They said it couldn't be done. A 45in LCD that didn't drive viewers wild with blurred motion and greys instead of blacks was the stuff of legend - until now.
Having seen an almost identical 37in TV in Sharp's luxury Aquos range, our hopes were very high for the LC-45GD1E. And straight out of the box it impresses, not just with its monster screen but also with its classy grey, titanium-clad rim - proving that designers can work magic with a very narrow frame. The swivelling stand is similarly stylish, for those who don't want to wall-mount (pretty strong walls will be needed to safely take the screen's 36kg) and the curved grille of the speakers is a nice final flourish.
Thinking outside the box
As with other models in the Aquos range, an external box houses all the connections, making the screen simple to wall-mount with only one cable to hide. Oddly, there are no audio outputs, so a Scart must be used to get audio into the set, but you will find a DVI input, component video input, three Scarts, an RF input and D-Sub 15-pin PC connector. It's a great set of connections, and they mean that the LC-45GD1E will be able to take high-definition sources and display them on its high-resolution 1,366 x 768 pixel screen.
The Sharp also boasts a Freeview tuner. The EPG is quite unresponsive, however, and broadcasts look a bit ropey, with blocking and noise - but that is largely down to the low bit-rate, not the screen.
It's an entirely different story with DVDs. Featuring fast-moving mechanoids and plentiful night scenes, our I, Robot DVD gives any LCD a good workout, but the LC-45GD1E passes with flying colours. While no LCD currently produces colours as vibrant as the best plasmas, those from this Sharp are better than most. I, Robot's sober, metallic palette looked completely natural, while good contrast provides more than enough detail on close-ups of the film's CG robots.
Simple pans across stationary actors can cause distracting blur on many LCDs. Not here: Sharp's Quick Shoot technology makes sure of that. But what got us most excited was the reproduction of blacks, which are among the best we've seen on an LCD.
There are various picture tweaks. The red/green bias on images can be changed, as can sharpness and contrast. The 3D-NR mode, for reducing picture noise, doesn't appear to make much difference, but that's probably because there's very little anyway.
It gets even better with a high-def feed. Hooking up a D-VHS machine, we were astounded. Blurring on motion is hardly detectable, while detail is awe-inspiring.
The LC-45GD1E is well equipped for audio, but we did notice some distortion and slightly 'buzzy' bass on its highest setting. But there's Virtual Dolby to deepen the soundstage, making it a lot more involving.
Its size may leave low-quality sources looking poor, but with its natural colours and deep blacks, the HD-ready LC-45GD1E is one of the finest sets on which to watch DVDs. It's even got decent audio. We can't wait for the 65in version.