After letting a few rivals steal a march on it, Sharp is getting its LCD TV act very much back together. Our evidence? The huge improvements made over anything Sharp has done before as witnessed in the LC-42XD1E, and even more so by the company’s new LC-46XD1E we’re looking at today.

This, as its name suggests, is a 46in LCD TV; and it’s a highly attractive one at that, boasting a rich, black, glossy, pleasingly slender bezel thrown into striking relief by a swish silvery wave along the bottom edge.

One port down

Connectivity is mostly on the money, with two HDMIs, a PC port, and a fair spread of all the usual TV basics. There is one little niggle though, in that the TV doesn’t have the usual three-RCA component video input. The TV will take component hi-def signals, but only through a provided adaptor attached the set’s PC video input, meaning you can’t have a component or a PC source connected at the same time.

Without doubt the LC-46XD1E’s star attraction is its ‘full HD’ native resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels. And happily this full HD approach is followed through by the set’s ability to handle premium 1080p hi-def sources, and an ‘Underscan’ mode that lets you show 1080-line sources in their pure, native fashion, mapped to the screen without any overscanning (enlarging).

Another big leap forward for Sharp comes with the LC-46XD1E’s contrast ratio, which rises to a spectacular (by LCD standards) 2,000:1. This is only achieved with the help of a dynamic contrast system, where the light output of the TV’s lamp is automatically reduced when dark scenes are detected. But this system worked well enough on the LC-42XD1E, so we’ve no reason to suppose it will do anything amiss here.

Although the set’s decent onscreen menu system has plenty more features to keep any tweakers busy, the last one we really need to cover is truD. This image processing system focusses on smoothing horizontal motion, but also improves sharpness and black level response.

Pixel boost

A run-through of Kill Bill: Vol. 1 from Sky HD reveals the LC-46XD1E to be every bit as accomplished as its 42in sibling. In fact, in some areas its extra 4in actually helps the picture look better.

There certainly seems more impact from the set’s sharpness, as the extra screen size really rams home the full HD advantage during detailed scenes such as those in Vernita Green’s kitchen.

The lack of noise in hi-def pictures when using the Underscan mode is also more noticeable on this bigger screen, and the almost infinite subtlety of colour blends created by full HD’s extra pixel density.

Black levels are unusually deep by LCD standards too, giving a decent sense of scale to the dark backdrop around O-Ren’s climactic snow garden. Plasma can certainly deliver a more natural and detailed sense of blackness, but if you’re an LCD fan, the Sharp is one of the best in this key area.

One of LCD technology’s key advantages is its brightness, especially when it comes to rendering colours, and the 46XD1E lives up to this reputation in fine style.

The shot of the bride arriving at Vernita Green’s house in an outrageous yellow and pink pickup looks dizzyingly vibrant, for instance. But the LC-46XD1E can also do subtle, producing entirely believable hues during the whole trickily lit House of Blue Leaves sequence – even where skin tones are concerned.

The strengths described so far already place the LC-46XD1E well up the LCD TV league table. But a couple of issues keep it from lifting the Premier League title. The worst of these is the way fast-moving objects lose some of their resolution as the LCD panel struggles to respond fast enough to the changes in image content.

We’ve seen far worse performances in this regard, certainly, but we’ve also seen better – including, in fact, Sharp’s own step-up 100Hz LCD models due to appear in shops soon.

Exaggerated noise

The LC-46XD1E’s in your face images can also slightly exaggerate MPEG decoder noise in lower quality digital sources, and every now and then a particularly vivid colour can look a touch over-dominant.

When it comes to audio, the 46XD1E delivers more power and frequency range than expected given the diminutive appearance of its speakers, making the addition of some sort of external sound system a luxury option rather than thenear-necessity it is with some LCD TVs.

The LC-46XD1E isn’t perfect. However, its flaws are dwarfed by all the good things it’s got going on.

And let’s not forget, either, that its price tag of just £2,000 is unusually affordable for a 46in LCD TV, making an occasional performance foible easier to swallow.