Sharp lc-32le210e

Sound

Audio options are limited, with Music, Movie, Standard and Sports presets. The Music mode is fairly effective, dragging out some background effects, while the Movie mode adds a bit of breadth to create a wider soundstage. That latter characteristic is pushed (and pushed) by the LC-32LE210E's surround sound mode.

Although it doesn't in any way resemble a 5.1 home cinema setup, it does make a massive difference. Not a particularly great one, you understand, but the way the speaker pushes sound out sideways from the very edges is quite dramatic. Totally changing the audio characteristics, dialogue appears to come from below the TV, but it's worth trying out.

Surround sound on a TV is a gimmick, especially since most digital TV programmes will benefit much more from clear and concise dialogue. That's especially true since the LC-32LE210E's overall soundscape features adequate clarity and effective stereo.

Value

Overall, the LC-32LE210E's innate qualities with colour and contrast produce a picture that's cinematic enough to make this an excellent mid-range screen for movies. A slight lack of speed and sharpness make it less than ideal for gaming, though its small size more or less masks these problems.

Elsewhere the USB recording might add appeal, but don't expect a Sky+ experience. Sound is acceptable, but the LC-32LE210E's SD pictures are disappointing, even at this price.

Ease of use

Sharp has finally ditched its dreary, PC-style user interface for a more colourful, icon-led approach that is far easier on the eye. It uses a white and sky blue colour scheme and plenty of bubble-style icons that are rendered with 3D-style effects.

It's also a cinch to work. The eight-day electronic programme guide (EPG) hosts schedules for six channels over two channels on any one page, with fastext buttons taking you to the schedules on the previous/next day and for setting reminders and inspecting recording schedules.

The EPG is fast and presents a thumbnail of the live TV channel planning underneath, complete with sound. Best of all is the way it handles recordings. Visit the USB Rec and TimeShift setup page and you can set the TimeShift to automatic (so it's always recording whatever channel you're watching, and deleting old files every time you change channel).

To do that – and to schedule recordings from the EPG – requires a USB stick to be formatted. We used an 8GB memory stick (1GB is the minimum it will take); the LC-32LE210E informed us that it could thus make 209 minutes of standard-def recordings, or 59 minutes of HD.

Only 512MB is set aside for TimeShift purposes, meaning that a 8GB stick provides only 14 minutes of pausing on a SD channel and a mere four minutes for HD, but that's probably enough. Unlike some similar systems, these recordings (as BUK files) cannot be played with common PC or Mac software (we tried WMP, Quicktime and VLC).

Although it's easy to schedule recordings direct from the EPG, no time slot must clash, and the single tuner that's at work means that you can't change channel if there's a recording in operation. It sounds logical and forgivable, but in actual use, it's very restrictive in practice and certainly no substitute for a PVR.

Unusually for Sharp, the LC-32LE210E's USB slot plays all major digital media files – and then some. In our extensive tests we managed to get a huge variety of files to play, including MP3, M4A, WAV and AAC music files, AVC HD, AVI (DivX/XviD) and MKV (DivX HD), MOV (H.264 – including HD versions), MP4 and MPEG video files, and JPEG, PNG and (though slow to load) BMP photo files to display.

That's some list, and though photos and music get a fairly rudimentary interface, videos are excellently presented; a list of files on the USB stick are shown alongside an all-action thumbnail – complete with sound – of the file the cursor is resting on. If you've a collection of downloaded video fare, this TV is well equipped to handle them – very rare at this price, where simple MP3/JPEG support is more usual.