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.
For a budget model, this Sharp is delightfully debonair.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Sharp 550U’s biggest performance asset is its excellent contrast ratio, thanks in part to a plasma-like black level. Aside from contrast, though, this LED didn’t have too many noteworthy test results. Viewing angle was completely average, and color accuracy was a bit off. At least there weren’t any color temperature issues.
Look at that black level. It’s awesome!
The Sharp 550U’s black level of 0.05 cd/m2 would be merely good on a plasma, but since this is an LED display, it’s excellent. LED TVs generally don’t get as dark as their plasma cousins do, so seeing a result like this is always noteworthy. Coupled with a moderately bright white level of 192 cd/m2 , you’ll enjoy plenty of greyscale details.
Completely average for an LED
LEDs usually have poor viewing angles, and the 550U doesn't exactly break with that trend. The 550U’s viewing angle of ±22° from the center is about average, although having ±45° would be much more desirable. The number we give for viewing angle is the maximum angle from the center of a TV’s screen before contrast drops below 50% of its center reading. After 22° from the center, you will notice dimmer whites and brighter blacks. Who wants that?
Watch out for those muted reds—they’re sneaky little rascals.
We compare every TV’s color accuracy to the international standard, known as Rec. 709. This tells us how close to “perfection” a TV’s colors are. The Sharp 550U has fantastic greens, but its blues and reds leave a lot to be desired. Blues will appear slightly deeper than they should, while reds are muted. This means that ocean scenes may appear more vivid, while movies that depict fire will not look as real.
At least the 550U has no trouble displaying its flawed colors. It transitions rather smoothly from white to a pure color. And color temperature, which can make your TV’s picture look more orange or blue than it should, was not a problem either. There isn’t a noticeable shift in temperature across the input signal spectrum. Consistency is good!
Meet the tester
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email