Most manufacturers' new ranges of TVs seem like simply a gentle progression from what they've produced before. But on the evidence of the LC-42XD1E, there's a full-blown revolution taking place at Sharp HQ.

Firstly, it looks completely different from previous Sharp efforts, with its sultry curves and designer flourishes.

Step it up

It also steps up to the HD age by providing two HDMI inputs capable of handling 1080p and it carries a native pixel count of 1920 x 1080 pixels complete with an 'Underscan' option for ditching the overscan TVs generally apply to pictures, so 1080 HD sources can be mapped 1:1 to the screen's pixels.

It's a pity, though, that the absence of a component video input means that you have to use a provided adaptor to get component video into the LC-42XD1E via its PC port. This makes it impossible to simultaneously leave PC and component sources connected.

The LC-42XD1E's long features list includes a digital tuner, a hefty claimed contrast ratio of 6,000:1 achieved via a dynamic backlight system. There's also a 'truD' proprietary image processing engine designed to reduce judder in the picture while simultaneously improving the TV's contrast range and fine detail presentation.

This Sharp's handling of our Blu-ray disc of Pirates of the Caribbean really is terrific. Perhaps the single most significant advance over previous Sharp efforts comes in the area of black level. Pick any one of the night battles, and you'll find the action taking place in a pitch black setting and see an overall picture that's much more full of subtle shadow detailing than you'd normally find on a standard HD Ready LCD TV.

Colours are hugely improved too, as some outlandish pirate fashions (step forward Mr Depp) look superbly vibrant; the gentler hues of the Keira Knightley's costumes are portrayed with immense finesse; and skin tones are shown with a naturalness far beyond anything Sharp has managed before.

This great TV ekes out every last pixel of detail in stunningly sharp HD shots, and handles fast motion of swishing cutlasses with impressive clarity and smoothness. But it's not just an HD machine; it also portrays standard definition sources with great aplomb.

Edited highlights

Occasionally, colours can appear a touch cartoonish, and MPEG artefacts in weak standard definition digital broadcasts can be slightly emphasised. But these minor glitches only really serve to highlight just how good everything else about the LC-42XD1E's picture is.

Couple those stunning pictures the sleek looks, fine features and impressive audio accompaniment, you've got an LCD TV that's well worth £1,300 of anyone's money.