The gloves are off in the scrap between plasma and LCD, with LCD screens like the new 52-inch Sharp LC-52XD1E reaching the sizes that were once plasma's exclusive domain.

This latest LCD plasma-baiter wears its size well too, thanks to a gorgeous design. It also uses its size to the best picture quality advantage as it sports a full HD native pixel count of 1920 x 1080 for the maximum in detail, clarity and colour subtlety from our full HD sources.

Its connections ram its HD credentials home with two HDMIs, both able to handle 1080p alongside the more regular 720p/1080i options. There's a D-Sub PC input too, with the only disappointment being a lack of dedicated component video feeds. This must be done via a supplied adapter and the PC input.

Ruthless ambition

As you'd expect of such an ambitious TV, the 52XD1E has a digital tuner, with other notable features including the option to show 1920 x 1080 sources with no overscan; Sharp's truD processing for boosting motion handling and contrast; and an auto backlight that reduces output for dark scenes to increase black levels. It's no surprise then that the 52XD1E claims a startling contrast ratio of 10000:1 - the sort of figure usually reserved for plasma TVs.

Peter Jackson's King Kong on HD DVD quickly reveals some key strengths. For starters, it reproduces sensational detailing during highly textured shots like distance shots of New York. It's also notable how clean pictures are, with no graininess, edge crawl or colour noise.

Black levels are excellent too, revelling in dark scenes like those where the ship stumbles across Skull Island. There's perhaps not as much shadow detail in dark areas as you might get with a top plasma, but in the king-sized LCD world the 52XD1E's reproduction of dark scenes/image elements is matched only by Philips' top sets.

The screen copes well with Peter Jackson's kinetic approach to camerawork, with almost no judder, and colours are startlingly vibrant yet very natural during the Empire State Building scene.

There are still areas Sharp could improve on. For instance, there's some resolution loss with horizontally moving objects (Sharp's new 100Hz flagship TVs should tackle this), and it can display MPEG noise in digital broadcasts. But if you're careful with its picture settings, images are usually stunning.

Couple this with some decent sonics and you've got one of the finest 50-inch-plus LCD screen we've seen.