Those of us currently in the market for a new television are faced with a difficult choice: Pay through the nose for a 4K set or spend a fraction of that on another HD television that will be obsolete sooner than later. However, Sharp offers a third option: the Aquos Q+, an almost UltraHD TV with a mid-range price to match.
What Is It?
It's the latest iteration of Sharp's Aquos television line. As such it features an additional pixel color—yellow, in addition to the standard red blue and green—as well as a unique subpixel arrangement that packs 33 percent more of them (16 million subpixels in total) into a comparably-sized screen than a regular HD TV (which sports just 6 million subpixels). In resolution terms, that's a boost from 1920 x 1080 up to 3840 x 2160—though that's still less than the film industry standard of 4096 x 2160 for 4K. Ergo, it's not technically a 4K set, but it's close.
Why Does It Matter?
It matters because the current batch of true 4K sets are still ridiculously expensive. The Q+ series, on the other hand, offers near-4K picture quality for not much more than existing HD sets. It's both an ideal stopgap for those looking to step up to UltraHD in the next few years and those that don't really care about the new format but simply want a superior quality picture.
The 60 inch UQ model that we tested was exceedingly slim for its size, measuring just 33.7 x 54.3 x 15.2 inches. This is handy for squeezing the unit onto tight wall spaces, however the oversized base stand requires a significant amount of tabletop real estate if you're not wall mounting your unit. The exterior is minimalist and understated with an inch-wide aluminum and plastic bezel running the circumference of the 240 Hz screen. Additionally, these sets include built-in 20W speakers (though an added soundbar and subwoofer are also available), are THX certified, and feature 4 HDMI ports, a PC port, USB port, and various component connectivity. And, just because why not at this point, the set also includes active 3D capabilities and two pairs of specs.
Sharp also sent over the added HT-SB602 2.1 Channel 310W Bluetooth soundbar and subwoofer (sold separately for $400 at Amazon) with the set. The bar can be either wall-mounted under the TV or simply set on the stand in front of it. It offers two HDMI inputs, optical, NFC for touch pairing external Bluetooth devices, and added Dolby and DTS decoding. Figuring out how to pair the bar with various devices took a bit of effort to unravel initially but worked seamlessly once you out the pairing process. They're definitely loud speakers, almost overwhelming in my restricted test space, though for $400, this only seems a viable option for folks that don't already own a component audio or surround sound system.
Initial setup of this set was generally par for the course. It's definitely a two person job, seeing as how the unit weighs nigh on 90 pounds, but once you get it out of the box and either on its ginormous stand or mounted on a wall, the remainder of the device detection, Wi-Fi network connection, cable or satellite box integration, is all pretty much automatic—just sit there and wait for the next input prompt.
The Smart functionality, which Sharp calls SmartCentral 3.0 is pretty useful, allowing you to search across all of your content providers (be it your cable box, internet video, or streaming service) in a single screen and switch between sources without actually having to fiddle with the input button. However, for people that already have a Chromecast, Apple TV, or similar setup, this unified menu won't be particularly helpful. The SmartCentral Mobile App, which replaces the tiny-buttoned, non-backlit universal remote, however can be quite handy.
Plus, the television's "Revelation Upscaler" can modulate standard HD signals up to its 3K resolution as well as drop 4K content from a 4K player connected through an HDMI port or, say, House of Cards and Breaking Bad on Netflix.
Holy shamoley look at this picture. It's not 4K, that's for sure, but it is a significant and easily noticeable boost from 1080p. It's the picture quality I always wanted from this generation of HD TVs but just never quite got. Just as with 2012's Aquos that we looked at, colors on the new Aquos Q+ are phenomenal—brighter and more vibrant than similar LED sets, thanks to the added yellow subpixel. The 240 Hz refresh rate is also easily to spot, providing super-smooth fast-action tracking without doing that weird soap opera effect thing, and the added resolution make the whole picture sharper, crisper, and more lifelike.
What's more, the matte display works incredibly well in well-lit spaces so you won't have to worry about reflections or picture dulling from errant light sources, and shows equally well in dimly lit spaces as well. Combined with THX certified sound and the optional soundbar and subwoofer, you've got yourself a killer home theater right out of the box.
While the picture quality is top notch it isn't quite perfect. The matte finish tends to flatten out the picture, preventing it from producing the ultra-rich color depths you'd find on glossy screened LGs and Samsungs. The picture also rapidly degrades the further off center that you move (though, to be fair, most LEDs are still pretty weak on that point too).
And don't go expecting to get 8.1 surround-quality from the onboard speakers—even with the THX sound and picture certification. You'll need to pony up for the added sound bar (or a separate stereo system) if you want to really feel the rumblings of your feature film.
Finally, even though it is still way cheaper than a similarly sized 4K, the UQ model that we tested will run your $2600 (MSRP, they're already floating around $2000) which is still a pretty hefty hunk of change, and quite a bit to spend if you think that a jump to an actual 4K set might be anywhere in your future.
Should You Buy It?
Absolutely. Whether you are looking to purchase a TV in the immediate future but still want a set that can handle upcoming resolution increase or you want a stopgap until true 4K sets come down in price or you just want a picture superior to HD for roughly the same cost, the Aquos Q+ deserves serious consideration.