Sharp 40le700e review

First, the good news: When the 40LE700E is at the top of its game, its pictures are really pretty brilliant.

The bad news is that it's not at the top of its game for as much of the time as we'd like it to be.

The key to the moments of brilliance we just referred to is, as we might have expected, the 40LE700E's black level response.

The local dimming engine really does enable the set to blow the straight, CCFL-lit LCD crowd out of the water when it comes to showing dark scenes without the customary, distracting pall of greyness hanging over everything that should look black.

On the 40LE700E, if something is supposed to be black, it looks black.

What's more, thanks to local dimming the 40LE700E doesn't have to reduce the brightness of the picture as a whole in order to deliver its deep, rich black response.

So where a picture contains a mix of dark and bright elements, like the battling ships against the backdrop of outer space at the start of Star Wars III, the bright bits still look punchy and dynamic despite the profound blackness around them.

There's hardly any of the general brightness dimming during dark scenes that you get with ordinary LCD TVs when they want to boost black level response.

The 40LE700E also impresses for the most part with its colours. Tones are boldly presented, with really full-on saturations that grab and hold your attention and make pictures look exceptionally dynamic without ever - well, hardly ever, anyway - slipping over into looking cartoonish.

The TV certainly hits a more natural (for video) colour temperature than any of Sharp's non-LED LCD TVs. And pictures get a boost, too, from apparently improved subtlety when it comes to showing colour blends and transitions.

As a result, images definitely feel a touch more three dimensional (without actually being 3D in any way, of course!) than we're used to seeing from Sharp.

Running through a few Blu-rays and Sky HD movies, meanwhile, reveals that the 40LE700E can pleasingly deliver a palpable sense of the extra sharpness and detail that makes HD the only video format we're really happy watching these days.

Weaknesses

Even its standard definition pictures are pretty respectable provided the input is of a pretty decent standard in the first place.

If they're not, however, the 40LE700E doesn't have the processing cleverness to resurrect them as well as some rival TVs can - particularly the latest offerings from Philips, Samsung and even, to some extent, Toshiba.

They tend to look a little soft, as if the TV is resorting to this softening tactic to hide the fact that it doesn't know how to deal with the noise inherent to your typical low-quality Freeview broadcast.

Now that we're headed into negative territory, by far the biggest single problem we have with the 40LE700E is its motion handling.

For whenever something moves across or around the screen at any sort of speed, it blurs really quite noticeably.

This is crushingly disappointing given that the set provides 100Hz processing expressly to counter this common LCD motion problem. Yet while the 100Hz engine does reduce the amount of blurring somewhat compared with the non-100Hz LE600E series, it doesn't go far enough to satisfy.

We also noted a few motion processing side effects at times, such as a flickering around the edges of moving objects.

Though thankfully these issues tended to be much less overt if we made sure we never used the set's Film Mode in either of its Advanced settings at the same time that we used the 100Hz engine.

One final negative point finds the LE700E falling prey, predictably, to the so-called 'blooming' phenomenon, where the local dimming isn't quite local enough to prevent auras of light appearing around really stand-out bright objects when they appear against very dark backdrops.

It would be wrong of us to overstate the impact of this 'blooming', for it's actually very subtle, to the point of being invisible during 'normal' bright scenes. But it can sometimes have a subtle softening effect on really dark scenes.