Welcome to the UK's largest and arguably most advanced LCD television. Not content with being HD-ready, its high-resolution panel is one of very few to display every pixel of detail of high-def footage. The term 'future-proof' has marked many a journalist's downfall when it comes to technology, but we're more than willing to use it here.
Straight from the box the LC-45GD1E impresses, not just with its monster screen but also with the classy, deep grey, titaniumclad rim on a very narrow frame. The swivelling desk-top stand is similarly stylish, for those who don't want to wall-mount, while the curved grille of the below-screen speakers adds a final flourish.
An external tuner/switching box houses the LC-45GD1E's connections. Oddly, there are no audio outputs, so a Scart must be used to get audio into the set, but you'll find a DVI input (that can accept copy-protected HDTV signals), component video inputs, three Scarts (two RGB-capable), an RF input and D-Sub 15-pin PC connector. This great set of connections means the LC-45GD1E will be able to take high-def sources as well as correctly display them on its high-resolution 1,920 x 1,080 panel.
When using the Sharp's handy built-in Freeview tuner the electronic programme guide is quite unresponsive, with a time lag between selecting programmes very apparent. This is not unusual, but is disappointing. What's more, Freeview broadcasts can look ropey, with blocking and noise evident, but that is largely down to the low bit-rate broadcasts.
Pure as snow
It's a different story with DVDs. With its close-ups of photos featuring smudged faces and dark backdrops down the well, The Ring provides a good workout, but we're pleased to report that the LC-45GD1E passes - with colours, in particular, flying. While no LCD currently produces colours as vibrant as most plasmas, the palette was completely natural from this Sharp, while a high level of contrast provides more than enough detail on close-ups.
On many a LCD screen simple pans across stationary actors can cause a distracting amount of blur. Not here: Quick Shoot technology makes sure of that, and shots of moving vehicles are dealt with smoothly.
What got us most excited was the LC-45GD1E's reproduction of blacks, which were inky and among the best we've seen on a LCD. If you're still not happy, the red/green bias on images can be changed, as can the sharpness and contrast of the picture. The 3D-NR mode, supposed to reduce noise, doesn't appear to make much difference, but there's very little on show anyway.
It gets even better with HD. Hooking up a D-VHS machine (our HD test standard - in the absense of broadcasts), we were astounded by the pictures. Blurring on motion was hardly detectable, while the detail was awesome. The 1,980 x 1,080 panel won't just take Sky's planned 720p HDTV programming, it will actually scale it down, making this one hell of a HD-ready panel.
The audio arsenal is well equipped, but we did notice distortion and slightly buzzy bass on the highest setting. But there's a Virtual Dolby mode that deepens the soundstage to become a lot more involving.
A screen of this size and stature (there's even a 65in version promised soon) was never meant to show dodgy TV broadcasts, and as such does nothing for such pictures. But that's pretty much the only drawback. The Sharp's skills with colours and blacks - especially with HD material - makes this HD-ready LCD one of the finest sets on which to watch high-quality DVDs.