Sharp LC-60LE636E review

Sharp begins its 'big screen, small price' campaign

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Sharp's LCD TVs have really come on in picture quality terms in the past couple of years, so it isn't as surprising as it probably ought to be to find the ridiculously cheap Sharp Aquos LC-60LE636E producing instantly attractive images that give no immediate evidence of the TV's extraordinary cheapness.

Pictures look very dynamic, for instance, thanks to a compelling combination of bright, reasonably rich colours and, even better, a potent black level response. Whites look punchy and clean, too.

In short, first impressions suggest a startlingly good contrast range for such an affordable king-sized TV.

HD feeds look nicely detailed too. Certainly there are some big TVs out there that deliver an even greater sense of crispness, but you're never in any doubt with the Sharp that you're enjoying the delights of an HD image.

Playing a big part in this impression is the Sharp Aquos LC-60LE636E's reproduction of motion.

Sharp Aquos LC 60LE636E review

There's much less blurring and resolution loss over moving objects than would normally be expected of such a price-focused panel. Nor is judder by any means excessive, even in the panel's native mode, without motion processing in play.

Calling in the Fine Motion system does reduce judder a little, though, and it's a decently invisible system on its low setting, in that it doesn't generate many unwanted side effects.

There's just an occasional sense of a stutter with it, as if the processing is suddenly has to catch up with the source image.

Please note, though, that if you choose the TV's Movie preset, for some bizarre reason both the set's Fine Motion and Film Mode settings default to High, resulting in an image that looks unnaturally fluid and beset by lagging and haloing artefacts.

It was noted earlier that the Sharp Aquos LC-60LE636E is capable of some likably punchy pictures, but it should also be stressed that it can produce a wider range of colour tones than might have been expected for its money.

Skin tones and large colour expanses entirely avoid the plasticky or blotchy look associated with screens unable to resolve small colour differentiations.

One final strength to report is that provided you don't run the backlight down too low, the Sharp Aquos LC-60LE636E is capable of resolving a decent amount of shadow detail during dark scenes.

The set is by no means perfect in this regard; by the time we'd optimised the backlight, contrast and brightness levels to produce what seemed to be the most convincing black colour, shadow detail had started to be a little crushed out of the image.

But nudging the brightness level up to a point where shadow detailing emerges again still leaves a black colour that can be considered very credible for a screen of the Sharp Aquos LC-60LE636E's price.

It's not especially surprising to find that the Sharp Aquos LC-60LE636E isn't as satisfying with standard definition as it is with HD.

Sharp Aquos LC 60LE636E review

After all, it's quite a challenge to convert the often rather grubby, compressed standard definition images the UK gets from many Freeview broadcasts into something pleasant even on a 42-inch TV, never mind a 60-inch one.

Standard definition images on the Sharp Aquos LC-60LE636E look a touch soft, and - as with numerous other LCD TVs - they tend to suffer with a less punchy, dynamic colour palette.

However, the set does do a decent job of calming down the worst of any compression noise that might be in a standard definition source, and images remain contrast-rich and bright. So overall standard definition images are never less than eminently watchable.

The Sharp Aquos LC-60LE636E also measures pretty well when it comes to input lag, turning in a consistent figure (using the Game preset) of around 34ms - sufficiently low not to seriously damage anyone's console or PC gaming performance.

For 90 to 95 per cent of the time, in fact, everything about the Sharp Aquos LC-60LE636E's performance is good - which translates into brilliant within the context of its low price.

However, tragically - if not entirely surprisingly - images are let down by one single but undeniable flaw: backlight inconsistency.

The need to illuminate such a large screen evenly using just lights ranged around its edges proves a technical challenge too far, resulting in some obvious areas of unnatural extra brightness when you're watching very dark scenes.

There's a strip of extra brightness around 3 inches across, running down each side of the screen, and four or five other clouds in more central positions over the image too.

Needless to say, whenever you see these over something dark you're watching, you can't help but be distracted.

As usual, you can reduce the impact of these clouds somewhat by pushing down the image's backlight level. And if you're watching in a bright room you might be less aware of the issue, too.

But of course, there's a good chance that if you've bought a 60-inch TV, you'll be keen on dimming the lights and watching films in a cinema-like environment.

At which point, unless you're willing to put up with dark scenes so devoid of backlight that there's practically no shadow detail at all, you will see the backlight consistency distractions fairly regularly. Darn.