First things first, we don't want to be accused of throwing this TV to the lions, but brace yourself - the Sharp LT- 32P70E isn't HD-ready. But under the LT-32P70E's potential weakness lies strength in the form of PAL-optimisation.

Sharp's point of view is that the low native resolution (of 960x540 pixels) ensures that the LT-32P70E is set up for standard-definition broadcasts: this means that there's no need for scaling that inevitably brings video noise to the party.

There's no argument that the screen looks good, though: a combination of style in black and silver gets the job done. This good-looking set is also a tree hugger: it's won itself an endorsement from the Energy Saving Trust for its low power needs, so you can be green as well as flatscreen happy.

Connectivity has a welcome surprise too. While the set doesn't have the resolution, it can take high-definition feeds through an HDMI socket or its VGA PC jack (which is component video compatible). Good to see that this Sharp isn't turning its back on the high-def party altogether. The usual socket suspects are here too with twin Scarts and the usual lesser quality connections.

There aren't that many features on board, but what you do get is a digital tuner, with a seven-day electronic programme guide and an eight-event timer memory. Other note-worthy items include the set's user-friendly onscreen menus, which include noise reduction routines, and a contrast booster. Pressing play on our standard-definition test DVD of 2001: A Space Odyssey, we were unsure of what to expect from an LCD TV that's sending out mixed messages in the high-definition age.

Picture perfect

The set delivers (as promised) a cracking picture that's clean and extremely low on dot crawl noise. During the 'Beyond the Infinite' at the film's climax, the myriad colours are rendered vibrantly. Black levels are good too, although not the greatest we've ever clapped our eyes on. Tone is also natural for the most part, with just the over-ripeness of skin tone to niggle us.

Switching to our HD feed of Planet Earth, our expectations for a screen with a PAL bias are confirmed. Black levels, as with standard-definition viewing, may be reasonable enough, but the levels of sharpness and detail don't come up to the heights scaled by the HD-ready models in this group test.

Detailed aerial shots of canyons are lacking in the gorgeous detailing seen on screens with higher resolutions (to be expected as this screen's pixel count is far lower), and the downscaling of the HD picture also brings some unwelcome video noise into the equation too.

On the sonic front, things take an upward turn: the LT-32P70E deals with the often shrill classical score of 2001 with gusto, providing a powerful and wide soundstage, although a bit more bass is needed.

So, there are more positives than negatives governing the Sharp LT-32P70E. If you're not really that interested in high-def, this 32-inch LCD TV will be right up your street, as its standard-def pictures are second to none. However, this screen won't satisfy HD hunger, and you'll have to look elsewhere for your HD-kicks.