As gaming has become more intertwined with the family Home Theater, many companies have tried to make TVs more “gamer friendly” by adding extra inputs or a specific “game port” to the sets for ease of use. While this was a welcomed addition for many, Sharp has taken the approach a step further by releasing their second version of a mid-sized LCD television that is decked out with multiple features aimed at enhancing the gaming experience. The latest model is the Sharp LC32GP3, which is about as loaded with goodies as any gamer could want and is marketed specifically as a gaming set. I had my first look at the GP3 on the floor of the 2008 CES show and came away thoroughly impressed from my limited time with it. Now that I have gotten an extensive hands on with it, my instincts were confirmed that this is one of the best TVs available for gaming.
Out of the Box
|Best Retail price
||1920 x 1080
||2,000:1 (10,000:1 Dynamic)
||10w x 10w
|Lamp Life (Hrs)
||30-61/64" W x 23-7/8" H x 11-45/64" D
||176º H x 176º V
||3 (1080p compatible) 1 side, 2 rear
||2 (1080p compatible) 1 side, 1 rear
||3 – 1 side, 2 rear
||4 – 1 side, 3 rear
||3 - (1) Analog, (1) Optical, (1) Subwoofer
The GP3 comes with standard fare, including a full sized remote, power cable and instruction manual. The packaging is a simple, yet highly-effective mix of a soft foam bag to protect the TV and rigid foam blocks to keep the unit centered in the box. However, the real treat begins while unpacking the contents and catching a glimpse of the simple, yet elegant design of the TV cabinet.
When I initially saw the GP3 models from Sharp at the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show, the first thing that popped into my head was that they were some of the best looking TVs I had ever seen. I was particularly drawn to the red model (also comes in white and black) and its high-gloss finish. Fortunately, the red model (LCD32GP3U-R) was the unit we received for review and I am quite sure that my underlying sense of Buckeye pride also made this unit attractive, as the red cabinet with silver accents is very popular around the city GamingNexus calls home.
The front of the TV is very clean, with a few logos and the accent color of the speaker bar below the screen as the only things that really stands out. The buttons and side inputs are hidden behind the outer bezel of the TV, so they cannot be seen except from the side or looking down from the top. The back panel has a dedicated section for all the hook-ups on the left (which is very well organized) and a spot for the power connection on the right. As for the base, it mimics the GP3 color scheme with a two-tone red and silver, although the scheme is reversed with the silver feet being the dominate color and the red being the accent color.
Overall, the LC32GP3 would be an excellent addition to just about any room in the house. With three colors available to choose from, this set has a design that works well in a bedroom, family room or home office.
When I pulled the GP3 remote from the box, I was shocked at the size and sheer volume of buttons on it. Most 32” LCD TVs come with a mid-sized remote that give you just a bit more than the basics. For the GP3, it was loaded with enough functionality that you should never have to leave your chair. Despite the size and volume of buttons, the layout was well thought out and it fits well in your hand due to the ergonomic design and proper weight balance. However, it is fairly lengthy and has some button that probably could have been left off.
The layout itself can be broken down into three distinct areas. The top section contains the main power button, device indicator lights, source, light, function and universal device controls. The bottom section is hidden beneath a faceplate that lifts open and reveals the Island of Misfit Buttons, including sleep mode, Closed Captioning, Favorites, Rec Stop, Audio and AV Mode. It is kind of a weird placement, but I guess they had to go somewhere. The middle section is the meat of the remote, as it has the numeric pad, directional pad, master volume and channel, input, flashback, mute, freeze, favorite channels and the ever important “Game” button. The game button is placed away from the main input button and has only one function, immediately switch to the assignable input(s) that the game console is hooked to and activate the Sharp Vyper Drive. It is distinctly marked with a yellow color and is surrounded with an outline and the word “Game” bolded. You can’t miss it, and it was nice to be able to be one click away from fragging my buddies with no lag.Setup
Unlike front projectors, LCD televisions are a breeze to set up and go. The connections are plentiful, as the LC32GP3 offers three HDMI ports, two component connections and a multitude of analog inputs. A couple of other nice features are the outputs for digital audio (via fiber optic) and a subwoofer pre-out. These are great compliments for those that do not have a full home theater setup, but want to plug in what they do have available such as a all-in-one surround bar and sub.
