The 17in LL-171ME from Sharp is competitively priced at around £400 and, with a screen resolution of 1,280 x 768, ought to be able to display that extra bit of detail that's been lacking from some other LCD screens. But will that high resolution work to reveal other image problems in our tough test disc, Raiders of the Lost Ark? Let's crack the whip and take a closer look.

Setting up the LL-171ME couldn't be easier. Auto tuning goes through the motions for TV channels quickly and efficiently, and an above-average remote control works in perfect harmony with a set of dull but no-brainer on-screen menus.

Features aren't spectacularly abundant, but this really isn't surprising or upsetting at this low price. When it comes to the sort of stuff you wouldn't find on every TV, there are just three backlight presets and a black level adjustor worth mentioning.

When we gave Raiders of the Lost Ark a spin, we were initially a little disappointed with the LL-171ME's performance. The reason: there was a fair amount of smearing in the picture, which implies that this set doesn't boast the state-of-the-art technology that appears on some of Sharp's larger LCDs.

In fact, we discovered that the LL-171ME's response time is 25ms - a figure that's hardly going to have rivals shaking in their boots.

The screen's colour tone didn't quite achieve the high standards set by other Sharp models either, at least during Raiders' low-lit footage. The over-ripe tone sometimes visible in such scenes is by no means uncommon in the LCD world, but we have seen other PC/video dual-purpose screens (this Sharp has both video and PC inputs) handle colour demands better.

Late bloomer

Thankfully, however, that's very much the end of the bad news, as the LL-171ME rallied with a number of consolatory strengths. The biggest of these has to be its black level response. A lack of contrast is a common weakness with smaller LCD TVs, especially those keen to please both PC and video users.

But on the LL-171ME, dark picture areas appeared convincing and layered, rather than looking muted, flat and drained.

This enhanced the image's overall vibrancy, as colours, while not spectacularly natural, did at least blare out at us, uninhibited by the grey veil associated with low-contrast LCD screens.

The images were also sharp, and fairly (though not amazingly) detailed, with edges tightly contained and subtle textures delivered without colour noise, grain or other interference. It is talents such as these that also make the LL-171ME a very able PC monitor.

In fact, the LL-171ME's picture strengths are almost good enough to make us forget the minor smearing and colour flaws in its performance.

The poor performance of its speakers just persuades us otherwise, though. They deliver a bass-free soundstage barely worthy of the name, despite the fact that there's little distortion at high volumes. But of course, small LCDs are rarely capable of delivering sound to do justice to movies.

Sharp has done better - a lot better - with its larger, luxury LCDs. But the LL-171ME remains a good all-rounder able to cope well with both video and PC in an undemanding setting. With that low price (or even lower prices online), this screen is certainly worth considering.