Exclusively available through John Lewis, Sharp's 46in X8E LCD TV is a development of the B20 Aquos range, incorporating all the same technology, but with a larger screensize and a smaller physical footprint.
It's a very thin TV in the main (around 90mm), if you ingnore the wedge foot. Wall-mounters will appreciate its svelteness. I also like the narrow bezel design; when I'm watching TV, I want to see the picture, not my face reflected in half an acre of plastic surrounding it.
Sharp's impressive technology
It's well-specified, too, with a plethora of rear and side connections, including three HDMIs, two RGB-capable Scarts, D-Sub PC connection, component input, and most other things you can think of.
The remote control is the most disappointing aspect of the design - its small and fiddly buttons add nothing to the enjoyment of using this television.
The technology behind the Full HD B20 series and the X8 is well-established and impressive. With a claimed response time of 6ms and a dynamic contrast ratio of 10,000:1, the sets have been able to deliver clear and sharp pictures from a range of sources, even doing a good job of smoothing out images from the built-in Freeview tuner.
The SRS TruSound and XT Sound systems make the X8E capable of standing alone without the need of a separate sound crutch, and the pictographic on-screen menus are easy to navigate. For those of us with green concerns, energy saving features add more incentive.
On first viewing the Sharp's pictures appear pleasant, with convincing colour fidelity, solid blacks, and a fair amount of detail. Closer inspection reveals, though, a slight orange tinge to skin tones, and perhaps a little fuzziness on large dark areas.
Watching some HD footage of Wimbledon, it's easy to notice the screen's difficulties in handling details of the net, which doesn't seem to bother many of its peers.
Adjustments to colour and contrast settings don't seem to have much effect, but it's still a perfectly pleasant and watchable picture, although not as stunning as some rivals.
Off-angle viewing, though, is a sore disappointment, with the screen rapidly losing colour and contrast as you move out of the 'sweet spot'; in this respect it's performance is certainly the least acceptable of the four sets.
Superior audio quality
I am pleased with the set's sonic performance, which reaches relatively high levels without any sign of harshness.
There isn't much stereo width though, so it's best to engage the 3D pseudo-surround mode to extend its stereo soundstage. This is surprisingly effective, bringing the Sharp's sonic performance up to the standard of the LG's Mark Levinson-tuned audio system.
I also like the fact that there's an Audio Only mode so you can switch the picture off while you're listening to a radio channel. Other manfacturers should take note.
Perfectly good specs, gorgeous design and reasonable picture and sound performance make this Sharp a definite bigscreen contender.