The Sharp LC-52XS1E is not your average TV. And it's not a product that those of us living in the real world are ever realistically going to be able to afford.
That's because it could well be the best television ever made. And the price for this quality? An overwhelming £8,999. The 65-inch model will cost closer to £12,000.
The XS1E series isn't available in the shops yet – but Sharp has been kind enough to ship over from Japan the worlds' first test sample to our colleagues at Home Cinema Choice magazine to test. We'll be publishing our full LC-52XS1E review next month, but from what we've seen so far, this TV is very special indeed.
We first came across this television at IFA 2007 in Berlin when Sharp shocked everyone by unveiling four impressive 50-inch, 20mm thick prototypes. Then, at the same show a year later, Toshiyuki Tajima, CEO of Sharp Electronics Europe, revealed production models, explaining how they use a new RGB backlight system, have a 100,000:1 contrast ratio and are able to display almost every colour imaginable.
Sounds pretty special then.
We can tell you that the model we've got in the HCC testing lab measures 52-inches across, the contrast ratio is indeed mind boggling, the colour reproduction is positively hypnotic – and to cap it all off, it's just 23mm thick at its slimmest point. That makes it the thinnest production TV in the world.
So it's no exaggeration to say that this is the most technically advanced LCD TV ever assembled.
Like the recently reviewed Philips 42PFL9803, the Sharp LC-52XS1E uses LED backlight technology to go beyond what the previous generation of LCD TVs were capable of.
Most LED backlit LCD TVs (such as the Samsung Series 7 and 9 panels) use a grid of tiny white LEDs to illuminate the screen. The TV switches these LEDs on in zones, so that bright parts of the picture can be bright, while dark areas can be left pitch black.
This enables a contrast ratio well beyond the realms of most current LCD panels. But that's not the half of it. Because in the LC-52XS1E Sharp is using its own proprietary backlight technology which incorporates an array of coloured LEDs instead of white ones.
This promises vastly improved RGB colour reproduction as well as deepening the contrast ratio still further.
So, is the Sharp LC-5XS1E worth the £8,999 asking price? How does the contrast ratio match up against the 9G Pioneer Kuros? Can a TV really be that good despite being only 23mm thick?