Coming at us all slimmer than most and attractive in its titanium finish, the Sharp LC-32GD1E is very easy on the eye. Its futuristic, angular desktop stand and twin-curved speaker grille haven't exactly been beaten with the ugly stick either. In keeping with most higher-end LCD TVs, there's an external tuner/AV switching box that makes wall hanging child's play, while the connections on board help lift it above much of the competition...
As well as three Scarts, there is a videofriendly DVI digital input, component video inputs able to take high-definition and progressive scan, an optical digital audio output, a centre speaker input and a PC card slot for viewing digital camera stills. The multimedia box also has three RF jacks and a slot for a Conditional Access Module - indicative of a built-in digital tuner.
Against similarly priced rivals, however, the features count is merely adequate. The most interesting are switchable interlaced and progressive modes, a 3D comb filter for cleaning up composite signals, extensive colour balance adjustments and an electronic programme guide.
The LC-32GD1E is very impressive with good-quality sources. Its greatest strength is its extraordinary solidity. There is a scintillating richness and depth of field - courtesy of stunning colour saturations and one of the best contrast ranges in the LCD business - which lifted our Bubba Ho-tep test disc from its often murky depths that scream 'cult movie' to make it shine like a blockbuster. Brightness levels are well pitched, too, leaving none of the fragility - even round harsh, bright edges - that afflicts so many LCD rivals.
Sharp's extensive LCD experience is evident in the handling of movement. As Elvis flies towards the Mummy in his wheelchair and takes him out before setting him ablaze to release the souls of the dead, there wasn't the merest trace of the smearing troubles that can be seen on many lesser screens. That Sharp has overcome this is impressive.
With high-definition pictures the LC-32GD1E also displays an impressive fine detail talent. Indeed, notwithstanding a touch of grain, it's one of the best highdefinition performers in the business.
Lowering the tone
With lesser-quality sources, however, a few chinks appear in the Sharp's amour. With every step you take down the video pecking order, the picture quality deteriorates exponentially. The extent of the degradation is worse than usual, thanks to such problems as exaggerated blocking noise, softness, occasional solarisation and dot crawl. Lesser sources also seem to suffer more with a slightly unnatural colour tone. We can't help but feel that Sharp needs to quickly come up with some sort of advanced scaling/detail engine, like Philips' Pixel Plus 2 or Sony's WEGA Engine.
Sonically it's back to the good stuff - the LC-32GD1E is almost brilliant. The amount of fine audio detail portrayed is superb, especially since it is distributed far and wide with perfect cohesion. The speakers also rise comfortably to the challenge of loud-volume action scenes. Perhaps a touch more bass and slightly less sibilance would have been welcome, but the overall impression is overwhelmingly positive.
With other slightly older screens going for less cash, the LC-32GD1E's solid pictures look slightly over-priced due to its problems with lower-rent sources. While it doesn't quite reach the heights of some of its rivals, however, that DVI input makes it a great future-proof option.