Sharp has been in the LCD TV game for longer than most of its competitors, but this is the first of its Aquos range to come at a truly budget price: £800 will get you one of these on the high street, and shopping online might knock £200 off that. For a 32in HD-ready set from a respected manufacturer, the LC-32GD8E looks like a steal.
The company hasn't let build quality standards slip in order to keep costs down. This is, by some margin, the most solidly put-together TV as we've seen in this price bracket, with a tough, thick plastic body and sturdy desktop stand (you can leave this off and wall mount it if you prefer).
While not the sexiest screen you'll see, the LC-32GD8E is fairly attractive to look at. Silver and black might not be the most imaginative of colour schemes these days, but this TV will sit in most front rooms without drawing too much undesirable attention to itself.
The one area of design where cost- cutting shows is in the amount of sockets. You only get one HDMI (a lot of new 32in and up models have two) and Sharp has squeezed the component video and PC inputs into a single VGA connection. If you want to hook up a component video device, like an Xbox 360, you have to change a setting in the menus and use an adapter (provided in the box).
The annoying part is that the TV's stereo audio input is a 3.5mm jack: ideal for PCs but not so handy for an Xbox. This means you need to buy yet another adapter to get audio accompaniment to your high-def games console.
We were also a little disappointed by the menu system, which has an ugly low-tech look - compared with the smooth, crisp menus you see on most new LCD TVs, it's a bit of an embarrassment. Still, it works well, and the remote control is well designed and comfortable to use, so setting up isn't too taxing (apart from on the eyes).
There's a decent list of features, too, including a digital tuner with a seven-day EPG - so once you get past the couple of minor disappointments with the design, you have the feeling that this is a high- quality product.
Thankfully, the feeling is reaffirmed when you sit down and watch something. We connected a Toshiba upscaling DVD player using the HDMI, and Mr & Mrs Smith looked brilliantly detailed and dynamic in 720p mode. The contrast ratio is also beefier than on most comparably priced TVs, so you get more detailed dark areas and convincing blacks.
Movement, even very fast pans on video games like Xbox 360 Call of Duty 2, is silky smooth thanks to the lightning-quick 6ms response time: there's little sign of ghost images here.
We were also impressed by the sharp image we got out of our Xbox 360 here - plenty of detail and crispness in evidence. The audio quality is good (you get Virtual Dolby Surround, which works quite effectively here) and the picture is better than most budget fl at screens.
All things considered, Sharp has succeeded in creating one of the best budget LCD TVs around. There are a couple of notable flaws on the design side of things, but strong all-round performance and first class build quality make this a highly recommended purchase.