The Sharp EQ3 is a well-specified and competitively priced LCD TV that’s a great choice for anyone on a budget
- Excellent SDR images
- Harman Kardon sound system
- Sleek design and solid build quality
- Limited brightness
- Input lag is high
- No 4K/120Hz or VRR
The Sharp EQ3 is a 4K LED LCD HDR TV that sits towards the top of the brand’s 2022 lineup, where it offers an impressive level of design and build quality.
Image quality is good, the Android smart platform is effective, and there’s an excellent array of features that includes support for Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, and even DTS:X. Panel brightness is limited, there’s no 4K/120Hz or VRR, and input lag is relatively high, but otherwise, this is a solid, capable and affordable choice.
Sharp EQ3 review: What you need to know
The Sharp EQ3 is a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) HDR smart LED LCD TV that comes in 50in, 55in, 65in and 75in screen sizes. It uses a 60Hz VA panel with an LED backlight, quantum dots for wider colour reproduction, and AQUOS processing.
The EQ3 runs the Android 11 operating system and supports the HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG High Dynamic Range formats. It sports a full aluminium frameless design, includes a Harman Kardon sound system and there’s support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, with the latter being something of a rarity on a TV.
There are four HDMI 2.1 inputs with eARC and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), but the refresh rate of the panel is limited to 60Hz so 4K/120Hz is off the table, and the EQ3 lacks support for Variable Refresh Rate (VRR). There’s also an excellent selection of streaming apps, plus Freeview Play, with the latter ensuring a full complement of TV catch-up services.
Sharp EQ3 review: Price and Competition
Samsung is Sharp’s biggest competitor when it comes to quantum dot LED LCD TVs. The South Korean manufacturer produces a wide range of QLED TVs, but even its entry-level model, the Q60B, is more expensive than the Sharp EQ3. The Q60B starts at £529 for the 43in model, while the 50in, 55in, 65in and 75in variants cost £579, £679, £799 and £1,399, respectively.
Sharp EQ3 review: Design, connections and control
The Sharp EQ3 is quite fetching in terms of its appearance, with a slim, minimalist design, black finish, and full aluminium construction. The build quality is excellent for the price point, and the TV sits on a solid stand with a narrow footprint that makes installation easier. If you’d rather wall mount, the EQ3 is compatible with a 400 x 200 VESA bracket.
There’s a combination of downwards and side-facing connections, with the latter made up of two HDMI 2.1 inputs, a pair of USB-A ports, a 3.5mm AV jack, and a CI (common interface) slot. Facing downwards, there’s an optical digital output, an Ethernet port, terrestrial and satellite connectors, a headphone jack, and two more HDMI 2.1 inputs. In terms of wireless connectivity, there’s Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Chromecast.
All four HDMI 2.1 inputs support 4K at 60Hz, HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision, ALLM and CEC. One of the HDMI inputs also supports eARC (enhanced audio return channel). However, this TV doesn’t support 4K at 120Hz, VRR or HDR10+.
Sharp includes a brace of remotes, both of which are made of black plastic with a brushed metal finish. The main controller is comfortable to hold and easy to operate with one hand. It includes a full complement of buttons, including direct access keys for Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube and Freeview Play. The second remote is a stripped-down zapper with an emphasis on volume, menu navigation, direct access to the main apps, and a prominent Google Assistant button.
Sharp EQ3 review: Smart TV platform
The Sharp EQ smart platform is powered by the Android 11 operating system, which is essentially a forerunner to Google TV. The older system can be a little less responsive, but it’s a well-designed and easy-to-use interface with a homepage that shows information, inputs, menus and Google Assistant at the top, and then apps and Freeview Play features in layers underneath.
The apps are displayed as a series of tiles across the page, but individual apps can also show popular content, allowing you to customise the layout to focus on what you want to watch. All the main video streaming apps are present and correct, including Netflix, Prime Video, YouTube, Disney+, and all the UK TV catch-up services, plus there are various Freeview Play features.
The system includes voice search, thanks to a built-in microphone, which makes finding content easier, and there’s Google Assistant. This turns the EQ3 into a fully-functioning smart assistant, with a degree of hands-free control, plus there’s support for Chromecast. There’s also a built-in media player with support for all the main file formats via USB or your home network.
Sharp EQ3 review: Image quality
The Sharp EQ3 uses a vertical alignment panel, combined with a direct LED backlight and quantum dot filters. The viewing angles could be better, but the contrast ratio measures 4,400:1, which is good for an LCD display. There’s a built-in light sensor, although this is best turned off unless you want the overall brightness to suddenly change every time a cloud passes in front of the sun.
The screen uniformity is actually quite good, with no obvious pooling or banding in the backlight, and while there’s no local dimming, there is a global dimming feature that basically turns the backlight off on a black screen. This doesn’t really help with the contrast performance of actual viewing content but does allow Sharp to claim a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1.
The EQ3 ships in Standard mode for SDR, which has a large excess of blue in the greyscale, resulting in an average DeltaE (error) of 10 – well above the visible threshold. The gamma tracks around two, and the colours are over-saturated, producing an average error of eight.