Once a source is plugged in, you should spend some extra time tweaking a few of the settings, which can better optimize the entire experience and extend the life of the television. If you don’t have a DVD designed to optimize a TVs audio and video, then just turn down both the contrast and brightness (which are set out-of-the box to extremely high levels) to a level that still looks good, but isn’t as bright as the factory settings. By lowering them, you will extend the life of the TV and keep the image looking better for a longer period of time.
After tweaking the settings, I wanted to get my hands on the assignable input and Vyper Drive system, so I hooked up the Xbox 360 Elite. For this TV out of the box, the Game Port on the remote was set to match the HDMI Input 4, which was the side input. I actually changed it and also assigned it to HDMI Input 6, which is on the back. This worked better for me for a multitude of reasons, but primarily because once the HDMI cable was plugged in, I wasn’t planning on moving the 360 or PS3 off the TV until testing was complete. It is actually quite easy to change the input assigned to “Game”. You just go into the Setup menu where it has a listing for “Game Port”. You can assign any one of the TVs Inputs to the Game Port button, or none of the Inputs. The nice thing is that I had both the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 hooked up via HDMI, which cycled between the two whenever I hit the Game Port button.
The only true concern I had during setup was with the automated channel scanning for the digital tuner. When you hook a digital TV up to a cable outlet, an auto-scan must be done to return all of the channels (both analog and digital) that are available. Unfortunately, the GP3 returned just about every channel above 76.1, so I had to manually remove over 60 channels from the memory list because they did not have any programming on them. I may have missed something in the manual on how to make this easier, but I expected it to only return channels that actually had a viable signal on them.
Overall, the LC32GP3 was extremely easy to set up as long as you know of the channel search that needs to be performed for sources using the internal TV tuners (this is for all HD TVs). The volume of inputs allowed me to hook up HD sources for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, cable box and Satellite receiver at the same time. Throw in the out-of-the wall cable or off-air antenna, and the GP3 is about as versatile as it gets in the 32” class of TV for displaying HD sources.
One of the newest reference samples I am using to review is “Open Season” on Blu-Ray played through a PlayStation 3. Since inception of the Blu-Ray technology, this movie is probably the best looking I have seen to date on the format. The one thing that really stands out is the rendering of the fur on Boog and Elliot (as well as all the forest creatures.) The GP3 did a fantastic job of not only displaying the incredible detail, but also the different individual motions that the fur makes throughout the movie. The primary test sequence I used was the river scene when Boog accidentally destroys the beaver dam. The amount of fast-paced action on-screen along with the detail of the water droplets on the truck hood (among other things) are hard for any TV to pick up and reproduce properly. The GP3 did a great job of keeping the action moving smoothly while retaining all the details with no discernable motion blur.
As for general video testing, I plugging my local cable into the GP3 straight out of the wall to see how the GP3’s internal ATSC tuner handled the HD channels without a cable box. I watched a full episode of my favorite show to review with (CSI: Miami) as it tends to offer some of the best visuals found on network television. In addition, I watched some live NFL action and some college sports in HD. I also spent some time watching the HD game trailers that I have been using for all video products I review. These include the trailers for Lost Odyssey and Gears of War. I shot a couple of still images from the Lost Odyssey trailer that appear in the images at the end of the review. In all cases, I was not disappointed by the quality of the picture and how well it looked on screen. Not only were the images crisp and clean, they also showed off rich colors and decent black levels.
