Sharp Aquos LC-50N5000U HD TV Review: Great Bargain HD Set

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The Sharp Aquos LC-50N5000U is more than just a pretty face. The HD TV (1080p) delivers a pleasing picture for its sub-$450 price, a respectable array of connections, and basic smart-TV functions.

Like other bargain sets, the 50-inch Aquos LC-50N5000U doesn't support 4K/ultra-HD or HDR (high dynamic range), but its performance with Blu-ray discs and HD broadcasts will please most people, thanks to the LCD TV's full-array LED backlight. Shoppers should note that the Sharp TV brand in the U.S. is owned by Chinese manufacturer Hisense, so it shouldn't be a surprise to find that this 50-inch LCD HD TV is comparable in many ways to the Hisense 50H5C. The Sharp TV's superior design, sound levels and subtly tweaked picture set it apart from the Hisense set.

Design: Good-Looking

Handsomely adorned with a brushed silver chassis, the Aquos LC-50N5000U looks anything but cheap. Rather than using a center pedestal, it sits on legs situated on both ends of the set for stable tabletop positioning.

In this class of sub-$500 TVs, the Aquos LC-50N5000U also has a reasonable set of connections. There are three HDMI ports to handle a cable/satellite box, game console and disc player. It also has built-in Wi-Fi for making an easy online connection.

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Performance: Cool but respectable

The Sharp Aquos set comes with six different video preset modes, including Vivid, Standard, Energy Saving, Game, Sport and Theater. I found the best, most accurate mode was the Theater setting, which I used for the majority of our tests. In our TV benchmarks, the Sharp set was cool, drifting toward overemphasizing the blues rather than the reds.

Against the comparable Hisense 50H5C set, there were some perceptible differences in picture performance. In the dystopian scenes from Mad Max: Fury Road, the Sharp Aquos picture looked more orange, in keeping with the desert backgrounds, compared to the more yellow tinge of the Hisense set. And the cooler tuning of the Sharp set revealed bluer skies, which looked greenish on the Hisense TV.

Compared to the larger 55-inch budget models — the LG 55LH5750 and the Vizio E55-D0 — the Sharp Aquos LC-50N5000U sat somewhere in between the two. It used softer transitions than the contrast-heavy Vizio, yet looked cooler than the warmer, more reddish LG set.

In space scenes from the movie Gravity, the astronauts' spacesuits confirmed the overall impression that the Sharp model delivers whiter whites. The Earth's oceans also looked more cyan on the Sharp TV than on the Hisense set, which tended to show them as aquamarine.

Best of all, the Sharp Aquos LC-50N5000U did an excellent job with difficult scenes that included flashing lights and rapid action. When Sandra Bullock's character in Gravity went spinning out into space, the lights from her helmet did not generate the sort of flashing and halo effects that I've seen on other sets. And in the James Bond chase scenes from Skyfall, there were no sudden dropouts or any excessive blurring.

Audio: Loud enough

When testing various soundtracks, I found the Sharp LC-50N5000U delivered respectable volume levels — certainly loud enough for the average living room — before its built-in speakers began to distort. The TV includes several preset audio modes, including Standard (which sounded flat), a late-night listening mode that muted the lower bass, and a speech mode designed to focus on dialogue (which was only partially successful).

The best modes for TV and movie watching were the Theater and Music settings, which were very similar. Both attempt to boost the apparent dynamic range of songs and soundtracks, but the top end is compressed, particularly on female vocals that lacked treble. The focus of the sound here is on the midrange, but it's better than most in this price segment.

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Interface: Rudimentary

The smart-TV features of the Sharp Aquos set (identical to those of the Hisense 50H5C) are rudimentary at best. The monochromatic menus lead to an apps section with larger, more colorful icons. Apps include Pandora, Twitter, Facebook and the Opera web browser. There's also support for popular services such as Amazon Video, Netflix and YouTube, and you can order movies such as Cafe Society to rent for $4.99 from Vudu.

In total, the Sharp Aquos LC-50N5000U supports only 22 apps, which is quite a paltry selection compared with those offered by other smart TVs. There's no HBO Go or Showtime apps, for example. On the other hand, you can get all that and more by adding a $40 Roku device.

Bottom Line

Although it lacks 4K and HDR support, the Sharp Aquos LC-50N5000U's overall features and picture performance make it a good choice for playing standard DVDs and Blu-ray discs. It would also make for an ideal second set for the den or home office.

John R. Quain

John R. Quain has been reviewing and testing video and audio equipment for more than 20 years. For Tom's Guide, he has reviewed televisions, HDTV antennas, electric bikes, electric cars, as well as other outdoor equipment. He is currently a contributor to The New York Times and the CBS News television program.