Ease of use

Sharp lc-46le831e

As usual on Sharp TVs, a logical PC-like approach to the user interface on the LC-46LE831E produces a clinical and business-like, yet rather unfriendly, system. Picture settings can be accessed from more than one place, while available options change depending on the source you're currently attached to.

At least it's comprehensive. Sharp's Quattron panel and unusually precise Brilliant Colour picture processing engine are all about colour management, so it's no surprise to find a full suite of picture adjustments in the onscreen menus.

Hue and saturation are all tweakable, as is the colour gamut range and colour temperature. Other features include sub pixel control (for smoother diagonals) and gamma adjustment.

There's a grid of picture tweaks on the right-hand side, with the main TV picture then occupying around two-thirds of the screen real estate. This is how most of the interface works, although when each tweak – brightness, contrast, colour etc – is toggled to, a dedicated meter pops up in the corner.

The Sharp LC-46LE831E then flits between full-screen menus and these tiny meters, seemingly at random, which isn't welcome if you're actually watching TV. Worse still, both picture and sound go dead for two seconds when the main menu button is pressed, both to enter and exit the interface, ruling out for good any hope of making picture adjustments when you're actually trying to watch something.

Tuning in Freeview HD channels takes an age, and it's not the most sensitive receiver – it took 15 minutes in a position where most TVs tune up inside five minutes, and it didn't find some channels. The EPG kills the live channel and takes up the whole screen.

Its ability to show blocks of programmes for 10 channels over six hours is laudable, but with the current time, tabs for the next seven days and sidebars for filtering between genre, date and timer settings, it mostly resembles a spreadsheet.

The side's USB slot proves a masterstroke. In our tests it played every video file we chucked its way, including MKV and AVI files.

Picture quality was pretty good, too; we noticed some fizzing around the edges during fast-moving scenes, but this is as immaculate as it gets – and on such a big screen that's no mean feat for compressed files.

Other media is less well supported. JPEG is the only photo format dealt with (they're displayed as thumbnails), while MP3 is the sole music codec played. All media is presented in a pretty icon-led interface, but it's just gloss; it often trips up and reverts to showing a rudimentary, PC-like root folder layout and trashed files.

Operating the 3D modes is easy enough. Switch to a 3D channel (we watched the French Open live from Roland Garos on Eurosport 3D through a Virgin Media V+ box) and the TV flashes up a choice of formats. It's pretty obvious what to choose; if there are two images next to each other – and there will be with all UK 3D channels, whether Sky, Freeview, Freesat or Virgin – that channel is broadcasting in the side-by-side format.

Sharp's active shutter 3D glasses have been slimmed down from 2010, and the LC-46LE831E arrives with one pair of AN-3DG20-B specs that are slated to last 30 hours between USB charges (which can be done via the TV), and switch off after 10 minutes if you leave them on the coffee table.

As well as being comfier than last year's they also don't feature the annoying buzz they used to, and are relatively light.

Value

Priced to compete with 3D TVs such as the LG 47LW550T and Samsung UE46C7000, this Sharp LC-46LE831E is a more advanced performer.

It may well present a better, more subtle picture and even represent the pinnacle of LED backlighting technology, but it's delivered in a package that many won't warm to.

What it gives in star quality – contrast, evenly spread brightness and powerful colour – it takes away by wrapping some pretty advanced picture parameters in an overly fussy, drably designed interface that many will struggle to get on with day-to-day.

The LC-46LE831E is a serious screen for serious viewers, and as such we'd say it belongs in a dedicated home cinema where its strengths with detailed, clean 3D in a blackout can best be enjoyed.