Finding ourselves faced with one of Sharp's more basic HD TVs, so soon after it had shown us its impressive-looking range of Full HD LCD TVs at the IFA electronics show, just doesn't get the pulse racing as much as it otherwise might have.

Still, when you take a deep breath and focus on the here and now instead of what's coming, the 32GD8E becomes quite interesting after all, mostly on account of its price.

Typically, £800 gets you a 32in HD Ready LCD TV (no Sharp 'PAL-Optimised 960x540 resolution' shenanigans here) with a digital tuner, and a respectable-looking claimed contrast ratio of 1200:1. Hardly the sort of stuff you'd expect from what could almost be considered a 'budget' TV.

It doesn't look like a budget TV either, with its sleek black screen frame offset to delightful effect by a silver trim, and silver speaker section at the bottom.

Connections

The first sign of cost-cutting comes with the set's connections. For starters, there's only one HDMI input - hardly unexpected on such an affordable TV. More limiting perhaps is the absence of any dedicated component video inputs. Instead users are required to get component video signals into the TV via a D-Sub PC input, requiring a component to VGA adaptor cable. Thankfully, this adaptor is provided with the TV, but that doesn't disguise the fact that you thus can't simultaneously attach both a PC and a component source such as an Xbox 360.

Other connectivity includes a pair of RGB Scarts, a CI slot for adding extra subscription services to the core Freeview package, and an RS-232C port which, unusually, permits the TV to be controlled from a PC, should you feel any great urge to do such a thing.

Features beyond the already covered HD Ready status and digital tuner are reasonably numerous. Among the options for adjusting pictures, for instance, are a black level booster, 3D Y/C noise reduction, a 'film mode' for adjusting the frame rate for movie as opposed to video sources; and manual interlaced and progressive switching.

For sound, meanwhile, there are pseudo surround and 'Clear Voice' options. The well-presented seven-day electronic programme guide for the digital tuner also allows you to directly set as many as eight timer events.

Peformance

The 32GD8E outperforms its price point without quite scaring the real LCD kings. Colours lean toward the typically blue/ white balance favoured by Japanese brands. After calibration, we achieved a warmer balance of around 7300K.

Pictures seemed sharper than I'd expect from this particular 32in TV, with HD in particular benefiting from a well-defined and highly textured finish. Even SD video looks reasonably crisp and appealing. This is achieved even though the 32GD8E doesn't seem to be employing any particular picture-processing tricks - or at least any that rival in sophistication such systems as Sony's Bravia Engine and Panasonic's V-Real LCD AI.

Image crispness owes a little to the fact that the 32GD8E handles motion better than many of its LCD rivals. Even a full-tilt Raphael Nadal appears with precious little smearing or lag.

Black level enjoys enough depth to make normal TV programmes look dynamic, and movies a tiny bit cinematic. However, the black level also introduces the first of this sets weaknesses, as blacks can actually look blue - a problem which can make dark scenes somewhat unnatural.

The picture also shows evidence of MPEG noise over digital broadcasts and a slight grittiness with some HD sources. We might even say that in an ideal world the image might be brighter.

The 32GD8E's sonic performance is par for the course. Things can get congested in the upper mid-range when pushed hard by a good action scene, but voices sound clean and credible at all times and peak treble details sound clear without becoming over-pervasive.

Conclusion

To us, the 32GD8E has just enough flaws to stop it being a total star. Yet it also comfortably outperforms its £800 price tag, meaning that what you lose in performance is compensated for in value for money terms. Watch out for those connection limitations, though.