Having seen its previous LCD offering, when Sharp came up with its Aquos range of LCDs - of which this 37in is one - we couldn't wait to run a series of tests. So let's consider what is one of the world's slimmest large LCDs.
The LC-37GD1E is equipped with a matching external tuner/multimedia switching box, which, if the set is hung on a wall, means there will only be one cable to hide. It boasts three Scarts, a DVI input (with HDCP compatibility for Sky's planned HDTV services), an optical digital audio output, component video inputs ready for progressive scan and high-definition video sources, stereo jacks for adding optional external speakers, a PC card slot for viewing digital pictures or even recording MPEG4 video on to a suitable card, and a centre channel input.
Our expectations were high for this set. The first true 16:9 ratio screen from Sharp's new Kameyama factory in Japan (previously Sharp's offerings were 15:9 ratio), it boasts an improved contrast ratio, an impressive native resolution and a video-friendly brightness of 450cd/m2.
When we came to check out its pictures, we were first wowed by a remarkable black level response. By dispensing with most of the irksome grey mistiness over dark picture areas that still afflicts lesser LCD offerings, the LC-37GD1E is capable of terrific depth, giving pictures an almost 3D intensity and authenticity. Good black levels are commonly accompanied by vibrant colours, and so it proves here. Our Old Boy disc demonstrated this well, with the night on Seoul's streets looking truly dark. Ditto the elevator scene where our hero descends, screaming, down a gloomy life shaft.
Sins of the flesh
Colours aren't always perfectly natural, however; flesh-tones sometimes looked a touch green. Several colour temperatures are available, however, and it's probably best to experiment and adjust according to taste.
The LC-37GD1E presents a lot of picture noise when fed a less healthy diet of digital/analogue or RGB Sky Digital tuner footage. It emphasises any digital MPEG blocking in the image, meaning that motion tends to shimmer and smear a touch. Edges with such source material can look marginally jagged, too, and the lack of any Wega Engine (Sony) or Pixel Plus (Philips)-type detail enhancement is also apparent in a generally slightly soft tone.
We're not suggesting that the LC-37GD1E isn't very good with lower rent sources - it is. It's just that there are a handful of screens around nowadays - from Loewe, Sony and Philips - that have the processing and/or scaling fireworks to make even ropey low-bitrate sources look better still (we'd recommend partnering it with an upmarket scaler, such as iScan HD).
There are no such worries with the Sharp's audio - it is outstanding. Indeed, only Loewe's range can match it. The one-bit audio speaker system, disguised by an aluminium mesh, is absolutely first class. The result is a stunningly dynamic, accurate, powerful and widely dispersed soundstage that packs the sort of punch a tasty 37in picture truly deserves.
Looking ever the style icon, the LC-37GD1E shows Sharp's LCD leap forward, managing to combine a splendid picture with brilliant design and a stunningly punchy audio performance. Pricey, but worth it, this next-generation screen shows just why a lot of smart flatscreen money is going on LCD screens.