Big LCD TVs used to be as rare as hen's teeth only a few years ago: now Sharp pulls a 37in offering out of the bag for only £1,000. This budget beauty represents sheer value for money.
Great news, but of course, corners have had to be cut: the LC-37GD8E's onscreen menus aren't the greatest, but the TV itself looks just as sleek as any high-end LCD TV from Sharp's Aquos line-up. Clearly the designers haven't been sent on gardening leave in an attempt to keep the costs down. Connectivity impresses to a degree. There's an HDMI, and its screen resolution of 1,366 x 768 should offer reasonably detailed high-definition pictures.
And so it does, although there is one messy connection. With just a VGA input to allow a PC to be attached, there are no component video inputs, and getting analogue HDTV pictures into the LC-37GD8E requires an adapter. Not ideal, but at least Sharp provides one in the box. This means hooking up both a DVD player with a HDMI output as well as a Sky HD box, for example, won't be possible. Shell out a little bit more and you'll get that luxury, but who are we to complain for £1,000?
The remote can be unresponsive, but at least those ropey menus are well endowed with functionality: it's possible to make a lot more adjustments to both picture and sound than we expected for the outlay. Backlight levels can be adjusted, as can contrast, brightness, sharpness and colour temperature settings, with an excellent option for boosting blacks.
Almost unheard of at this price is some nifty picture processing. Best of all is Quick Shoot technology, which successfully smoothes the appearance of motion on the LCD panel and banishes judder. You also get digital noise reduction and a colour system optimised for PAL TV pictures.
The Sharp rises to the challenge of our test disc of Fear and Loathing..., putting in an extremely watchable performance. Some picture noise is evident, as it is on our test with HDTV footage from Sky HD's live Premiership broadcasts. Jagged edges are apparent, but detail is outstanding with colour vibrant and natural, yet the most impressive aspect is the almost complete lack of smearing over motion when the Quick Shoot option is toggled on.
The TV's Achilles heel is its lack of contrast, but them's the breaks if you're set on a big screen for a small price. Exterior shots look colourful, vibrant, judder-free and well-defined. There are better 37-inch LCD TVs out there, but you'd be hard pushed to find pictures as good as this for £1,000.
Audio from the speakers is precise with all sources, but lacks the bass needed to do our test movie's soundtrack justice. Also, Sharp's virtual surround sound mode generally fails to impress despite widening the soundstage. We're splitting hairs though: the sound is more than adequate for non-audiophiles.
Sharp has pulled the rabbit out of the hat with this LCD TV. You get many of the treats associated with high-end TVs at a fraction of the cost. Sure, the audio may not be the greatest we've heard, and contrast raises a few eyebrows, but the pictures in both standard and high-definition modes are impressive. This Sharp TV represents astounding value for money.