If I was to (crudely) summarise Sharp's LCD output in recent times, I'd say that while its core panel design is strong, its image processing isn't amongst the best in the market. And unsurprisingly this pretty accurately describes the Sharp LC42LX2E, too.
The set's design is decently attractive if not particularly imaginative. I didn't find it that slim, mind you, which is a shame given that Sharp's marketing blurb tries to make out it's a 'Super Thin' design.
Connectivity is fair enough, with three v1.3 HDMIs, a digital audio output and a D-Sub PC jack particularly catching the eye.
Heading up the picture processing is a 100Hz engine, designed to tackle LCD motion blurring problems. This would normally be a happy enough discovery, but I still remember with a shudder the hopelessly over-cooked 100Hz system found on Sharp's previous generation.
You also get 'tru-D', a relatively low-level system aimed at reducing image judder and boosting contrast.
However, one really cool feature of the 42XL2E is the way its HDMIs can recognise what devices are attached to them, and automatically label the HDMI input accordingly. The wonders of CEC, I guess.
Rich high definition pics
And so I come to the 42XL2E's performance – which is determined largely by what you feed it. With HD it delivers the goods.
Detail levels with the Sweeney Todd Blu-ray are high, noise levels are minimal (except on the odd occasion where noise exists in the source, of course), colours are rich and smoothly blended, black levels are satisfyingly deep and, most pleasing of all, motion looks fluid and – if you're careful with the TV's settings – pretty much 'glitch free'.
The reason I'm so pleased about this latter point is that it shows Sharp has left nearly all of its previous 100Hz woes behind, now delivering just the benefits of the system without so many unwanted side effects.
Unfortunately though, while the general purity of the 42XL2E's HD presentation reveals good quality in its core panel design, and the 100Hz engine is now pretty successful, questions remain over other aspects of the company's processing.
For instance, if you use the 'Advanced' Film Mode option while watching movies, the image starts to glitch quite strikingly during camera pans. Also, more alarmingly, the 42XL2E proves average at upscaling standard-def pictures to its Full HD pixel count.
SD colours lose their tonal integrity, the image softens up, motion blur comes into play and many of the artefacts in your typical SD definition digital source tend to get exaggerated.
The 42XL2E also underwhelms in the audio department, passing muster with normal day-time TV-type fodder, but becoming very flat and muffled under the duress of one of Todd's louder musical numbers.
In the end the 42XL2E passes muster as a good if costly HD monitor for a swish AV room. But it's definitely got its limitations as a living room TV.