Thankfully, the Movie mode is significantly better, with the error on the greyscale dropping to an average of four – although there’s still a bit too much red. The gamma tracks around 2.3, and there’s an average DeltaE of 2.72 for all the colours, which is just below the visible threshold.
The EQ3 includes calibration controls, and these are reasonably effective, allowing the greyscale to be tweaked to deliver an average error of 0.9, and colours that are now measuring an average DeltaE of 1.56. The overall colour tracking at different saturation points is also excellent.
The SDR picture performance is generally very good, with detailed images, plenty of brightness and no obvious clipping in the highlights. The AQUOS UltraClear processor does a decent job of upscaling lower-resolution content to match the 4K panel, and there are also noise reduction features for cleaning up heavily compressed material, especially when streaming.
Motion handling is good, given the inherent limitations of LCD as a display technology and the panel’s 60Hz refresh rate. As a result, there’s some blurring on fast motion like sport, but the AQUOS Smooth Motion frame interpolation feature improves perceived motion resolution, and the EQ3 handles 24p content without introducing judder, allowing movies to retain a film-like quality.
Sharp EQ3 review: HDR performance
The Sharp EQ3 supports HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision, but as is often the case with this kind of mid-range TV, the peak luminance is fairly limited. The EQ3 can hit around 430cd/m² nits on both a 10% window and a full-field pattern, regardless of which mode you select, so you’re better off choosing the more accurate Movie mode.
However, the colour gamut coverage is impressive, with the EQ3 covering 97% of the DCI-P3 standard used for HDR. More importantly, this TV can render this wider colour gamut effectively, tracking different saturation points correctly, and delivering accurate primaries. The greyscale is also very good, with the three primaries tracking close to each other, and the errors below one.
Despite these brightness limitations, the HDR performance can still be good if the TV accurately tone maps the HDR content to its inherent capabilities. Unfortunately, the EQ3 struggled in this regard, and there was clearly clipping with HDR10 content, whether graded at 1,000, 4,000 or 10,000 nits. There was also some crush in the blacks, with a loss of detail in the shadows.
This is where support for Dolby Vision pays dividends, because the format’s dynamic metadata precisely maps the HDR to the display’s capabilities, producing images free of any clipping in the highlights or crush in the blacks, while retaining the saturated but natural-looking colours. So, the same demo footage had no issues in Dolby Vision.
In fairness, the test footage is designed to push a display’s HDR capabilities, and with normal HDR10 content on streaming services or 4K Blu-ray the results generally looked very watchable. The images were detailed, the colours certainly had plenty of depth, and while the highlights lacked the brightness or pixel precision of more expensive TVs, the images still had some pop.
To test the Sharp EQ3 we used Portrait Displays Calman colour calibration software.
Sharp EQ3 review: Sound quality
The Sharp EQ3 sounds surprisingly good for a modern super-slim TV, and this is primarily thanks to a hybrid Harman Kardon two-channel sound system, where each speaker is composed of a forward-firing silk tweeter and downward-firing woofer, driven by 15W of built-in amplification.
There’s onboard decoding of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, with the EQ3 the first TV we’ve tested to support the latter. But since there are no streaming services that currently use the format, you’ll need to connect a Blu-ray player and find discs with DTS:X soundtracks to enjoy the benefits.
Overall, the performance is solid, with good stereo separation thanks to the size of the panel, a decent front soundstage that enjoys a degree of scale, clear dialogue, and some nice depth to the bass. Of course, the bass will never go as low as a sub, and at higher volumes the delivery becomes strained, but at sensible levels, this is a capable TV that can handle TV shows and movies.
A degree of expectation management is required when it comes to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, because while the EQ3 can decode both, it only has two speakers and thus the sense of immersion is created using psychoacoustic processing. As a result, while the audio has a greater feeling of presence, it can’t compete with a soundbar using upward- and side-firing drivers.
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Sharp EQ3 review: Gaming
The Sharp EQ3 isn’t the best choice for gaming, because even with the Game mode selected, the input lag is a rather high 50ms. On the plus side, there’s no danger of image retention or screen burn with the LCD panel, but the lack of 4K at 120Hz and VRR does mean you can’t enjoy all the latest features on next-gen gaming consoles, although there is at least support for ALLM.
The gaming performance is generally good, despite the input lag, with 4K images appearing detailed, and 60Hz motion that’s pleasingly smooth. The wider colours ensure that HDR looks suitably impactful, and although the overall brightness is limited, the images retain a degree of punch, even if there is some slight clipping in the highlights, and crush in the blacks.
Sharp EQ3 review: Verdict
The Sharp EQ3 delivers a solid performance when it comes to picture quality, with some excellent SDR images in Movie mode, and HDR that is perfectly watchable, especially with Dolby Vision. The panel’s not that bright, which isn’t unusual at this price point, and the HDR10 tone mapping is prone to clipping and crush, but a clean and detailed delivery, combined with richly nuanced colours produce images that are sure to please all but the most demanding videophile.
Where the EQ3 is particularly strong is its feature set, which includes an effective Harman Kardon sound system and support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. As a result, this TV sounds surprisingly good, while the Android TV smart system offers an extensive selection of streaming apps. A high input lag, combined with a lack of 4K/120Hz and VRR support rules this TV out for serious gamers, but anyone else will discover a capable and affordable performer.