Formerly a high-end brand, Sharp has spent the past few years attacking the mass market in the UK and this 26-incher proves to be a valuable weapon in its arsenal.
The features on the Sharp LC-26AD5E have been trimmed to keep the price down and, while hardly show-stopping, the basics are all here.
The HD Ready 1,366 x 768- pixel panel is coupled with two HDMI inputs, which is a decent return for the cash. Delve into the set’s set-up menus and you’ll discover a black level booster and a digital noise reduction engine, but we’d hardly call that top-brand picture processing.
Impressive black levels
Put to work on a Blu-ray disc of The Shining, the LC-26AD5E produces pictures imbued with realistic blacks, which on a budget LCD TV is rare.
The shock and awe is somewhat tempered by the tight viewing angle. Walk just a few feet off-centre and the house of cards tumbles, with greys taking over and colours dulling alarmingly.
That’s a shame because when viewed straight on, the Sharp’s pictures are generally admirable. Skin tones can seem a touch too ripe at times, but close-ups retain a sense of realism and thrilling detail.
Black levels are shown up almost as clearly, but not quite during The Shining’s finale sequence in the maze, though the backlight can be manually dimmed to increase the cinematic feel.
There’s a lack of fine shadow detail in dark areas of the image, but it’s nothing serious. Nor is the slight trace of picture noise in backgrounds. Camera pans do show up a little motion judder, but it’s less apparent on fast-moving shots.
Effective surround sound
Pictures from the LC-26AD5E’s built-in digital TV tuner enjoy a very clean finish. Detailed and lacking much picture noise, we’d go as far as saying this is the cheapest flat TV around that makes a decent stab at bridging the divide between Freeview and HD.
The invisible speakers also do a good job, and not just with everyday TV fare. A surround mode widens the sound enough to add the finishing touch to movies, which is almost unheard of on a 26-incher. If using a TV as a radio is your thing, the clear voice mode works well.
There’s a lot to like about this screen, with credit due for its handling of colour, contrast and stunning Freeview picture quality. But its flawed viewing angle is alarming and despite its undeniable charms, Sharp could do better.