, so the result is 16 million sub-pixels, 10 million more than a regular 1080p set. Revelation allows individual pixels to "share" adjacent sub-pixels, which the company claims can produce sharper, higher-resolution images.

While I haven't yet had a chance to see these TVs up close in action, I readily admit I'm skeptical about whether this approach can transform a 1080p TV into a set with higher resolution. Sharp's Quattron color technology didn't impress us much when we had these sets in our labs. Still, I'm willing to keep an open mind about whether Sharp can improve the picture quality with its Q+ and Revelation technology. We're certainly going to get one of these TVs in our labs as soon as we can for a complete evaluation. I can't wait to hear what our TV engineers think.

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