One of the biggest ironies of 2008 has to be Pioneer’s adoption of LCD technology for some of its next-gen Kuro TVs.
Pioneer’s hand has arguably been forced by troubles in its own plasma TV business. But it’s also a sign of how advanced LCD TVs has become that Pioneer has even considered attaching its name to them.
A case in point is the latest generation Sharp Aquos, the panels of which Pioneer’s own LCD TVs will be based.
The 37-inch LC-37DB20E we have here certainly boasts plasma-baiting tech aplenty, including a claimed 100,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio (2,000:1 actual), 6ms response time and 1080p/24 input via HDMI.
Most significantly, the Sharp Aquos LC-37B20E also includes anti-judder processing on both standard and high definition sources. This aims to eliminate the stuttering picture redraw effect that afflicts many LCD panels when displaying camera pans or fast-moving action scenes.
Out of the box the Sharp Aquos LC-37B20E certainly looks the part. Like most 2008 TVs it boasts a thin gloss black bezel around its edge, but what you immediately sets is part is just how thin it Is, measuring just 94.6mm at its thinnest point.
That’s helped by a sculpted back that gets noticeably thicker as you get the centre of the TV, where you discover a shallow, but noticeable step outwards that houses some of the Aquos LC-37B20E TV’s core components.
The rear of the set is also where you’ll find all the connections you need to hook it up to sources like a digital or HD tuner box, Blu-ray player and games console: that’s three HDMI ports and two Scart sockets (both RGB), plus component video, s-video and composite video connections.
Your sound needs are well catered for too with RCA phono analogue audio outputs, a digital optical output and a pair of spring clip terminals so you can add your own external speakers.
Not that you should need to; the Aquos LC-37B20E’s own built-in speakers do a credible job of relaying the on-screen action to your ears - it certainly does a much better than job that many rival LCD TVs, and also betters the performance of previous generation Aquos sets from Sharp.
However the sonic presentation can get harsh when the TV is cranked loud, and the speakers can also generate notable bass resonance at their default settings. We’d definitely recommend using an off-board AV receiver and decent speakers for serious home cinema performance.
When it comes to video, the Sharp Aquos LC-37B20E doesn’t disappoint. That 100,000:1 contrast ratio really makes a big difference to its black level performance.
Watch a movie like Sunshine on Sky Movies in standard definition and you’ll notice that the space scenes are rendered with suitably inky black levels for an LCD TV - making the Aquos panel a perfect choice of Pioneer’s imminent range of LCD TVs.
However you may need to do some tweaking of your own to get the best overall picture quality from Aquos LC-37B20E. We found some of the default options were simply too dark, while some colours - noticeably reds - were too over-saturated to be natural.
Your best bet then is to set up your own colour, contrast and brightness levels from scratch.
Naturally the Aquos LC-37B20E reserves its best performance with high definition sources like Blu-ray via HDMI, where you’ll notice an almost complete lack of picture noise and the most accurately rendered pictures.
Again the black performance is exemplary, enabling the inky canvas to serve up suitably film-like and accurate colours during the climactic fight sequence in Spider-man 3.
It’s to the TV’s credit that you don’t end up watching the flaws in its technical performance, but simply get lost in its rendition of the onscreen action.
Performance with standard definition digital TV and DVD signals was very accomplished too - you really had to press you nose up against the glass to notice fuzziness around object edges, even when noise reduction was turned off or at its lowest settings.
Motion judder is almost kept in abeyance too. There were only a couple of notable, but exceptional moments during Spider-Man 3 when the TV struggled to keep up with the action unfolding onscreen - and the same went for Ratatouille and Star Wars IV: A New Hope.
It goes to show how limited the effect of motion judder is in this set is that the only time we even remotely noticed in Star Wars was during the opening sequence when the Imperial Star Destroyer passes over your head. Luckily even then the effect was muted - most viewers probably wouldn’t even notice.
Analogue TV performance is noticeably the worst, of course, with plenty of picture noise to detract from your enjoyment, but again this will be of minor concern to households equipped with a standard definition digital TV source, or, of course hi-def.
As is stands, the Sharp Aquos LC-37B20E is a highly accomplished LCD TV, with little of note to count against it - a fact confirmed by other recent reviews of the TVs bigger siblings on TechRadar that confirm Sharp’s place near the top of 2008 LCD TV tree.
Dynamic contrast ratio explained
This is a relatively new way of creating the difference between the darkest (blackest) and lightest (whitest) points in an LCD TV. It works by selectively dimming (or even turning off) the backlight in an to deliver better black levels, while also accentuating the brightest levels of light. Done badly, this can result in the processing technology inside an LCD TV over-exposing the bright areas of the picture - sit in a pitch black room and you maybe able to see the backlight turn on in certain parts of the screen to display those brightest points
Dynamic contrast ratio shouldn't be confused with the native contrast ratio of an LCD TV. The Sharp LC37B20E has a dynamic contrast ratio of 100,000:1, whereas the panel's actual contrast ratio is a more modest 2,000:1.
In either case its hard to determine what any quoted contrast ratio actually entails, Since there's no agreed standard for measuring contrast, manufacturers can use whichever measures best suits their needs - and thay may not necessarily measure up to objective reality.
In any event your best bet before buying any new TV is to audition it for yourself to ensure that it meets your needs, and not just rely on claims from either manufacturers or TV salesmen when it comes to splashing your cash.