If ever there was an LCD screen really looking to shake things up and cause a stir - rather than the usual ripple - in the world of TVs, the LC-37GD1E would have to be it. Not only does it look the proverbial mutt's nuts, but it also appears to have a performance that can genuinely go some way towards challenging the dominance of the mighty plasma screen.
Not content with comfortably achieving those important factors, this is also a TV which boasts a remarkably narrow screen frame and striking lack of rear-end depth, both of which help make it the world's slimmest large LCD. Could it be that Sharp's efforts in pushing the LCD envelope is finally coming to fruition?
It comes with a matching external tuner/multimedia switching box. This allows you to connect via three Scarts, a DVI input with HDCP compatibility, an optical digital audio output, component video inputs ready for progressive scan and high-def sources, stereo jacks for 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.
Expectations are high for this set. The first true 16:9 ratio screen from Sharp's new Kameyama factory in Japan (previous Sharp's offerings were 15:9 ratio), it boasts an improved contrast ratio, an impressive native resolution, and a videofriendly brightness of 450cd/m2. And that's not the only way it manages to live up to our expectations.
One of its most dramatic strengths is its 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 three-dimensional intensity and authenticity.
Good black levels are commonly accompanied by vibrant colours, and so it proves here. Pictures possess a lustre and satisfying vitality that few other screens can come close to matching.
The colour tone wasn't always perfectly natural, though; flesh tones often looked a touch green. Several colour temperatures are available, however, and it's probably best to experiment to see which float your boat.
The LC-37GD1E presents a lot of noise when fed a less healthy diet of digital/analogue or RGB Sky Digital tuner footage. The main problem is that the screen 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 or Pixel Plus-type detail enhancements 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 to name but a few - that have the processing and/or scaling fireworks to make even ropy low-bitrate sources look better still (we'd recommend partnering it with an upmarket scaler, such as the iScan HD).
Audio performance is outstanding. Indeed, only Loewe's LCD range can match it for audio prowess. Its one-bit audio speaker system and multidrive horizontal array, disguised by a precision-cast 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.
The LC-37GD1E is quite a significant LCD leap forward from Sharp, managing to combine a splendid picture with brilliant design and a stunningly punchy audio performance. If you thought that the battle between plasma and LCD screens had already been won (in the former's favour), it's time to think again. This next-generation screen is more than good enough to rock plasma to its flat panel socks.