While the Sharp GP3 is being marketed as a gaming TV, it still is a full 1080p HD television at heart. In order to get the best gaming performance, it has to deliver the best video performance possible. Having spent time watching dozens of hours of video content on the LC32GP3, it is very clear that the television has one of the best pictures in the 32” class that I have seen to date. Regardless of the source (off-air, cable, Blu-Ray, etc) the picture, colors and black level were always brilliant and extremely clean and impressive to watch.Gameplay Tests
In addition to just watching video, I put a lot of gameplay hours into the Sharp GP3, as playing games on the GP3 is what this TV was designed to do best. The majority of the testing was done with the Xbox 360 versions of Rock Band, Rock Band 2, The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Grand Theft Auto IV. However, I did sneak in some MotorStorm on the PS3 recently and was also impressed.
The GP3 features Sharp’s “Vyper Drive”, which from what I understand is a game mode that essentially maximizes the image quality and the time it takes to react between the TV and 1080p compatible consoles. I do not believe it works with an analog console (PS2 or Nintendo Wii) or if you are not using the Xbox 360 or PS3 with the output set to 1080p. I did not attempt to hook either console up with anything less than using the HDMI and 1080p format, as it did not make sense to review a $1,200 gaming TV with anything less than its maximum quality. The Vyper drive worked extremely well in eliminating any possible lag between the console and TV in all the gameplay testing I performed, especially in Rock Band. The only time the TV wasn’t in synch with a console came when I attempted to manually calibrate the Rock Band drums. It was comical how awful I made the lag after the manual calibration, as it went from less than 3 to over 90. My recommendation is to just let Vyper Drive do the work and stick with the basic LCD Television option for calibration within the game.
The biggest impact besides the Vyper drive is how well games from the next generation platforms look in full 1080p. The jump from 720p/1080i to 1080p is not as drastic as from analog to HD, but the additional pixels make all the difference. In Rock Band, the details of not just the fret lines, but also the background animations are very noticeable. I also liked how much better the water moved in Oblivion, Niko’s running and the physics in general in GTA IV and how the dirt was altered during a race in MotorStorm. These specific items were but a few of the improvements I noticed with the Sharp LC32GP3 vs traditional 720p LCD, not to mention the better overall details and sharpness of about every game I played.
Gaming is what the Sharp LC32GP3 was designed to do, and it does it extremely well. Despite having a listed 6ms response time and no 120Hz technology, the TV was flawless during game play testing. The images, motion and colors were the best I have seen on similar 32” class LCD TVs to date and thoroughly exceeded my expectations. The assignable gaming input and Sharp’s Vyper Drive system complete the package and allow the Sharp LC32GP3 to provide one of the best gaming experiences found on any LCD TV on the market.
Miscellaneous Items of Note
• Comes in Red, White or Black
• Easily wall-mountable
• Performance Exceeds published specs
• Initial Channel Search is lengthy and produces false positives
• Dust clings to the glossy cabinet finish
||Brute of a Remote
|Look and Feel
Items utilized in the testing of the Sharp LC32GP3 included, but not limited to:
Xbox 360 Elite, PlayStation 3, out-of the-wall cable, Off-air antenna, DirecTV Satellite and Scientific Atlantic HD-DVR.
The Sharp LC32GP3 is one of the best LCD TVs that can be purchased for not only gaming, but all TV applications. The TV images it renders are some of the nicest looking of TVs I have reviewed, and the aesthetics of the cabinet keep the unit looking great whether it is on or off. The Vyper Drive does a great job of eliminating any lag from consoles to TV and having an assignable HD connection dedicated to gaming (with a dedicated source button on the remote) is priceless.
The only knock is the cost compared to similar sized televisions as $1,299 (it can be found for under $1000 now) may price the TV out of the range of the intended audience. However, there are few 32” LCD models available with 1080p and those do not offer the gaming enhancements and stylish cabinet designs found with the GP3. Therefore the price can easily be justified for the superior gaming and video performance it provides in this class of TV. Going forward with their Gaming Series of televisions, I would like to see Sharp begin to offer the gaming enhancements and upgraded cabinet designs in a 37” or 42” class model as well.